A NEW reverend is focussing on the community and how everyone can work together and have fun together.
Debbie Bentham preached for the first time at Knox United Church Sept. 4.
Before coming here, Bentham was working part time as manager at a seniors home and as a reverend at the Houston United Church and was looking for a full-time position at a larger church that would give her the chance to do more – the Houston congregation numbered 24 whereas Knox is about 100 to 120.
“I love the north. I wasn’t looking to go to Vancouver,” she said about taking the position here.
Bentham is originally from England, lived in Zambia, Africa as a little girl and then grew up mostly in Vancouver.
From the time she was 10-years-old, Bentham felt called to become a priest but there weren’t many women as priests so she didn’t know how to go about it.
Being part of different denominations during her life – her mom was a Quaker, her dad a Baptist and her stepfather Anglican – Bentham has an interest in ecumenical work, which is working with other Christian denominations.
What drew her to the United Church were changes in her life and the church’s emphasis on social justice, she said.
Bentham was a police officer for a couple of years in her 20s and a social worker for eight years in rural Alberta and Victoria and had a law enforcement diploma and a BSc in Social Work before she took on the challenge of earning a Master’s of Divinity degree from Vancouver School of Theology, which she did with four children in tow.
“It’s all been good,” she said.
And the skills from those previous jobs cross over to being a reverend now as she says the United Church is about working with the community.
Her own personal interest is working with women and families.
What she likes about the United Church is it’s a place where people can explore their faith.
“It’s come and share. Share with us who you are,” she said.
“We’re not perfect but not perfect is good too. You don’t have to be squeaky clean. You can be here and be yourself.”
She enjoys talking to people and to help enhance the gifts they have.
“I’m not nosy. I just love to hear about their lives,” she said, adding people are so interesting and different.
“It is my heart and leadership style, to really bring forth what’s there,” she said.
Instead of the congregation coming to learn what the church wants to tell them, they have a chance to take part and it’s a mutual exchange of ideas, she said.
“It gives people the freedom to do their own exploring,” she said. “I don’t come in with ‘this is the vision God wants me to tell you,’” she said.
It gives her a chance to find out what the congregation is doing, if there are new things the people want to do or what work they would like to do.
And it provides a chance to ask ‘where are we now,’ and ‘what do we feel called to do.’
One thing she would like to do here is hold environmental day camps, which she has done before with the fisheries department.
People might not want their children to go to something really religious but there was an interest in helping to care for the environment, she said about previous camps.
She and two others ran the camps that welcomed 18 children, who would do hands-on activities and then talk about what they had done and its importance. They could explore their community, care for the environment and have fun, she said.
When she moved here, it felt like she and her family were moving to the big city – she worked in Houston but lived in Telkwa – but she says there’s a small town feeling in Terrace.
“The people I’ve met so far have been really friendly,” she said.
And when she’s not working, Bentham loves fly-fishing, playing women’s hockey and women’s fastball. She’s getting into cycling too.
Bentham will be officially welcomed into the church October 2. The Knox United former reverend, Wally Hargrove, retired July 1.