contributed by Joan Ashley
“What difference does this mentoring program make?” “Why am I doing this?” The answer is quite simple-a sense of call and a memory of all those who have invested in my life and ministry for over 35 years.
When I graduated from Ewart College and embarked on my first ministry position in the Presbytery of Cape Breton, I felt that I was in over my head. All the theory and field placements did not prepare me for the loneliness and various responsibilities in ministry. It was the encouragement from a minister’s wife along with the social gatherings of ministers and spouses that helped me see and hear the goodness of God in other’s lives. Those gatherings were a safe place to share your struggles and joys. To be truly listened to and not judged was a gift that I received and the gift I believe that the mentoring group offers to those recently graduated from our theological colleges. When we share our stories of ministry and personal struggles we know that we are not alone.
I am going into the fourth year of mentoring with my group of ministers from Montreal to British Columbia. They have a variety of gifts and church experiences to share with one another. The bonding that takes places at the residency program once a year held at the Presbyterian College helps the group go deeper and trust each other with the dark places of their past. They do not want their past experiences to rob them of their present and future ministry experiences. One person in the group commented that what they appreciate most about the mentoring program is seeing the church from a broader national perspective. It is like looking in a kaleidoscope, you see all the variety of lights reflected when you turn it and each turn you see new perspectives with fresh eyes. Our monthly video conferences are like that as well. People bring their burdens and blessings to share and then each person reflects back a new insight that the Spirit has directed them to which enriches everyone. Shared prayer time is an important component of our times together. When others’ pray for us and remind us that we are called into ministry in this time and place for such a time as this-we are strengthened to battle the culture of our day with a message of hope and healing.
about Joan Ashley
Joan grew up in Durham, Nova Scotia. She attended Durham Presbyterian Church (one of a three point charge). She calls herself a God transplant as the Spirit has uprooted her several times in the past 40 years. The first transplant was to go to Toronto where Joan graduated from Ewart College in 1978. Her first two God assignments were working as a Diaconal Minister in the Presbyteries of Cape Breton and London. She has served as an elder in several congregations. She was ordained in 1999 into Chaplaincy work in a nursing home outside of Windsor. She worked in Congregational Care at Lakeshore St. Andrew’s, Tecumseh. Joan and her family moved to London in 2006 and she worked at Oakridge Presbyterian Church as the Adult Ministry Coordinator. She received a certificate from the Jubilee Program in Spiritual Formation/Spiritual Direction in 2010.
Joan is a mother of three adult children, Melissa, Nick, Matt (adopted son) and has three grandchildren, Tegan (9) and Drake (4) and Cal (18months). She serves on the Board of the Maclean Estate (Crieff Conference Center) and enjoys sharing her spiritual gifts within this community. Joan’s God assignments in the past 5 years have been in the area of offering Spiritual Direction and mentoring others in the Jubilee Program and with the Presbyterian College in Montreal.