All About Gwen*, LifeWay Devonport
New Appointment: Emerging Generations Pastor
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gwen ceased this position with Lifeway in early 2023, and asked her name be anonymised due to requirements for her new employment.
Gwen* was recently appointed to the ministry team at LifeWay Baptist in Devonport as Emerging Generations Pastor. Who is she and where does she come from? Read on!
Where were you born and what was it like growing up there?
I grew up in St. Marys which is in between Fingal and St. Helens on the East Coast. Growing up there was very open-ended. I was quite sheltered from mainstream culture and my parents are both artists, so they made a world for us, which involved lots of nature, free play and traditions. It was quite isolating, but we definitely felt like we belonged in a tight-knit community.
It taught me to view the world differently. My parents were both quite poor, but it never bothered me. I feel like this has taught me to be generous where we can as a family, and hold possessions loosely.
When and why did you move to the northwest?
My husband and I moved to Ulverstone in 2001 when we both applied for teaching positions. We met in Launceston but knew we wanted a quieter lifestyle. We were blessed to be working at the same Christian school, me as an art teacher and Adam as a 5/6 teacher. I have been incredibly blessed.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ulverstone?
The beach and bush. We are constantly in awe of this incredible landscape, and for me the sea is my equilibrium. I love raising our kids by the ocean, and that their memories will be tied into the beach. I also love our community. Ulverstone is such a welcoming place, and it has everything we need without crowds.
How did you become a Christian?
I grew up in a Christian home that encouraged debate and questioning. As a young child, I always felt drawn to know God, and felt a strong sense of awe and wonder in my Catholic parish.
I made a commitment as a 12-year-old at a Youth Alive camp, and again at 21 when Adam and I were baptised. I have always analysed church (we have been to a few in our marriage), and I love that my perspectives are listened to and considered.
Growing up in a small Catholic church we had a priest for a long time, but by the time I was 10 or 11 we had a Sister run our parish for many years. This has definitely impacted my view of women in the church and I am indebted to her. I also attended Spiritual Direction since I was 16, which I can see now is pretty unique!
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
I pick up so much advice and store it all away for different seasons! This week I was so impacted by a friend’s advice of “make your own boundaries and stick to them–because no one else will do it for you”.
This idea had never actually occurred to me, I always sort assumed people would only ask me certain things without stretching me, but experience has taught me that everyone has different boundaries and ideas of ‘what is OK’. With young kids, I especially need to be careful of my commitments.
When people ask you how you spend your time, what do you say?
Ha ha! So many things! I’m a mama of two, so I spend a portion of my time cooking, cleaning, packing lunches (which is the worst!) My husband helps me a lot with this too.
I also spend time exercising, reading and being with people. I love being around others, especially talking about deeper issues and listening to suffering.
Our eldest joined our family as a biological child, and the younger one through foster care. Fostering has been one of the most rewarding and impactful things I’ve ever done. It has also been, and continues to be, the most stretching and difficult. I am incredibly passionate about the burden and blessing of fostering. I also work for a not-for-profit organisation in community outreach and mentoring.
What is your role in the Baptist Church?
I’m still in awe about my role, and I’m blessed beyond words. I am the “Emerging Generations Associate Pastor”. When I am at work I get to play with kids, relate to them, pray with and for them, and walk alongside them. Personally, I had a few very key people in my faith journey, and they all dropped-in during my childhood. I am so honoured that I get to be that person for some precious children. Hopefully, I will also reach out to Mamas as they carry such a heavy load. I carry it too, and I think I have picked up some ideas and experience that might help others.
What excites you most about what you do?
I think in a nutshell, bringing God’s peace and healing to others and helping to make our church an inclusive and exciting space for children. I am hoping to start a small ‘art group’ for younger girls, as well some retreat-style days for older teens. As well as facilitate the LifeWay Kids Ministry with my awesome volunteers.
What challenges do you have as you do this work?
At this stage, it’s organisation and juggling. I am a creative at heart, and I find it really hard to stay disciplined and organised. My wonderful husband has taught and coached me a LOT with this and I know there’s no way I could juggle all I am doing without his unwavering support. I plan to set some structure around my time so I can work efficiently.
So How can we pray for you and your work?
Pray for balance, connections and opportunities to rest at the end of the year. 2020 has been a huge year for so many, and our family has had a big year of transition and change.
Short and Sweet
I am looking forward to … 2021 and meeting new families, as well as investing in the beautiful ones in front of me
I am worried about … Gosh, nothing really! Having too much fun at work?
I am confident that … God has placed me on this path for a reason, despite the pain I might have been through to get here.
I am joyful about … At the moment, it’s our pending summer. When it finally arrives!
I would like to change … society’s view of children. There would be so many less-wounded adults.
I am at my best when … I am with people, doing something creative.
- Not her real name