The Right Reverend Gary Paterson
The United Church of Canada
The Right Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson was elected Moderator of The United Church of Canada at General Council 41 in Ottawa, Ontario on August 16th 2012. He will serve a 3 year term from August 2012 to August 2015.
Gary understands and engages the new reality which faces the church. As Lead Minister (2005) of St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church, a congregation situated in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the opportunities and challenges of being the church in the 21st century are present daily.
He came to St. Andrew's-Wesley to find approximately 100 faithful worshippers who had hopes and visions of new life for the congregation in downtown Vancouver. During the past seven years, he and the congregation, that now numbers close to 300 on a Sunday morning, and 100 at the afternoon Jazz Vespers service, have found new life as they have listened to, and followed, the Spirit.
This vision for a vibrant, inclusive, and prophetic church has led St. Andrew's-Wesley to establish and fund children's ministries, homelessness and mental health action groups, adult faith formation ministries and a World Religions educational series. And, in 2012, a leadership academy was launched that seeks to rethink how the church equips its people to serve in the complexities of a post-Christendom church.
Gary attends to the presence and movement of God in his own life and in the world to which the church ministers. Central to the heart of his ministry, Gary's passion and spiritual gift is preaching. Every week, he engages the congregation with preaching that casts a vision; that speaks of the inclusive community; that roots itself in the bible, in the witness of Jesus, in current events and in contemporary culture; that engages multi-cultural and multi-faith issues; and, invites the community into new ways of responding to the call.
Gary’s commitment and understanding of what it means to be the church has been shaped through the leadership he has provided in a variety of settings.
Prior to ministering at St. Andrew’s-Wesley, our “cathedral-like” church in downtown Vancouver, Gary served for eleven years as the Lead Minister at one of Vancouver's largest neighborhood churches, Ryerson United.
Prior to Ryerson, Gary served in a completely different ministry context at First United, located in the Downtown Eastside, the poorest neighborhood of Vancouver. It was a ministry that combined congregational and street ministry, the pastoral and the prophetic.
In the 1980s, Gary served at the Conference level, serving on the British Columbia Conference staff in the areas of congregational growth and development; worship and evangelism; youth and young adult ministry; and social and economic justice. He participated in the development of Songs for a Gospel People; was lead staff in the shaping of a new, national Young Adult Conference – Kairos ’85 –which then continued every other year for many years; and, participated in the committee that authored the first report on the ordination of gay and lesbian people in the United Church (GC ’84.)
Gary has also participated in the life of the National Church in different ways – with the former Division of Mission (when on Conference Staff); in a worship leadership role with “Energy from the Edges” (when at First United) -- a gathering of those engaged in Social Justice ministries in the United Church; and, most recently, with the national Permanent Committee for Programmes, Mission and Ministry for six years.
The gifts of creative intelligence, a poetic soul, a pastoral heart and discerning leadership have been apparent throughout his ministry. He has brought these streams together in courses he has taught at Naramata Centre, including a one-week course entitled, Words of Power," an experience of creative writing, poetry and Scripture.
Gary began his theological studies at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston in 1973, possible because he had received a Rockefeller Fellowship. He completed his studies at Vancouver School of Theology in 1977, did an internship at Naramata Centre and was ordained that spring. He served his first pastoral charge in the rural interior of BC at Winfield United Church and the Ecumenical Parish of Lumby, an Anglican and United shared ministry. He returned to Vancouver in 1979 to serve as Minister at Marpole United Church, a small neighborhood church, for three years.
In his childhood as part of a military family, Gary moved from Whitehorse, where he was born in 1949, to Victoria, West Germany, Toronto and Vancouver. Gary's academic abilities were recognized early in life. He earned the Governor General’s Medal for top provincial high school graduate (1966); and upon finishing his B.A at the University of British Columbia he was awarded the Gold Medal for Arts, and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. He earned a Master of Arts in English from Queen’s University (in Kingston), and then began teaching as a Sessional Lecturer in the Department of English at UBC.
Gary's immediate family includes three daughters (from his first marriage), four grandchildren, his parents, and his spouse, Rev. Tim Stevenson, with whom he has been partnered for thirty years.