Jim Appleton ordained a transitional deacon
By Gisele McKnight
It was 16 years ago that a colleague in Yellowknife, NWT, reached out to Jim Appleton with a simple invitation.
“Elaine Arnott invited me to go to church,” said Jim. “It’s the simplest thing to do, but the most difficult.
“From that moment on, I knew this was where I belonged,” he said. “Afterwards we all went across the street to a coffee shop… and that became a Sunday morning habit for me.”
The preacher that day was retired Bishop Jack Sperry, who went on to become a friend and mentor to Jim. He regaled Jim with tales of D-Day, life in the Arctic, translating parts of the bible, and visiting parishioners on dog sled.
“It inspired me. It was faith acted out in a real way,” said Jim. “I had a hunger for the Anglican Church that I still have today. And Yellowknife was where things really started to unfold for me.”
God was not exactly new to Jim. He’d been raised in a family of faith, and in the 1990s he even applied to Atlantic School of Theology, but never followed up.
God’s perfect timing led him to Halifax for work in 2007, developing a condo project with his brother, Jeff. By 2011, he was both working and studying at AST. In fact, AST still had his original application. He graduated in 2014. Two of his fellow students were the Revs. Ann Fairweather and David Peer.
“God had a plan for me but I was quite effective at pushing back that call,” said Jim. “I have regrets in some sense, but I’m glad I’m here at this moment.”
And so, at the age of 64, Jim was ordained to the transitional diaconate on Sunday, Jan. 28 at Holy Trinity in New Maryland in front of a large congregation.
Retired Archbishop Claude Miller preached. Until the arrival of the Rev. Canon Albert Snelgrove last year, Claude had been the interim priest and had worked closely with Jim.
Claude began the sermon with a lesson on learning to ride a bike.
“I wanted speed. I wanted to fly, so I built a ramp,” said Claude. “I wanted to lead the pack.”
That process of learning how to ride a bike, always gaining more and more speed to keep going, is a good metaphor for life, he said.
“All we have to do is keep up,” he said. “So much speed, but are we even on the right trajectory? Many of us feel like life is on a merry-go-round.
“’I’m so busy.’ We say it with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy. We whiz through our obligations without a single, mindful breath.”
But at an intersection, we slow down. Applying that to life, Claude encouraged everyone to enter an intersection, slow down and pause. He told everyone to take a few deep breaths and pause.
“In each pause, I hear the call,” Claude said, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson.
So what does this have to do with an ordination, he asked.
“Let’s hope we’ve pushed the pause button. Take a deep breath, hear the call to come and follow him,” he said. “In this pause, we must remember we, too, are disciples with a call.”
He referenced the reading from Acts 6, the choosing of the seven: “What we are about is not unlike the early church. We are ordaining a leader to the task. There are great pastoral needs in this diocese and in this world.
“Jim, you’ve at some point pushed the pause button… I have been privileged to share a small part of that. If, like many, you have fallen off your bicycle at times, here is a shiny new bicycle — of ordained ministry.”
Claude finished the sermon with this verse from Ezra 10:4 — Take action, for it is your duty, and we are with you; be strong, and do it.
After the service, everyone was invited to share a hot supper in the hall.
Jim will continue his work in the Parish of New Maryland and in the greater community, forging relationships beyond church walls.
“I have my eye on the larger community,” he said. “There are 50-100 new homeowners in our parish in a year. There is a lot of work to be done there.”
Jim is married to Heather, a teacher at Fredericton High School. They have three adult children: Ian, Sarah and Rebecca.