Rev. Andra Townshend O'Neill (left) and Rev. Justin Comber were ordained on March 4, 2020
By Rev. Andra Townshend O’Neill
On my sixth birthday my parents surprised me with a new bike. My first two-wheeler. We were all heading to the car to go out for dinner and Dad asked me to get something out of the trunk and of course when he popped open the trunk, there it was. A shiny, red, brand new bike. I was surprised and delighted.
I am the youngest in the family and brand new things were not the norm – reserved for birthdays and Christmas alone. What a birthday this was! It was my first new bike and it was a beauty. Now I needed to learn to ride it.
After an unsatisfying month of riding with training wheels my Dad, cigar in mouth, said, “Get your bike, we’re going to take those training wheels off and get you riding on your own”.
Wait… What did he say?! I offered several alternate suggestions and time frames but Dad was pretty adamant that this was the day. So with great trepidation I followed him to the sidewalk between our church and parish hall. My stomach was in knots, “what if I fell?, “what if I hurt myself?” “what if I couldn’t do it”. And of course, Dad said, “You’re ready; you can do it, I’m right here.”
So I hopped on and we began. I started to pedal, and Dad held me steady from the back of the bike, giving me a chance to get momentum. As I got up some speed the bike seemed to get lighter. As soon as I realized that Dad had let go, I was both thrilled and terrified. I was riding my bike! I could do it! I was a natural! And as the days passed and I discovered how big the world is when you have a two-wheeler it became hard to remember that I’d ever been afraid to ride my bike at all.
As I stood at the back of St. Paul’s on the day of Justin and my Ordination I felt like I was back on that sidewalk at St. Georges Owen Sound with my father right behind me, “You are ready; I’m right here with you.” And as I began to walk down the aisle, I saw the faces of the people that God had gifted into my life for the past 48 years, family, friends, fellow members of the family of Christ, who had gotten me to this church on this day, each giving my journey a little more momentum so that I could get to that day, to the front of that Cathedral to kneel before God, Bishop and people of God to say that I was ready, no longer concerned about falling or getting hurt and no longer wondering if I could answer this call.
And now, 30 days later, as I write this I can tell you that even in the midst of a pandemic, our world in duress, I am grateful to be able to answer this call. I see a world that yearns to know the love of God and God’s people and a Church that is recognizing how strong we are when we are not in the church building. And so, as the days pass I am so filled with hope for the transformation that the Gospel will bring to the people of this world. I’d say that entering into ministry is somewhat like riding a bike, thrilling and terrifying and because God the Father will always be there to keep me stable and give me momentum, the further I go, the lighter I feel.
Andra Townshend O’Neill is the Deacon-in-Charge at St. Mark’s, London.