A United Church minister from the Philippines sees great opportunities for the church as it opens itself to Canada’s changing demographic realities.

The author, Noel A. Suministrado, a Filipino man with short dark hair with streaks of grey. Wearing glasses and a scarf.
The author, Rev. Noel A. Suministrado.
Credit: Courtesy of Noel A. Suministrado

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, an opportunity to prayerfully reflect on the contributions of Asian Canadians to Canadian society, and to honour and celebrate this important aspect of Canadian history.

Picture me: A Filipino minister from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) being assigned to a local church of The United Church of Canada through the Mutual Recognition of Ministry Personnel in 2017.  As soon as we landed in Winnipeg, the cold blast of wind greeting us reminded of the reality we would soon have to reckon with, affectionately called “Winterpeg”! But what we will remember even more than the freezing temperatures was the warm welcome my wife and I received from the predominantly Filipino congregation of Broadway Disciples United Church.

Fast forward: Almost three years and counting, I am amazed at how being assigned to this church and city has given me such a wide perspective of doing ministry. Coming from an academic setting where I was teaching in a seminary back home and ministering in a rural church on weekends, I have been through a lot of new experiences and different ways of doing things. And though there are commonalities, the demographic changes taking place here in Winnipeg, and in Canada in general, make my imagination run wild about ministry as the church as it faces this new reality.

As Canada slowly becomes home for us, one can imagine the challenges and possibilities that arise. In Manitoba alone, there are about 80,000 Filipinos here already, and the influx of those coming from other countries is increasing as well. When I walk the streets of Winnipeg with people of different colours, languages, and cultures, I see a multitude of scenarios and challenges for the church ahead. It is truly mind boggling!

These streams of Canadian reality and context are something to be pondered and reflected upon. Everyday, the changing realities make things more complex. How will we in The United Church of Canada respond to this changing landscape? Are we open and flexible about these realities?

My question for my local congregation is, How do we become the church that is called by Jesus Christ to face these changes, both in the church and the community? Can the emerging reality be the material on which to build on our ministry and serve as a grounding for our faith? Are we as a church willing to let the Spirit of God work on us, so that we can envision a calling that is not just for our children, but extends even outside the walls of Broadway Disciples United Church?

You say it’s complicated, right? Yes, it is, but for me, it opens an exciting door that can offer us a way to find our bearings, not only as a people, but in our relationship with God as well. We Filipinos, caught in the middle of the crossroads, will be challenged to define our role in the rapidly changing scene of Canada, in all aspects of daily life.

I will not pretend to know the answers, ministry wise, but surely there must be answers out here, and in the vastness of Canada. This thought is heartwarming enough!

— Rev. Noel A. Suministrado. Prior to coming to Canada, he taught tcumenical theology and social ethics in the Philippines. He currently serves as minister of Broadway Disciples United Church in Winnipeg under the Mutual Recognition of Ministry Personnel of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and The United Church of Canada.