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July 29, 2006 - The Daily Gleaner

Internship readies postulants for the challenges of ministry

For The Daily Gleaner 

The Diocesan Internship Program is an educational process for theological students who are preparing for the priesthood within the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton. The program is structured and designed to help them learn through action and reflection.

"It assumes that a combination of engagement in the practice of ministry and guided reflection will result in more intentional and better equipped ministry for the student," says Rev. Elaine Hamilton, rector of the Anglican Parish of Prince William, Dumfries, Queensbury, and Southampton,

Jennifer Bourque is getting that hands-on training this summer.

Bourque, who has completed her second year of theological education at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College affiliated with McGill University, is a summer intern working with Hamilton.

The internship allows Bourque - who has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and International Development from Mount Allison University and two years of seminary training - to put her academic knowledge into practice.

"The main components of the internship are mainly the basic components of parish ministry: visiting parishioners, participating in and leading worship, preaching, education, parish administration and outreach," says Bourque.

The summer internship programme is a requirement for ordination in the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton.

"There is also an education component. I am doing a lot of reflection on the work I am doing in the parish, but have also met with parishioners and clergy to learn about particular aspects of parish ministry, such as music, funerals, marriages and the work of groups like the (Anglican Church Women) and Altar Guild," says Bourque.

The focus of Bourque's ministry this summer has been to work with children and youth, but she has also tried to be involved in all aspects of parish life.

"With the young people, I have led a server training and fun night, as well as a visit from the diocesan youth director George Porter and the Christian education director Liz Harding, and organized vacation Bible camp at St. Luke's, Temperance Vale," she says.

Hamilton could not be happier with the way the entire experience has gone.

"I felt that this program is a unique opportunity for us to enrich the ministry of the parish over the summer months. I can already see the positive effect Jen is having in the parish as she is engaging people in the special ministry projects she has taken on this summer. People enjoy the person Jen is as well as the leadership she gives."

In fact, Hamilton is equally pleased with the parish in which she has been placed in the cure of souls.

"Our parishioners are keen to help Jen because they realize how important this internship is in her development as a minister in the Church of God and how essential it is that their contribution is part of the learning process for them and her as together we work to build God's Kingdom here in this parish," she said.

As for her own role, Hamilton said, "I have tried to give Jen as many opportunities as possible to experience parish life - the good, the bad, the difficult and the easy - to build on her gifts and strengthen her weaknesses.

"It has been a very encouraging and worthwhile experience for me as Jen's supervisor as I have the opportunity to reflect on my ministry while I work with Jen as she sorts out her experiences in ministry during this time. I enjoy discussing theological and ministry issues with a fresh young mind.

"Although this requires hard work from us both I find it has also been a most refreshing experience."

For Bourque's part, intern ministry in rural New Brunswick has been fresh air in literal and figurative terms.

"I'm really enjoying my time here this summer. It's my first full-time experience of ministry, and while it's not my first experience in a rural parish, it has been great to be in the country for the summer.

"I recently sent a note to friends in Montreal telling them about all the pets and farm animals of parishioners I have met - cats, dogs, cows, horses (including foals), chickens and chicks, an iguana, and some piglets."

That being said, the people are the ones who make the experience work for Bourque.

"The real highlight of the summer has been getting to know many of the members of the parish. I've found that people are so friendly, and have really welcomed me as a new person in the parish and as their summer minister.

"It's really been wonderful to have so much support in this part of my training of ministry, and to be able to get some real ministry experience in this sort of environment."

Bourque still has two more years of college to complete.

She is pursuing two masters degrees at the same time - a Masters in Sacred Theology and Masters in Divinity.

She is studying for both at Montreal Diocesan Theological College.