What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?
I am part of the pastoral leadership team, responding to the different spiritual needs of the congregants. I coordinate three main activities, or ministries, in the church community: worship services (music), pastoral care, and one of the small groups.
How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?
My degree in Religious Studies is related to my work in a religious institution, as I am trained to engage critically with scripture and tradition. I am able to offer a critical and thoughtful interpretation of church thought and practice. Combined with a bachelors degree from a theological institution, my educational experience is well-rounded. Besides the connection between the content of my degree and church work, the professional training during graduate school helps immensely in the following areas: public speaking, teaching, research and presentation preparation, conflict resolution, and small group facilitation.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I really enjoy teaching, particularly in the form of sermons and worship liturgy. My church does not have a set liturgy each week, so there is room for creativity when I design weekly services. The most challenging aspect is scheduling people for different areas of ministry, as well as facilitating conflict resolution.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
No, it's not! I had intended on completing this part-time church apprenticeship in August 2020, after a year of engaging more with my congregation and exploring different areas of leadership in the church. But now I have the opportunity to extend my contract in the fall, and take on more responsibility on the pastoral team.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I worked for a few years but knew that I wanted to pursue graduate studies. UBC was a top choice, as I was starting to feel settled in Vancouver. I was considering more theological studies, but I began to explore related disciplines where I could learn from diverse perspectives and approaches. The CNERS department at UBC caught my attention right away, as well as its interdisciplinary Ancient Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity program.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
I enjoyed being part of a small department where faculty and staff care about their students, mentoring them in both their professional and personal lives. The camaraderie between graduate students was also a highlight, particularly in the interdisciplinary nature of our department. Between the classicists, archaeologists, and students of religion, there was a lot of knowledge to share!
What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?
Willingness to take risks, both in entering a new field (religious studies) and in proposing a new position in the church context.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
Be bold in exploring different paths, and be open to new opportunities! If needs within an organization arise and you know that you are qualified for the work, propose a solution and offer your skills and expertise. It's worth the risk!
Did you have any breaks in your education?
I took a break after my undergraduate degree to work. As I wasn't sure which career path to take, I was happy to pause, research different study/career options, while exploring the beautiful city of Vancouver. The supervisor role I held and my volunteer experience at this time both added to my professional training.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
I've been attending this church since 2017 and, last year, I saw the need for a worship (music) coordinator to assist the lead pastor. I proposed that the part-time position be re-introduced to the staff team, and I presented myself as a candidate during the final months of my degree. The idea caught on and then morphed into a supervised "apprenticeship", in which other areas of service would be included (e.g., pastoral care).
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
Graduate school was a very challenging environment, and I'd never faced that kind of pressure before. There were times when I felt that I could not meet the expectations of my supervisors, professors, or colleagues. I met the challenges as they came and succeeded; but I also learned to release some of the pressure on myself and focus on my strengths. If I could do it again, I would establish good habits right at the beginning and work harder to keep them sustainable.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
Jobs in the church context are usually posted within the specific denomination or, where relevant, the conference or governing body of churches. They can also be posted internally, if there are suitable candidates in the congregation.