Sarah Mair is an area youth coordinator for York-Scarborough and the youth ministry director for St. Paul, L’Amoreaux.
My responsibilities include organizing networking opportunities for all youth leaders – staff and volunteers ± and clergy in the York-Scarborough area. This provides opportunities for youth leaders to gather and share their experiences, successes and concerns; to learn from each other and share resources for ministry in their parishes; and to take part in appropriate training. My partner in ministry is Ian Physick, who is a champion advocate for youth ministry. My predecessor, Jillian Ruch, continues to act as our informal advisor, supplying us with much needed resources and support. We also work with Bishop Kevin Robertson, who is a dedicated supporter of youth ministry, having been a youth leader himself for many years.
Some networking opportunities include the SPARK retreat held every spring for parish youth leaders, the youth summit in January, theology days, Synod, the ReCharge retreat in Muskoka and training days in conjunction with Wycliffe and Trinity colleges. As area coordinators for York-Scarborough, Ian and I also attend the monthly clerius meetings. As part of our mandate, we welcome clergy to work alongside BYMC (the Bishop’s Youth Ministry Committee) in recognizing and supporting the youth leaders and (re)building youth ministry in their congregations. One way that BYMC does that is through the Youth Ministry Apprenticeship Program (YMAP). YMAP is an initiative that was started by the Rev. Christian Harvey and is continued faithfully by coordinators Cormac Culkeen, the area youth coordinator for Trent-Durham, and Ali McIntosh, the pastoral associate at Christ Church, Deer Park. It is designed ™to equip and prepare potential leaders for a (paid) youth ministry position in the Diocese of Toronto. Leaders learn not in a classroom but by doing actual youth ministry.™ Some of the current volunteers with BYMC are graduates from YMAP!
As a youth ministry director at St. Paul, L’Amoureaux, my primary focus is equipping and empowering young people to follow Jesus, who is the way and the truth and the life (John 4:16). At St. Paul’s Youth (S.P.Y) Network, we believe that youth ministry is vital not only to the church but also to the Warden and Finch community. My role involves developing, implementing and coordinating various programs and offering pastoral care to the youth and their parents. Some of the programs that I coordinate with my team of volunteers are the Friday Night Gathering (fellowship and Bible study), the S.P.Y. Basketball Clinic on Tuesday evening at L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute, CONNECTED, an after-school youth drop-in program with a focus on spiritual growth and academic support for immigrant and refugee youths, and parenting seminars. The S.P.Y Network also provides support to the Young Adult Fellowship, which meets quarterly throughout the year. I am particularly excited about the development of the Aduza African Fellowship, created in the memory of Timothy and Terver Aduza, which will honour the African congregation and their contributions to St. Paul, L’Amoreaux. St. Paul’s continues to extend a friendly hand and a place of prayer and support to new immigrants.
The best part of working as a youth program director and as an area coordinator is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and observing the movement of God in young people’s lives and within the Church. The worst part is learning how to be patient as the seeds are being sown, and watching God give the increase. After all, His ways are not our ways, and – I’m paraphrasing here ± His timing is not our timing.
I was born and raised in Toronto to Jamaican parents who immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. At the age of one, I was diagnosed with a profound bi-lateral sensorineural hearing loss. I wear hearing aids and, after countless years of auditory-verbal therapy, I can speak well. I spent most of my formative years in North York, where I attended North York Christian School and, later, St. Joseph Morrow Park Secondary School, which is now the site of my alma mater, Tyndale University. I attended George Brown College to study hearing aid dispensing, which is a program dedicated to studying the effect of hearing loss on individuals and providing proper clinical care to test hearing, select hearing instruments and to dispense and provide support for those who need aids. Through this program, I became passionate about advocating for accessibility for deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing people, which later led me to studying social work at Ryerson University. I was blessed with opportunities to work with a variety of organizations with a focus on preventing violence against women and children, preventing anti-Black racism, and providing community development and program implantation of heritage-based education for Black youths and corporate staff training. After 10-plus years of working in the social work and banking sectors, I answered God’s call to obtain a Master of Divinity degree in Christian education and formation (now known as Christian education and discipleship) at Tyndale University. In 2018, under the leadership of Fr. Dean Mercer, I was welcomed with open arms to St. Paul, L’Amoreaux as a youth ministry director, and the rest, as they say, is history.
My church journey began as a little girl when I would attend Holy Cross Catholic Church with my godmother, a devoted Catholic. I was also a daughter of an Anglican father and a Baptist mother, so my exposure to different denominations gave me an advantage in seeing various styles of worship and liturgical practices. However, my faith journey didn’t really begin until 2006, when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. Shortly thereafter, I began attending a non-denominational Charismatic church that helped to shape my walk with God. I learned how to study the word of God, developed a dynamic prayer life and discovered my love for teaching and hospitality. Under the leadership of Pastor Richard J. Brown of Kingsway Community Life Centre, I taught Bible study and helped to facilitate discipleship workshops. I was invited to teach Bible study and helped to develop various ministries at different churches. As a woman, I was unsure of what role I played in ministry, but that all changed when I heard the Rev. Jennifer Porter-Cox, an evangelist from Baltimore. Her ministry serves to remind me that God can use anyone for His Kingdom, regardless of their gender, background, talents and gifting. In 2014, God was calling me to go deeper with Him. I left my full-time job to study at Tyndale University. I came under the tutelage of Dr. Yau Man Siew, the faculty advisor and associate professor of Christian education and discipleship. The Rev. Dr. Victor Shepherd, a professor emeritus of theology and the Rev. Dr. Arthur Boers, a professor of leadership development and an honorary priest at St. Paul, L’Amoreaux, also played a crucial role in my spiritual development and formation. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people who have walked alongside with me as mentors and spiritual directors.
Five years from now, I’d like to start and complete my PhD with a focus on Christian education and discipleship. I also hope to see a thriving and all-encompassing youth ministry body within the Diocese of Toronto in which youth leaders are given an opportunity to receive educational training and spiritual formation, counselling services and an online portal of resources.
It’s impossible to pick and choose a favourite passage, as there have been so many that have reminded me of the goodness of God over the years. In this season, Matthew 6:33, “So above all, constantly seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly” (The Passion Translation) seems so appropriate. As humans, we are fickle, given over to worries and anxieties of our everyday lives, which blind us to the omnipotence and omniscience of God. Yet, the testimonies of God are sure, admonishing us to trust Him in the face of uncertainty and to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and the perfector of faith.