[VST] What memories stand out when you think of your time at VST?
[Germaine Lovelace] What stands out for me the most about being at VST was the family atmosphere that I felt. I came to VST at a time when there were so many things happening in my own life and ministry. I had done 10 years in ministry in Jamaica and decided to make a transition to Canada to work with the Presbyterian Church. They gave me three colleges that I would do my year of courses – one in Montreal, one in Toronto, and VST in Vancouver. I applied to all three colleges, and interestingly, VST was the only school that answered.
Anita Fast, I can’t forget her name, was the one who responded to me. She said, “yes, we will accept you and this is the process.” Right away, this place stood out to me. I wasn’t looking to go to Vancouver because I always thought it was far away, a 10-hour flight from Jamaica. What made the process heartwarming was the individuals at VST who were immensely helpful. They went beyond themselves to make sure that I got into the VST. I was qualified, I’d done an MDiv in Jamaica. But coming from overseas is not easy. I was selling land, and bundling up all I had. I wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision. Hans Cohenburg was very instrumental in helping me. If I needed a letter, I would email him and in an hour I got it. We had to get Visas to travel.
There was something amazing about my time in Vancouver that really made me love the VST. Every now and again, my wife and I jokingly ask when we’re moving back to Vancouver?
VST was a family. It was small enough that everybody knew everybody. Most of us lived on campus. You didn’t know who was Presbyterian, United, or Anglican, because we acted together, we sat together, we cooked together. On Wednesdays, we would have Asian food. On Thursdays, we would have Canadian Food. Then I would cook up something Jamaican on Fridays. We would just meet at the cafeteria, sit there for hours, and eat and talk. That’s where we formed bonds. You never knew difference. You never really cared where someone was in terms of their lifestyle, or sexual orientation, or anything like that, because we were a family together.
Good family. I needed family. I was tired. I was burnt out. Doing ministry in Jamaica I never got a holiday in 10 years. I was done. I was feeling like I never wanted to be in ministry anymore. And coming to VST, I tell you, I was rejuvenated for ministry that has lasted me until today. That’s what VST means to me.
Do you have a certain class, or series of courses, that you took that really resonate with you?
My most memorable class was Christianity and Culture with Richard Topping. Richard is so brilliant. I’ve told him this already, I don’t think I’ve had a professor in any of my studies – four years University in Jamaica, one year in Atlanta, and then VST – that has been as brilliant as Richard. When I say brilliant, I don’t mean brilliant in a braggadocious way. He’s such a humble man. In a very simple way he [teaches] with brilliance, with humility, and in a way that you can understand. One of the things that hit home for me was that no presentation was off base. He made you feel seen and valued. You felt a sense of value just sharing in his classes. And you felt that what you had to say mattered. Even though he could quote 10 million books, you didn’t feel as if the one book you read had no value. You felt you could share your story, and right away, he would take your story and blend it in with something that he also read, and it would be such a powerful teachable moment. He made you love studying. Believe me, I’m not a scholar. I’m a pastor. I love pastoring. I love preaching. I love walking with people. I love to write. I fail at scholarly work; quoting people and footnoting and stuff like that, I fail at that kind of thing.
The other class that stood out for me was Old Testament Literature with Reverend Dr. Pat Dutcher-Wall. I love the Old Testament. I sat in Pat’s class, and I said to myself, Germaine, you know nothing about the Old Testament, she was so brilliant. Not only brilliant but grounded. We were looking at the Book of Amos. I had written tonnes of papers on Amos. When [she] taught about the background of Amos, I realized that most of the things I’d written are foolishness.
I enjoyed Reverend Fletcher’s class, Canadian Church History. One of the things that made her class powerful for me was it was the year the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to Vancouver. I value her for all that she taught us about the role of the church in Residential Schools. And not just that, but also how we can repair and reconcile the damage, or start the process of repairing the damage.
Do you have any advice for students transitioning from VST into ministry?
I’ll say to those going into ministry, take it easy. I share with you a statement that my pastor shared with me. He was a senior minister when I was ordained and he came to visit me while I was so frustrated that things weren’t flowing. And he said to me, “Germaine, take it easy. You are not the first minister, to come here. You’re not the first one that God has called. And you will never be the last.” I share that with those going off to ministry, you are not the first one that God has called and you will never be the last. Self-care is important. Don’t get so caught up in getting things done that you don’t take care of yourself. Quiet time, prayer time connecting with God. Sometimes we get so over-connected with doing church work that we think that’s connecting with God, but no, that’s working. Your mind is so engaged, getting the bulletin done for Sunday morning, that you don’t engage with God, you’re engaging with putting words on paper. You’ll become so tired that even executing the Sunday service becomes so rote to you. You’ll have to find a place where you can decompress. You can laugh with your family with your friends. You can just be you. Don’t get so caught up and serious about doing work. Take your time. Know that you are not the first that God has called and you will not be the last.
Germaine Lovelace served as Student Minister at Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby, BC before accepting a call to First Presbyterian Church Kenora Ontario where he was Minister for five years.Germaine served as Moderator of the Presbytery of Winnipeg June 2016 to June 2018. He currently serves as Minister at St Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Mississauga. He also serves on the Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Germaine is a member of the Healing and Reconciliation Advisory Council of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He has a deep love and passion for serving people, helping people through their struggles, and sharing the message of Christ’s redeeming grace with everyone.
About the T.E.G. Award
The VST President’s T.E.G. Award is an expression of VST’s stature in the wider community, with a strong and growing reputation for leadership development, innovation, and change. It is not restricted to alumni or affiliates of VST.
This award is intended to have a continuous presence in the community, through the annual support of its founding donors and others who also recognize the importance of the VST President’s T.E.G. Award. VST is grateful to accept annual contributions and those earmarked to endow this award to ensure its continual presence and acknowledge the outstanding contributions of Christian leaders.