It may have been a whirlwind visit, but Jordan Cantwell likes what she saw during her brief time in Meadow Lake. Recently, Jordan spoke with Northern Pride about her role as moderator of the United Church of Canada, the importance of faith and her love for travel.
Q: What brings you to Meadow Lake today?
A: I’m serving a three-year term as moderator of the United Church. As the moderator, I travel across Canada visiting with congregations and folks involved with church and community. I obviously can’t get to everywhere, so as a priority, I made sure I go into communities that don’t normally get a moderator’s visit. I serve a small rural community in Saskatchewan when I’m not moderating, so I know how disconnected some people can feel from the wider church and I feel, the more isolated you are from the larger centres, there can be more of a disconnect.
Q: Is the role of the moderator to make those connections stronger?
A: That’s part of it. The moderator’s job is to sort of be a spiritual leader, an inspiration for the whole church. My role is to inspire folks and help folks to encounter in deeper ways God’s presence in their lives. I know there is incredible ministry going on in some of the smaller communities which the rest of the church never hears about because of the challenges of a country this size and communication and all that. I also have prioritized for my term reconciliation and right relationships, as well as ecumenical and interfaith connections in youth and young adults. This is a community that said we have some stuff going on here that kind of fits with what you’re talking about and what you’re interested in, so I was really excited when I got the invitation. They haven’t had a moderator visit in a long time and this is a really neat context.
Q: How long will you be here for?
A: This is it. I’m leaving this afternoon (Monday). This is one of the challenges of this role. There are only three years and it’s a vast country, so I get to go to all kinds of incredible places but I never get to stay long. I arrived Saturday night, was at church Sunday morning and held a conversation after the service. I had supper with the youth group Sunday evening and today we got a tour of Flying Dust, and now it’s the vacation Bible school for the rest of the day.
Q: What’s it been like having all these little kids here today?
A: It’s been awesome. I really enjoy the energy and the passion and the openness of the kids. They just sort of engage so fully. I love it.
Q: What are your impressions of Meadow Lake and area?
A: We also did a driving tour of Meadow Lake Sunday and I was impressed by the number of organizations working to really strengthen families. The impression I got is that is a real priority in this community. Recognizing, for all kinds of reasons much like it is everywhere, families are under a lot of pressure and have a lot of challenges. But, this seems to be a community that is working really hard to support families and to try to turn that around. I found that really encouraging. It’s also clearly a community where reconciliation and right relations are sort of at the heart of everything that’s going on because you have Flying Dust right next door. There is a lot of integration in terms of cultural boundaries.
Q: When not travelling, where do you call home?
A: Saskatoon. That is where my family is. Our national offices are in Toronto, so when I’m not on the road, I’m either in Saskatoon or in Toronto. But, most of my time is spent on the road.
Q: And, what’s your background with the church?
A: I am an ordained minister within the United Church. I was ordained in 2010 and served in ministries as a lay person before that. I grew up in the Anglican Church, actually. My father is Roman Catholic and my mother is Methodist, so in my early childhood we went back and forth between those two churches. Once we moved to Canada when I was quite young, we joined the Anglican Church and I grew up there before leaving in my 20s like so many people do. When I came back into the church I came back to the United Church and have been part of the United Church ever since.
Q: You mentioned moving to Canada when you were young. Where are you originally from?
A: I’m originally from New York. That’s where both my parents are from, where I was born and we moved here when I was in Grade 2. New York is still where all our lifelong family and friends are.
Q: What makes one leave New York to come to Saskatchewan?
A: We actually went to Edmonton first – I grew up there. It was work for my dad, really. He’s a chemist and he was working as a chemist at a company in New York. When it changed hands, he started looking for something else and really wanted to teach. He applied to the University of Alberta and they said they’d love to have him, so it went from there.
Q: Are you still an American citizen?
A: Yes, I have dual citizenship.
Q: What role does the church still play in today’s modern society?
A: I do think the church’s role in society in Canada has changed quite significantly. I believe communities that are structured around faith are really important in our society because it’s going to be those communities primarily that are going to continually call us to consider the ethical implications of our actions as a society, call us to pay attention to the marginalized – the folks who tend not to be heard or noticed – because religious faith of any stripe calls humanity to pay attention to the poor and the oppressed.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: My partner’s name is Laura and I have a daughter named Hope. She’s 19 and doing her under-grad, but her plan is to go into medicine.
Q: What are your personal hobbies or pastimes?
A: I really enjoy walking. We just got a dog, so now I’m doing a lot of walking. My daughter also owns a horse and I love horseback riding. I don’t have the time right now, but really enjoy it when I’m able to. Because I spend so much time travelling and deeply engaged with people, when I do get some quiet time I usually lock myself behind a closed door with a good book.
Q: Is there anywhere you have not travelled to yet but would like to visit?
A: Yes, I have travelled quite extensively but I have never been to South America. I’ve been to Central America, Africa, Asia, Europe but never to South America yet I have a real heart connection there and I really couldn’t tell you why. I’d love some day to go to places like Peru or Venezuela. Since becoming moderator, however, I have had the incredible honour of visiting places like Korea, China, Indonesia and El Salvador, and I plan to go to Kenya and Australia.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: I have received so much wisdom. The one that really stays with me, however, is if you ever do anything out of a sense of guilt, it’s just going to turn to garbage. You have to operate out of a place of gratitude. No matter how much you give, to always receive more is a powerful lesson in gratitude. Operating from a sense of guilt just poisons things, but operating from a sense of gratitude means no matter what I am doing I always feel myself filled up rather than depleted.