“Perhaps this is an avenue to explore? Let me know your thoughts.”

The email was polite and respectful, but it opened a flood of memories from my own search for a second internship just over a decade ago (I had done a first internship in Kelowna and Kamloops, with Rev. Wendy McNiven, but it was very short, only 6 months, and I knew I needed more time as an intern).

I had applied to six USA internship sites and was second choice in several, but in this situation, as many others, second doesn’t actually get you anything.  It was with more than a touch of desperation that I went to a national ministers meeting and announced that I had no internship for the coming fall. I will never forget the two ministers who took me aside and said that they would ask their congregations to see if they could help. It was my first experience of ministerial collegiality – the commitment ministers make to support one another – and it was a huge relief, financially as well as psychologically.

Today, ministerial internships are even scarcer than when I was looking. At least I had the opportunity to apply to American congregations. With the changes in border regulations, Canadian interns can no longer apply for USA internships. And Canadian congregations being generally on the small side, have few internship sites, and many teaching congregations don’t offer an internship every year.

Rosemary had completed her studies with acclaim, and was ready to immerse herself in congregational life and experience the role of a minister, but there weren’t any Canadian congregations offering internships this fall.

What she did have was the Kelowna Unitarians, who said they would be happy for her to be their intern, if only she could find an offsite supervisor.  This was Rosemary’s ask of me: would I be her offsite supervisor, meeting with her once a week by video conference and visiting Kelowna four times over the course of the year?

Rosemary was not unknown to me. We had crossed paths several times: when I was in Kamloops as their intern minister and she a lay leader, when I was serving in Nanaimo and she was living in Victoria, and more recently at ministerial gatherings which she attended as a candidate. Right from my first acquaintance, I was impressed with Rosemary’s skills and wisdom.

The timing was also good for me, having just finished a two-year contract with the Regina fellowship. I always like to have something happening in my ¼ time that I’m not working with Saskatoon Unitarians, to help keep the ¾ time boundary in place.

Most of all, I wanted to help Rosemary as I had received help from the Rev. Allison Barrett. I have a dream of Saskatoon and Regina joining together to host an internship, this is a dream for the future and not something that could be put in place for September. So an offsite internship was our best option.

After my initial “yes,” everything fell into place very quickly, and this coming weekend, September 21-24 I will be in Kelowna, meeting with the intern, the internship committee, their board, and running a start up workshop for the internship.  I look forward to sharing my learning with you over the coming year.

Rosemary is already doing good things in Kelowna—before her internship even started, she turned an unpleasant graffiti experience into an opportunity to get the Kelowna Unitarians name and the Unitarian way of thinking out into the community. Check out her press release, here.

Yours in faith,

Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz

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