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Women in Ministry

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Anne Lalonde & Véronique Beaudin

MBH: Tell us about yourselves

Anne: I grew up in a French-Canadian, Quebec family with a Catholic background. I didn’t attend church for most of my youth, typical for many Quebecers. Despite that, I had always been interested in faith, God, and spiritual matters, but it wasn’t ‘cool,’ and it wasn’t something you would talk about. I let that be and chose to study administration when I went to college. 

I got married, had my kids, and then my mother died when I was 28. My father died when I was 3, so when my mother passed, it threw me into a weird mental loop. At three months, our youngest became sick with a pulmonary virus. The doctors said the sickness would break and she would recover, or we may go home without her. She recovered, leading me to explore my faith. Because I’m very pragmatic and logical, I studied from Protestant and Catholic perspectives. I concluded that my faith was more Protestant even though I was raised Catholic. So I searched online and started attending church, and a year later, I was baptized.

Véronique: I grew up in Gaspé in Quebec. I had a rough background when I was young and got involved with drugs and alcohol. At age 22, I began to experience occasional bouts of depression. At 25, I became pregnant. At 32, I fell into a profound depression which uncovered deeply repressed past trauma; I broke my silence and told my mom that my uncle and grandfather abused me. I slowly started to tell other individuals and reported the incident to the police. Eventually, my case made its way into the courts.

I was so lost, depressed and confused that I didn’t want to continue living anymore. Suddenly, I decided to pray and said, “God, if you exist, you need to put someone in my path because I can’t continue living this way.” Two weeks later, I saw an advertisement in the local paper for a leather coat sale, and I went on a Sunday morning. The building beside the coat sale, L’Intersection Church was filled with celebrating people, and I was unfamiliar with what I saw because I was only familiar with the Catholic and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This church was God’s answer to my prayer. I began to attend church more regularly and became rapidly immersed in the love of God. It was also the first time I felt people truly took care of me, believed in me, and took a chance on me. I got baptized a year later, in August 2008. In September 2009, I began my bachelor’s degree at ETEQ and continued studying part-time until 2018. During that time, I had a call on my heart to help sexually abused women, to see them healed, and for them to know the love of God.

MBH: What roles have you held within the MB Church?

Anne: I started going to Église chrétienne évangélique de Saint-Eustache, on the north shore of Montreal, the closest MB church to my little village. God works in mysterious ways: when I was in college, I attended my professor’s wedding long before my baptism. Years later, when I was searching for a church, I returned to St. Eustache, and I never left.

I started as a volunteer with their tech team, helping with sound, PowerPoint, and whatever else they needed help with. I also had small children at the time (ages 4, 1 and a half, and 9 months), so I was involved with the children’s club when they needed volunteers. When I returned to school, still serving on the tech team, I took a break from other volunteer roles because my studies required my attention. Later, I started working part-time at ETEQ as the communications coordinator and helping Kristen Corrigan, the director at the time. 

After finishing my undergrad in theology from ETEQ (École de Théologie Évangélique du Québec), I started being more involved with the provincial conference. In 2019 I started working for the AEFMQ as the communications coordinator and have since taken on other roles within the conference, as well as stepping in as co-editor of Le Lien, which is the MB magazine in Québec. I became the editor of the magazine in 2020. 

I stopped working at ETEQ shortly before Covid because, with my family life, I couldn’t study, volunteer at church, and work in Montreal simultaneously. My church offered me a job as a ministry coordinator. In that role, I helped with providing resources for all of the different ministries in our church. I also worked as an administrative assistant, preaching 4-7 times yearly. I’m often invited to share my testimony at other MB churches in Quebec, and I am on the provincial Faith and Life team. I served as the treasurer for the provincial board in Quebec in 2020 and worked with CCMBC on the National Communications Team.

Véronique: In 2013, I began working for ETEQ, first as a receptionist and then as a student counsellor. I see helping to prepare future leaders as my ministry to the broader evangelical community in Quebec. I have been a leader in my local church for the past ten years; I completed the pastoral accreditation process 2-3 years ago. I am on the church committee and preach a few times a year. I also work part-time with The Way Out as a chaplain and an outreach worker. This organization helps women get out of the sex industry and sex trafficking.

When I speak with women at The Way Out, I do my best to be like Jesus; I am a living testimony there. Seeing women giving their lives to Jesus is so powerful. It’s really important for me to help these women find hope and freedom. 

MBH: What have been some of the highs and lows of your ministry?

Anne: I think one of the highs for me is when someone approaches me after I preach and says, “What you said touched me/touched my heart,” or “I’ve never seen things like that,” or “This is a new way to read that scripture for me.”

One of the difficulties for me was balancing finishing my undergraduate degree with volunteering so many hours at my church during the Covid pandemic. Although I wasn’t diagnosed with burnout, I was very emotionally vulnerable. It took some time for me to recover and get my energy back to be more present in all aspects of my life again. 

As leaders in ministry, our desire to help others often motivates us to give more than 100%. Our focus is not on making money but on serving others. However, this can lead to burnout if we fail to listen to our bodies and prioritize our well-being. The learning curve for me—and I’m still in it—is finding the balance between my personal life, my work at church, and my volunteering at the provincial board. I know that some seasons in life or ministry are more prone to overtime, like Christmas or Easter. Still, after that, you need some downtime to recharge and replenish your energy. 

Véronique: A few weeks ago, we celebrated people who received their diplomas from ETEQ. When graduates expressed gratitude, I remembered, “Oh yeah, this is why I work at ETEQ!” I was reminded that my work means something. 

Another highlight is when I receive positive feedback on my preaching, especially when someone says they experienced a scripture passage in a new way. I am encouraged when remembering that God is working in His Church and that I—just as I am—have the privilege to be part of that work. I could never have seen myself in this place when I started my faith journey.

However, there needs to be a higher level of participation in ministry in Quebec. Engagement is currently quite low.

Anne: Hence the burnout!

Véronique: Yes, exactly! I believe it’s time to reconsider how we can contribute to the Kingdom of God. Volunteering and paid positions are both viable options. However, we also need to ensure that our churches recognize the talents of their members, even if specific tasks may seem less glamorous or may not be the right fit at the moment. It’s important not to let excuses get in the way of serving our communities. 

MBH: Have you encountered varying viewpoints regarding women in ministry within our broader MB community?

Anne: Véronique has been doing this longer than I have, but in my experience, most people have been welcoming of women in ministry roles. I have not encountered gender-based discrimination or negativity while teaching or preaching. I know it happens, not necessarily in our church, but on a broader scale. But now we’re seeing more women involved with church boards, like Véronique. I get invited to preach at other churches within our MB family in Quebec, so I see opportunities and open-mindedness toward women in ministry. The older way of thinking about women in ministry is changing slowly. 

The more we support women in ministry, the more it will be accepted as the norm. And it’s not that women are better than men or vice versa: each brings a valuable perspective to the church’s ministry. 

Véronique: There’s a place for women called to ministry in the MB Church. My pastor has always supported me and encouraged me to continue my ministry. Some may disagree, but that disagreement doesn’t discourage me from continuing my ministry. As Anne mentioned, having women in leadership gives another perspective, and I think that that very much reflects the image of God. 

MBH: As you think about our national and local MB families, what should be some of our top priorities as a church family going forward?

Anne: Discipleship. We need more people equipped, trained, and willing to serve in the Church. When I think of the next generation, I don’t think of myself; I think of my kids. 

We need to be intentional about the youth, make sure they feel heard and seen, and be there for them so they don’t leave the Church. We want to be a powerful testimony and be role models for them.

Lastly, let’s prioritize diversity, whether that’s women, immigrants/newcomers, etc. The MB Church needs people from different cultural and economic backgrounds. 

Véronique: Discipleship is essential for me, too, because when we learn to follow Jesus, He will lead us toward what we need to do for His Kingdom. Suppose we focus and keep our eyes on Jesus. In that case, the mission will come from Him, not our own will. 

Matthew 5-7, The Sermon on the Mount, is a perfect place for us as Mennonite Brethren to start. Jesus told us to be with those who are marginalized. It would be good to see churches more involved in community outreach. We sometimes need to learn how to interact with marginalized people, which feels hard, so we don’t. It’s a very sensitive topic for me because I was a marginalized person at one point. Still, if God touched my heart and met me where I was, then I—we—need to do the same.

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