Faith News Niagara presents another instalment of "5 Questions", the continuing segment where readers can get to know the local ministers of the region a little better.
Today's 5 Questions article with Rev. Anita Spiller is from an interview from May, 2017.
1 What is your name, the name of your church ministry, and the length of time you've been at that ministry.
I'm Rev. Anita Spiller. I have been at Jordan Station United Church since August 1st of 2015, so I'm just coming up to 2 years, which is exciting. And then, just two weeks ago, I started at Vineland United Church.
My daughter is starting University next year, and my eldest son is going into his fourth year, and so I had planned to kinda let go of the business when she was done University (Anita had a part time business that she gave up when she began serving at Vineland United-- ed.). So for it to happen much sooner is a real blessing.
2 What is your favourite pastime: reading, sports, outdoors, etc.
Well, I was a figure skater for 22 years. Yeah, I was a competitive skater for a long time. Sadly, I don't think I got my skates out last winter at all. But, actually, one of my congregants at Jordan has an outdoor skating rink, and I've told him, "next year, when I'm in the community, I'm going to come skate on your outdoor rink!"
I did some team skating for a long time, and we did do some world stuff… we were in Sweden, and Finland, and England… what year would that have been… '92, I guess? It was fun. It actually taught me a lot about team ministry, about working together. There were 24 girls on our team. How do you get 24 girls doing the same, thing all of the same time, with the same piece of music? It taught me so much about being in community with very different people, about how do you take on a leadership role, and what does it mean to travel with one another and practice with one another, and still kinda manage the rest of your life. Yeah, I think it played a very important role in growing me as a leader.
3 Favourite all time (or current) Bible book, Bible story, or Bible passage, and why.
I'm probably going to go "current", because I'm doing a four week series on the Road to Emmaus right now with both my congregations. I was going to read the whole story the first week, but it's thirty-six verses long, and my administrator actually said, "Thirty-six verses? That's really long!" So I decided to do a series, and to break it down for folks. I think it's foundational to our faith, and to our understanding about all sorts of things.
We've been talking about Jesus meeting us where we are. In that story, Jesus met Cleopas and his friend on the road. And he didn't say, "Hey, I'm Jesus!" He just said, "Hey, you're sad. Why are you sad? Let me journey with you." And I think that speaks to how we as Christians can lead our lives, and can really accept people for who they are, and where they are, in their journey, and not judge them.
We're talking this week about how do we then journey with others? And what does it mean to follow in Jesus' footsteps, and to be in community with one another? We did communion last week, and the children at Jordan served communion, so we talked a bit about servanthood, and what it means to serve, and how do we recognize Jesus at the table. I'm feeling very inspired about that metaphor around journeying right now with folks, especially just being new at Vineland as well, and trying to journey with people you don't know. We had a death the second day I was there, so how do you pastor someone you don't know?
I happened to have heard through someone else that (a parishioner) was at the Hamilton General, and I poked in one day, just to introduce myself quickly. She came to a service the next day... and then her husband passed away. How do you have an intimate relationship with someone around this tragedy in her life? So again, I'm just really appreciating that journeying metaphor.
I think it's sad frankly, because we read it on Easter once, but why do we kinda read it just once, and let it go, and kinda move on?
4 Briefly describe the series of events that brought you to your church, your current role, ministry in general.
I was ordained three years ago and needed a church, and wasn't able to take a transfer because my children needed to stay in school. So I began the search, looking for a 20 hour a week position, which is sometimes tricky. There lots of placements in the United Church for 12-hour pulpit supply, or full-time ministry. So there wasn't a lot in my window.
I had just about accepted another position in the Hamilton area when this particular posting came up. My husband and I came to a service one Sunday. We snuck in the back pew, coming 10 minutes after the service ended. And I felt this incredible call. There was just something here.
They were mostly all the way through their search when I sent my application in. And so they interviewed me, and in that moment during the interview, we all just knew, despite our very large differences -- I'm incredibly liberal, as far as the scale will go, and they are pretty traditional and conservative here -- but they knew that they were longing for change, and they understood that to have change, they themselves had to change. So it was quite an incredible interview, and it happened super quick. They hired me like two days later.
And then similarly, at Vineland, the presbytery called to say that they needed a 'pastoral charge supervisor' -- to which I replied, what's that? I found out that it basically was someone who just makes sure that they don't get into trouble, and attends their council meetings, and really, someone who shepherds them while they're in their search process.
So I walked in, and my former father-in-law, actually, was the organist there for five years. My son was baptized there 20 years ago. We didn't have our own church, so we went to grandpa's church. And so, I just felt this call. I tried to turn away from it a few times, and God just said, "Nope, you are meant to be in community here." I think that was weird for them, because I had this incredible sense of "call", so they were like, "so are you applying?" But I wasn't really applying, because I was meant to be here. We had been brought together to do ministry together, so yeah, based on that, I said, here's my resume.
But I have been so blessed to have a divine call in both places. I have just completely fallen in love with this area. The people are incredible. This is a beautiful part of the country. It is a different way to live; I've done a lot of city ministry, and rural ministry is different. Farmers are different, they have a different way of being. We had a flood here a few weeks ago, and this army of people arrive and put together this piping system to pump water out of this place. I'm a city girl; we would have called the insurance company and said, help! But they don't. They come together, they support each other, they love each other, they go to each other's houses to help -- which I just love. There is a sense of community here that I just longed for my whole life, which is hard to get. The church that I grew up in had 300 people worshiping on a Sunday morning. And you knew folks, the people that sat around with you. But you didn't always know folks on the other side of the aisle. So I do appreciate the goodness of everyone knowing each other. And, sometimes, the struggles of everyone knowing each other.
5 Briefly describe how you met Jesus.
It was 1977. I was seven years old. And my aunt on my dad's side came to spend a summer with us, at a cottage in Northern Ontario. And she -- the "crazy aunt" as she was known -- read the Bible every day. And she was bound and determined that we would read the Bible with her every day, sitting on the dock. And I thrilled my sisters, who somehow managed to get away from it. So then it ended up just being me and my aunt, sitting at the end of the dock.
She would always pull these pieces of birchbark off of a tree every morning, and we would write Scripture on the birchbark as a way for her, I think, to help me just engage with it and to learn it. I was beginning to read and write pretty prolifically. And at the end of that summer, she gave me my personal Bible. And in the back, it said, "My Decision To Receive Christ As My Saviour". And she made me sign it. It goes on to say, "Confessing to God that I am a sinner, and believing that the Lord Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross, and was raised for my justification, I do now receive and confess him as my personal Saviour." And then it says in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other, just as God forgive you in Christ." That's how I found Jesus.