I had a sort of conversion experience

Sister Deborah Stewart stands with Bishop Peter Fenty, the area bishop of York-Simcoe. Bishop Fenty is the Anglican Bishop Visitor to The Worker Sisters and Brothers of the Holy Spirit, a lay religious community.
 on October 1, 2017

Sister Deborah Stewart is a member of The Worker Sisters and Brothers of the Holy Spirit.

My position is that of Canadian director, president of our Canadian board of directors and a member of the U.S. board of directors. I am on the chapter, which is a group of 18 members who meet annually in the fall to pray and plan our coming year’s educational topics and the ongoing direction of our community.

We are a lay community whose Rule of Life is based on Benedictine spirituality. Our focus is on becoming the people that God wants us to be. We are accountable to one another for our spiritual growth. We rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. We are recognized by the Anglican Church in Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States.

As the Canadian director, my key role is to read the monthly letters of our community members, to keep a pulse on the heart of the community. We have 134 life-professed members. I have four people writing their monthly letter to me, to whom I respond. I am involved in the production of our monthly bulletin, which features an educational article, questions for reflection, community news and members’ stories of mission and ministry to others.

Our community members live and work in the world, in all sorts of occupations. I have three children and four grandchildren and have worked in the insurance industry for 45 years. Our covenant commitment to The Worker Sisters and Brothers of the Holy Spirit is our desire to grow closer to God, serving Jesus Christ right where we are in the world. Our Rule of Life is our toolbox to assist us in becoming more obedient to the nudges of the Holy Spirit, growing closer to Christ. In the messy circumstances of our everyday world, it is an anchor to help us live in a purposeful and joyful way.

Most of us are lay people – married, single, divorced, widowed or partnered. There is also a place for clergy in our midst, as we grow and learn together. We are sort of a virtual community in that we do not live together, but maintain our solid connections through prayer, Skype, email, monthly corporate communion where physically possible, and an annual retreat. Our bonds are strong and we support one another through all trials and joys of life. We have members in Canada, the United States, Haiti and Australia.

In 1984, I had a sort of conversion experience and started reading my Bible and attending church again, after leaving it in my teenage years. I really wanted support in this wonderful life I had found. I was introduced to The Worker Sisters and Brothers of the Holy Spirit while attending Emmanuel Anglican Church in Richmond Hill. I felt like I had found my home. I joined in 1985 and became a Sister in 1992. We have a wonderful educational process: a year of applicancy with study each month, another year of study as a worker, a year or more of just “being” in the community, a second year of study, and then a year as a novice, with a monthly study before becoming a Sister or Brother if that is the desire. I am currently an active member of St. Mark’s Anglican Lutheran Church in Midland. I work for an insurance broker in town, curl, golf and have a fascinating hobby doing stained glass art.

I made a life commitment to our community in 1985 and can say that the spiritual growth and development that I have received has been invaluable in my life. I have had support on my journey in the raising of my children, my 30 years of marriage, my divorce, dealing with grief in the death of my spouse and my mother, and now with the work of loving and caring for my grieving father. With the many changes in locations and churches due to life circumstances, my community has been my constant support. It has given me the ongoing educational and emotional support that I needed, but the most important part of our Rule of Life is the accountability to one another. With accountability, one does not just slip away. We are constantly drawn back to Jesus Christ and to continuing this journey of faith, and being a witness of Jesus to others we encounter along the way.

Five years from now I hope to be walking closer to Jesus, have this obedience thing figured out and be more involved with ministry in my local church as I retire from my insurance career. I will be doing something that is needed in our Worker Sisters and Brothers of The Holy Spirit community as I am led.

My favourite scripture is Psalm 40. It speaks to me of God lifting me out of a state of turmoil and confusion to a state of peace. It gives me hope in a complicated and sometimes confusing world. It encourages me and gives me strength in the toughest of times.


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