A few years ago, when Judy Paulsen’s name appeared on the ballot for the position of one of the Toronto Area Bishops, I was alarmed.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Judy would make a great bishop. But I was presumptuous enough to have other ideas about Judy’s future. I took her for lunch and shared them.
This coming September, those ideas will begin to unfold. Judy is leaving a fruitful ten-year ministry at Christ Church, Oshawa, to take up a two-part position: she will join the staff of St Paul’s Anglican Church, Bloor Street, 60% of the time; and she will take over my teaching responsibilities at Wycliffe College the other 40%.
Why did I think this would be a good idea? Judy Paulsen has a unique combination of gifts. She is, perhaps first and foremost (from my point-of-view anyway), a parish priest with effective gifts in evangelism. She admits there is something mysterious about the way people with no Christian commitment walk in off the street (sometimes in the first place they just ask to use the washroom!), or phone her to say they are coming to Christ Church, who then stick around, and over time decide to follow Jesus and be baptised. There is a pattern to the way this happens around Judy.
It’s sad, really, that this is so unusual. But for a person like this to be teaching future leaders, particularly ordained ones, is invaluable. (I have always been very conscious that most of my experience in evangelism has been outside the parish context and somewhat removed from those situations our students will be moving into.) This is also why it is excellent that Judy will still be on staff at a real live parish church (albeit a unusual one)—St. Paul’s. There—God willing—more experiences of evangelism will come her way to fuel her passion and bring authenticity to her teaching in the classroom.
In recent years, Judy has also been working on a Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Seminary in California. Last summer, she completed her studies by successfully defending her thesis on how Messy Church grows disciples. She showed convincingly that Messy Church, in spite of the caricature that it is a glorified Sunday School program, actually helps families with no Christian background begin to follow Jesus in their daily lives. (If you are a regular reader of good idea! you may remember her article on this topic in September 2012. You can read that article here.) Her academic credentials make it even more fitting that she should be teaching at Wycliffe.
As people hear about Judy’s future, they tend to ask about mine. “Are you retiring?” they ask. The answer is no . . . but my job is changing somewhat. I will continue to direct the Institute of Evangelism half-time, but in the other half I will be on a five-year contract to give leadership to a new Centre (as yet unnamed) which will co-ordinate and enhance the college’s ministry to church leaders. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, I am grateful that those seeds sown over lunch a few years back have begun to bear fruit. Never underestimate the power of lunch. But make sure you pay.