MINDEMOYA – It’s been a long journey from a teenage gasoline jockey in Listowel to a shepherd of souls on Manitoulin Island, but Pastor Josh Wilhelm doesn’t regret a step. Well, he actually left the UPI gas station as a deputy manager, but you get the idea.
âI love it, so far,â he said of his new home and new church. âI am happy to live here on Manitoulin Island. It is a dream place for me and my wife.
Pastor Wilhelm, his wife Katrina and Labradoodle Animoons (that’s Anishinabemowin for small dog) moved to their Mindemoya home after living in Vancouver for six years. Pastor Wilhelm worked as an assistant director of the bookstore at Regent College in that city where he studied and graduated in theology, earning in 2020 a Master of Arts in Theological Studies.
This will be Pastor Wilhelm’s first pastorate and the licensed pastor still needs two years to be able to apply the honorary title of âReverendâ to his name, but this does not detract from his passion for the lectern. However, he describes his call to vocation as a kind of lightning towards Damascus.
âIt was unexpected,â he said, âa bit like Saul of Tarsus.â While he didn’t fall off his mount on his way to collecting taxes for the Romans, he was sort of collecting taxes while pumping gasoline.
It all started with a planned one-year stay at nearby Kitchener Bible College, then he met his future wife and began his continued ministry journey. The move to Vancouver became a logical landmark in his life, but becoming a pastor was still not on the books, but it soon was.
“I think the manager was preparing me as his possible replacement at the bookstore,” said Pastor Wilhelm. But eventually he found himself increasingly restless within those limits.
âMy wife and I made a list of everything we love about one place,â he said. Manitoulin has reached all the heights, especially when it comes to hockey. It looks like Mindemoya has given himself the opportunity to skate and take the puck to the net.
Ms. Wilhelm moved to a new job at Manitoulin Family Resources. As a Franco-Ontarian with Anishinaabe roots, it was her inspiration to name their labradoodle Animoons.
The pastorate where Pastor Wilhelm took his calling has recently undergone something of a moment itself, changing its name from the familiar Mindemoya Missionary Church to the Freshwater Community Church.
Although the name change came before the pastor, he was well aware of how and why the name change happened. The church, he explained, has been one of Manitoulin’s spiritual assets for some 82 years and it is not the first time that it has changed its name, but there were compelling reasons to do so. not.
âAlthough the main church building is located in Mindemoya, we are really serving the much larger island community,â said Pastor Wilhelm. âIt is important to stress that we are open to the whole island.
The name Freshwater was chosen because of the links that this name has with the teachings of Jesus and the importance that water plays in everyone’s life, but above all the important symbolic role it has in culture and traditions. Anishinaabe.
The word “missionary”, while reflecting the outreach nature of the church, has unfortunately accumulated a significant amount of negative baggage due to historical injustices committed against Indigenous peoples. “The island’s population is 40% indigenous,” noted Pastor Wilhelm, “and that word has difficult connotations, a lot of hurtful history for some people.”
Although the church is still under the denomination of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, it was felt that a name change for the local church was an easy act of reconciliation, but truly visible.
The Wilhelms look forward to their first Christmas on Manitoulin Island, a place where all the boxes have been checked.
Freshwater Community Church has Sunday services at 11 a.m., and people can also check them out at freshwatercomunitychurch.ca or on Facebook (Freshwater Community Church).