Bi-vocational Ministry
by Brett Anningson

Ministry students at Emmanuel College in Toronto should prepare to be bi-vocational, according to former moderator of The United Church of Canada the Very Rev. Lois Wilson. She was responding to the reality that more and more calls are becoming part-time while debt loads and living expenses are going up.

Annika Sangster, a diaconal minister in Middle Musquodoboit, is a case in point. “I’ve always liked yoga. When I moved here and found my new yoga class, I found it to be a spiritual practice for me.” Yoga so fascinated her that she continued to try more poses, and wanting to deepen the poses, she took teacher training. Now she works part time as a yoga instructor.

Rev. Lori Beth Sheffield-Bowles of Fredericton is another minister who supplements her income with part-time work.  “I currently review household products and books,” she says. “I get paid a small monetary amount and get to keep the books and household products. I think of it more as a hobby than job.” She adds that since she is in part- time ministry she is seriously looking at other avenues to help pay the bills.

But it is more than money; many people do what they do, whether inside or outside of a church because of a very real sense of call. What do we do if we are called in more than one way, and how do they relate?

“The further into the classes I got,” Sangster says, “the more I realized that yoga is very similar to church.  Like church, most people go once a week for an hour, or maybe even less often, for spiritual fulfillment with people who share similar values.”

When asked if they do something “on the side”, ministers tend towards two categories: a continuation of ministry skills, like chaplaincy, or writing.

“I feel equally called to both ministry and teaching yoga,” Sangster says. “I find them so overlapping that it’s hard to do one and not the other. I see being a yoga teacher as expanding my realm of ministry; it’s like having another congregation.”