On Sunday October 16th, the Parishes of Gander Bay and Twillingate held a joint service to give thanks for the ministry of Kathy and Dr. John Sheldon, followed by a potluck lunch.
There are many facts I could give you about John and Kathy and their lifetime of service and ministry. They arrived in New World Island in 1964 with the intention of remaining for only a couple of years, but they soon found themselves creating a home where they would stay and serve for some 58 years.
Dr. John was the local doctor with a passion for gardening and accordion music. He set about collecting sod and soil as he visited his patients until he was able to create the garden of his dreams. He has been active in many community organizations and often provided music for worship.
Kathy was theologically educated at Union Seminary in New York City, and brought a wealth of knowledge to her roles in the church. She provided lay ministry in the parishes of Twillingate and Gander Bay for many years. She had leadership roles in the diocese and often led retreats. They are passionate about rural Newfoundland, about boating, learning, and exploring.
But none of this information gets to the heart of who they are and the impact they have had on all those who have known them.
I have a picture of myself, Bishop John Watton, and Kathy Sheldon at our pre-ordination retreat May 1990. I may not remember everything Kathy said to us that day, but I remember the impression she made. I often would say that when I grow up, I want to be Kathy Sheldon. She has a gift of hospitality combined with a keen intellect. She just seemed to know things and she always seemed to be learning new things. And whenever you dropped in to see Kathy and John, they always seem to make time and to be fully present to you.
I think that is the thing. They have a way of making you feel welcome and valued and cared for. They make time and space for folks to be. They listen and respond. They push when they have to, but are also gentle in spirit. They are human and humble and refreshingly honest. They have a gift of being fully present with you, that is not to be underestimated.
I am sure they will be very much missed in the parishes of Gander Bay and Twillingate, but I have to say that I am excited to welcome them to St. John’s, where I still hope to pop by for a visit and to be welcomed and challenged. There is still so much for me to learn, so eventually, when I grow up, I can be just like them.