In April 2017 our congregation welcomed Vicar Thara Klein from Germany with great joy. Although that feels like yesterday, it is now almost time to say goodbye—we sat down with Thara as she reflected on her past year at MLC and in Toronto.
You spent one year as a vicar at MLC. Looking back at the past year, do you have any memorable moment (or two) that you would like to share with us?
There are so many memorable moments that it’s hard for me to name just one or two. I think some of my most memorable moments were moments in which I felt really blessed. I remember that after one service someone came to me and told me that my sermon had really touched them and I could see and feel how true that was and it almost made me cry.
Another time, I was really unhappy with my sermon and I hadn’t slept well; after the service, however, a man came to me and told me that it was his first time at our church and that he was so glad that our doors were open, because he had just lost his mother and needed a place to go. Sometimes, there are these moments in which I feel as though I’m really doing what I’m supposed to do. Such moments make me realize what a huge privilege and blessing it is to work as a vicar/pastor. That feeling is amazing and humbling at the same time.
Did anything take you by surprise? Were there things in the church or in the city that you were initially not used to?
In Germany, I’d never had to share an office with anyone. I had expected that it would take me a long time to get used to being surrounded by people for so many hours every week. But right from the beginning, the atmosphere at the office was so amazing that it actually helped me do a better job. It’s such a great blessing to be surrounded by people like Marlena, our Pastoral Assistant, and Pastor Christian, as well as having other people stop by for a few minutes or a few hours. Most of the time, the whole atmosphere at the office (and in Canada in general) was so much more relaxed than what I was used to; and that made it so much easier to enjoy working (and living). There were so many hours filled with great conversations, with lots of laughter, with walks by the lake… and yes, all of that was connected to work. You could say, we did a lot of multitasking. 😉
In general, I think I hadn’t expected so much optimism, politeness and helpfulness. Of course, I’d heard about the famous Canadian politeness. But it’s so much more than just politeness. It’s a way of life that is so much more merciful and loving that it’s hard for me to put it into words.
Shortly after arriving from Germany, you expressed your desire to explore new ways of worship and fellowship, as well as to discover the role of the Church in our changing society. Were you able to find some answers during your stay in Toronto?
One thing that comes to my mind, is that the indigenous bishop asked us at the end of the reformation procession to think about the following question: “How and where are we supposed to preach the Gospel nowadays?”
I think as soon as we open our hearts and minds we see that there are so many people who need us, who need us to tell them about God’s love and His amazing grace, to give them hope. And oftentimes, those people aren’t interested in going to church on a Sunday morning. But that’s okay. There are other ways. Pastor Dawn (First Lutheran), for example, has started some conversations/services in a pub. And Iris, our vice president, has the drum circle. God has given us many talents. It’s up to us to use them. Sometimes, that can be in a church on a Sunday morning. Other times, it can be on a Wednesday in front of our church with drums.
I think there are countless ways we can experience worship and fellowship, there are countless places and forms to preach the Gospel. Finding new ways of doing this without giving up the old ways is part of the church’s mission. Know who you are (as a Christian, as a congregation), know what your mission is about and find your own way of pursuing it so that the world can hear the good news.
Did you get a chance to see and explore a bit of Canada in your free time?
Yes — not enough to explore all that I would have loved to, but enough to see at least some parts of this beautiful country. In July, I took the train to Ottawa, Québec City and Montréal, and in September, our former intern Alena and I flew to Saint John and then drove to Moncton, Hopewell Cape, Halifax, Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg and then (via ferry) back to Saint John.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone who might wish to serve as a vicar at our church?
First of all, let me mention that I really recommend becoming a vicar (abroad) at MLC! It has been such an amazing experience for me. I’m so grateful that I got this opportunity and so glad that I decided to come here.
Part of why I’m so grateful is that from the very first moment here at MLC, I not only felt welcomed but really accepted. So I guess my first advice would be: Be yourself, show yourself! Allow yourself to feel and to show and share your feelings!
And then: Enjoy the amazing atmosphere at the office, enjoy the beautiful English hymns, enjoy the walks along the lakeshore, enjoy the meetings with other pastors… Just: Enjoy the ride!
Once you return to Germany, what do you think you will miss the most about MLC?
The people and their way of life. So many of you have become a part of my life, a part of who and what I am that, right now, I simply can’t imagine no longer seeing you on a regular basis. I will miss Christian challenging me, I will miss Marlena’s way of answering the phone, I will miss Iris’ energy, I will miss Tanya’s helpfulness, … I will miss everyone’s optimism and way of looking at things.
Furthermore, I remember that on my first weekend in Canada when we were up at Camp Lutherlyn, I drove a pick-up truck although I’d never before driven such a car and I’d only once driven an automatic car. But one of you told me: “Don’t worry. I’ll explain it to you and show you how to do it. Step by step. Together we will be able to do it, if not on the first try, on the second.” That story says so much about the Canadian way of looking at things.
Now that your time at MLC has come to an end – what awaits you next?
At the end of April, I will find out in which congregation within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany (Nordkirche) I will become a pastor. In June 2018, I will officially begin my work, and in the same month I will be ordained.
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It is always sad when we have to say goodbye—that goes without saying for Thara, our fantastic vicar. We thank her for all the work she has done for our church and the community, and wish her the best as she moves on to new opportunities in Germany!
On Sunday, April 22 we will send Thara off during the joint service at 11:00 am. All are welcome to wish her godspeed.