Houston’s First United Church has a new leader up front on Sunday mornings.
Having just started her theological studies, Morgan Ryder is lay worship leader at the United church until she becomes their diaconal minister, which is a service-focused minister, in four years.
Ryder has lived in Rose Lake, a rural community between Houston and Burns Lake, with her seven-child family for 15 years and started coming to Houston’s United Church because of the previous pastor, Debbie Bentum.
When Bentum left, Ryder volunteered to be the worship leader for that Sunday, and it just carried on to become her role.
“It just kind of happened. I was happy to do it, they were happy to have me and it was just a good match for all of us,” she said.
Ryder says that even though she isn’t done her theological studies, she fulfills pretty much all of the functions of a minister, except Baptism and Communion which can only be led by a minister or sacraments elder.
Her theology program, run through Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, is mostly long-distance, requiring a total of eight online or correspondence courses, field placement work throughout the four years and attendance twice a year for three-week learning circles at the centre – along with papers and assignments that come out of each of those things, said Ryder.
Her first placement is at Houston Community Services, finding funding for a youth drop-in centre.
“Social Justice is one of the main underpinnings of the United Church and this certainly is a place where a lot of social justice happens,” said Ryder, adding that she has enjoyed both the work and co-workers at community services.
In addition to church leadership, placement work and the long-distance course she is doing, Ryder also has a foster-adoptive family with seven children, three girls and four boys, who keep her very busy.
The children, aged 3-14, go to school or daycare in Decker Lake or Burns Lake, and her partner is a retired social worker who stays at home with the kids so Ryder can go to school.
When asked about her hobbies, Ryder laughed.
“If I had time for hobbies … hobby farming would be my hobby,” she said, adding that she also enjoys doing woodwork and building things.
Living on an acreage at Rose Lake, Ryder’s family does have some cows and, except for this year, usually has chickens, turkeys and other animals as well, she said.
Ryder plans to finish her studies over the next four years and continue leading at Houston’s United church, she said.
Between her studies, placement, family and church, she likely won’t be picking up any new hobbies in the near future.
“Life’s pretty full and pretty busy,” Ryder laughed.