Oh Canada! Many Canadians take for granted all the freedoms and opportunities available to them - but to those looking for a civil, respectful country to migrate to. . .Canada fits the bill. This was the case for Rev. Chris Davis, his wife Janice and their three children of Jamaica who moved to Deloraine, Manitoba in December 2018.
The Deloraine Melita Tilston Pastoral Charge of the United Church were searching in earnest for a new pastor since the departure of Rev. Allen Gairns in 2017.
In speaking with Rev. Davis he offered some background to his life and ministry. In Jamaica he was a pastor of the Moravian Church, which has its roots in Bohemia which is now a part of the Czech Republic and follows a similar doctrine to the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. John Huss was a Roman Catholic priest who opposed many of the practices of his Church. He was later tried, convicted and burnt at the stake in 1415. Many of those who believed in his principles became the seed of what became the Moravian Church in 1457.
Rev. Davis spent the first three years of his life at a children’s place of safety where he was placed after his biological mother left him at the hospital shortly after giving birth to him. He was then adopted by an elderly couple who gave him his current name and remained his parents until their deaths. Rev. Davis flourished with his adopted family, gaining an education and eventually spending eight years as an English Language teacher for high school students.
“Around this time I got ‘the call’ to Pastoral Ministry and I was ordained in 2002. I was assigned a Circuit of five churches. A lady asked before I started ‘did I have a broad back?’ - as if giving me a fair warning that things wouldn’t be easy. She may have not said what I wanted to hear that day but her daughter Janice later became my wife.
“Janice is my life partner, my friend, she is everything to me and an integral part of all I do in ministry,” said Rev. Davis.
His ministry continued in Jamaica for about 10 years, but as early as 2010, Rev. Davis was feeling frustrated, that he was going nowhere and he left the church. After four years he returned but things still didn’t work out and he was left feeling he wanted to do more. Many years earlier Rev. Davis had thought about migration and then left the thought on the back burner. “The thought of migration came back to me. I wanted more, to move on. I had two children and the urge to migrate but remain a pastor.” They tossed a few places around - Germany or Holland overseas - decided this was too far from Jamaica; United States - decided it was too violent; Canada - yes that was it - civil, respectful, economically strong and near enough to Jamaica. “We knew it was the country for us.”
In 2014, Rev. Davis returned to his former Church and there were problems right away. He tried his best to navigate the issues but eventually realized it wasn’t working out. At this time he “heard a voice” say the United Church of Canada”. He had never heard of it before, so after research on the computer - “I knew this was it and so the process began. I prayed about it, spoke to the family and applied. Deloraine was actually one of the last to get in contact. We were first interested in serving in the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada but that didn’t work out.
So that brought Deloraine to the forefront and the first contact with Pat Whiteside (who Davis refers to as the engine of communication). A skype interview was held with the Search Committee members: Pat Whiteside, Margaret Franklin, Lynn Downey, Faye McLoughlin and Manson Moir took place in April 2018. “The interview was like no other I had ever had - it was like a conversation among friends and I felt I had the job. This was confirmed to me after a second interview.”
The process of obtaining work permits, talking to their families and packing commenced. “And on December 22 we boarded the plane at 7:05 p.m. to our new life. Two things really stick out in our minds about that flight: the first was all the lights when passing over the U.S. and that it was so white on the ground forever. The second thing we will never forget is actually landing - knowing we were really here to our new life. We were met by Delmar Loucks (Melita) and Manson Moir (Tilston).
“The wide open spaces and snow were amazing - it was just about too much to take in. And the long ride and flat countryside. I’ve never forgotten Dand because of the hills there,” said Janice.
“And the best part of all is we are ever so thankful for this pastoral charge. We are completely bowled over by the joy, eagerness, support and preparedness of the charge. Pat toured us around - to the school, the hospital and in Brandon. Pat, as well as Manson Moir were twin pillars of strength to us in our new environment. Neil Franklin found us a car. Manson Moir has taken me to Winnipeg a couple of times. All the phone calls, visits, Christmas treats, presents were all beyond our wildest dreams.”
“The Lord has sent us to Deloraine, it was meant to be, a match made in heaven. My hope is I won’t disappoint them. It will take some time to get to know each other. I want people to know the key element of who I am - I am here to serve the people, to help the people feel God’s presence, to give comfort, encouragement and journey with persons in their times of need. An important part of that ministry is to visit the Lodge/PCH - to make people feel they are still part of the community, they are not forgotten. I am just here to support the people, to serve them. We hope to be here for a long time,” concluded Rev. Davis.