God was with me then and is with me now

A young man next to a lake
Ryan Ramsden
 on October 1, 2019

Ryan Ramsden is a churchwarden at Grace Church in Scarborough and a member of the diocese’s Synod and General Synod. He is a member of the York-Scarborough Area Council and is a ministry leader at Church on Tap at Christ Church, Deer Park

Last year, Grace Church wanted to try something new that engaged the south Scarborough community, so instead of our annual fall bazaar that took place in our church hall, I decided to plan an outdoor fall fair. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy, and most things had to move indoors. Nevertheless, it was still a success. This year we are trying it again a month earlier, on Sept. 28. It will feature a barbecue, carnival food, live music, a bouncy castle, games, raffle, a wine and beer garden, and the blessing of animals. This event really interests and excites me because it has the potential to draw people in and gives us a great opportunity to engage with our community in a lively, fun way and there is something for everyone.

At Church on Tap, we are about to celebrate our fifth anniversary of worshiping together at Christ Church, Deer Park. We offer a contemporary Anglican worship experience on the fourth Friday of each month, which brings together people from all walks of life and church backgrounds. Many unchurched, dechurched and those from other ecumenical backgrounds have found a home at Church on Tap. We are a diverse, loving, affirming, accepting community, about 70 per cent of which is LGBTQ. As a ministry leader, you can usually find me serving the beer and cider after the service; however, I also take part in monthly planning meetings, and as a prayer leader and communion minister. Being involved and attending Church on Tap has been one of the most spiritually and emotionally rewarding experiences for me.

I was born and raised in Scarborough and went to Centennial College and Ryerson University, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management with a minor in e-Business. While in college and university, I worked part-time at the Centennial College bookstore. When I graduated from Ryerson, I was hired full-time as a textbook buyer for the bookstore, and after a year was promoted to store manager. After working in that position for a few years, I was offered a job at the Seneca College bookstore as its general merchandise buyer for their four bookstores. I have been working at Seneca now going on eight years. When I am not busy with work and Church, I love travelling, cooking, gardening, sampling craft beers and wines and singing Karaoke.

When I was six, my family moved from an apartment to a house in Scarborough. We were welcomed to the neighborhood by the Rev. Canon Dennis Dolloff, who was the incumbent of St. Giles, Scarborough, located just down the street. He invited our family to worship at St. Giles and invited my brother and I to Sunday School. Our grandmother was living with us at the time, and she encouraged my brother and I to attend. It was Dennis’s warm welcome, his joyful and caring nature, crazy sense of humour, and the strong faith he upheld in the face of his disability, that kept me going back every Sunday. St. Giles was also full of amazing people like him who helped form and shape me, especially my Sunday School teacher Grace Mills, head server Bill Waddell, Vacation Bible School teachers Lois Reid and Doug Whittemore, organist Silvia Slemmestad, and the Rev. Helen Bradley, who came after Dennis. These people made me feel part of a loving, welcoming Christian community, and made me want to be more involved. As the years went on and I grew out of Sunday School and youth group, I became a reader, server, chalice bearer, head of the fundraising committee, representative to diocesan Synod, advisory board member, and a churchwarden at the young age of 25.

Our church and other churches in south Scarborough were seeing a decline in money, membership and buildings. With the guidance of Canon Dave Robinson and Bishop Patrick Yu, I took part in a visioning process as to what our future could look like in south Scarborough. This visioning group eventually became the South-Scarborough Amalgamation Committee. It was through this process of amalgamating and working with members of my parish and the other three parishes that allowed me to really see the Holy Spirit at work. We sacrificed our comfort and traditions and church buildings to work together on the building up of the Kingdom and Church of the future in south Scarborough. This required a lot of faith and hope and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us and take the wheel. The Rev. David Howells was instrumental in shepherding us through the amalgamation, and our current incumbent, the Rev. Graham McCaffrey, has been a blessing to work with in leading this parish and ministries in the direction God is calling us. I have been very blessed with the clergy leadership I have had over the years.

Five years from now I hope to have found someone to travel the world and enjoy life with. I also look forward to further opportunities for faith formation, spiritual growth, networking, experiencing new forms of worship, and involvement in new church ministries.

Different passages of scripture speak to me at different times in my life. Since General Synod this past July, the passage that has been speaking to me is Isaiah 43:1-3, which is what Synod’s theme was based on: “I have called you by name.” Overall, General Synod was a good Synod; however, when the motion to amend the marriage canon failed to pass in the House of Bishops, emotions flared up like high waves and flames. Many felt overwhelmed and consumed with pain and sorrow. In the days following the vote, I looked at this passage and it challenged me. But since returning from Vancouver, l have found that this passage brings me hope. It was challenging because in that moment on the floor of Synod I felt that the waters had overwhelmed me and the flames had consumed me. I had thought, “but, He promised they wouldn’t!” Later, I reflected: did they, though? The water has calmed and the fire has diminished. I am still here and I am still standing. God was with me then and is with me now. He has called me by name, and I am His. He sees me, he knows me, and he loves me. And that is what will get me through the waves and flames each and every day.


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