As snow blanketed the streets of Edmonton on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, 2018, Bishop Jane Alexander ordained the Rev. Danielle Lepine a deacon, and the Rev. Aaron Parsall-Myler a priest, amidst the warm glow of All Saints’ Cathedral.
With humour and succinctness, the Ven. Lee Bezanson, rector of St. Matthew’s, St. Albert, explained in his homily the significance of St. Paul’s Conversion.
“Until he embarked on what would be a faithful journey to Damascus, Saul truly believed he was a good man,” said Bezanson. “He believed in his life’s direction and purpose. Then, during a three-day window of darkness, Saul encountered the transformative light of the risen Christ and became Paul. On the ground, helpless, unnerved, confused and blinded for three days, he began to see with a clarity that is absolutely incandescent,” he said. “He began to see that there must be a change – a recalibration of his very life. He goes from being the Christian faith’s most dire enemy to becoming, arguably, it’s most important answer. Without Paul’s conversion, which we celebrate this evening, and his subsequent ministry, well, we some 2018 years later might not have cathedrals or churches. There’d be no bishops, no priests, no communities.”
“Without Paul’s lifelong call to make Christ known to the gentile world, where would we be tonight?” Bezanson asked. “Can you imagine a world where Neil Gordon wasn’t the Dean but, in fact, a proctologist? Can you imagine a world where Chris Pappas was not the rector of Holy Trinity but, rather, a frustrated member of the Screen Actors’ Guild disconsolate that the Oscars have passed him by again? Can you imagine a world where I was a Mr. Fix-it handy man?” he said lamenting that the only screwdriver he had been able to use effectively was one made with vodka. “Thank God for the Conversion of St. Paul. It changed and perhaps saved our world. It certainly gave some of us some honest jobs.”
“As Paul’s life was changed forever by Christ’s call, so I firmly believe God continues to call people to undergo a significant change in their lives,” Bezanson continued. “Tonight in this sacred place, on this Feast of Paul’s Conversion, we celebrate the joyous reality that two young people, Aaron and Danielle, have had their own individual Damascus experience: they have been called to service in Christs’ name and for Christs’ sake: Aaron as a priest; Danielle as a deacon.
Baptised in his family’s parish church, but only attending services on special occasions like weddings, christenings and funerals, Aaron Parsall-Myler, originally from Croydon, UK, says his journey in knowing God began in high school. At that time, he joined two Christ-centered, noon-hour clubs and was eventually became involved in a Baptist youth group, then Emmanuel Anglican Church, South Croydon.
In 2007, Aaron moved to Canada to study English and History at Cape Breton University – his sights set on becoming a teacher. But God had other plans. “Looking back, especially at this moment as I am ordained to the priesthood, I see that, behind the scenes, God was preparing me for a vocation in the church,” he says. “In 2011, I moved to Edmonton and began attending St. Augustine’s Parkland, Spruce Grove, where my discernment began. Two years later, Aaron was appointed theological student/youth minister for St. Matthias, Edmonton. “At the same time he began working with the Salvation Army as Assistant Manager for a residential centre in Edmonton, helping men 18+ find transitional housing. “I became a Canadian Citizen on March 18, 2015 and, I was ordained a deacon by Bishop Jane Alexander at All Saints’ Cathedral on March 25, 2015,” says Aaron.
Married to “my wonderful wife” Erika since October, 2017, Aaron is a Curate at St. Matthew’s in St. Albert, where a main focus has been “connecting with those who are unable to attend regular Sunday services, but also to learn from Archdeacon Lee and the parish about what it means to be a priest, especially in this day and age,” he says.
Mother to Jory (16), Paul Jr. (13), and Emily (11), Danielle Lepine says her “love of the Anglican faith stems from being not only a cradle Anglican raised by God-loving and God-fearing parents but also from having a Godfather who was himself an Anglican priest. Growing up my father was in the Navy and we moved quite frequently and my mother continuously sought out new Anglican Churches, regardless of where we were living, in which we could attend and she could teach Sunday School. My mother has truly been my example of the selfless offering of oneself to the building of the Kingdom of God,” she says.
“I have truly been blessed in my adult life with not only three fabulous children and a supportive family, but with an amazing diocese which supports my desire to reach out and help others in the name of Jesus Christ,” Danielle says. “With this support I have been able to organize Vacation Bible Schools for children, Youth Groups for teens, Coffee Groups for fellowship, Caregivers Support Groups, and have even led Bible Study a few times. I look so forward to seeing what God has instore for me and eagerly await to be witness to the amazing blessings He has instore for each and every one of us.”
Danielle has been parish administrator for Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Castle Downs, Edmonton for more than three years and plans to continue in this role as deacon.
“Aaron and Danielle, I sincerely hope that you come to the moment when the Bishop pronounces her affirmation and official blessing, there will reside within both of you a substantial portion of humility and a healthy measure of terror,” said Bezanson. “As we heard mentioned by a man named Jesus in our Gospel selection (Matthew 10:16-22) read by the Rev. Billy Isenor (Assistant Curate, St. Augustine’s Parkland, Spruce Grove), Jesus did not sugarcoat the costs and the demands involved in being a follower, a disciple in the establishment of His kingdom. He sent His disciples out into a less than calm, less than tranquil, less than harmonious world. He knew that there would be times ahead of challenge and hardship, times of confusion, maybe even times of despair, hatred and death. Yet, Jesus sent them out regardless. But in the sending there was also a very powerful reminder that wherever they might be called, whatever we might be asked to do, they would not be alone. “For you, Aaron and Danielle will have the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. Because God has called you, He will never leave you. You are also supported by each and every one of us in this building. We play the role of that great cloud of witnesses that Hebrews 12 talks about. We are your bishop, we are your dean, we are your archdeacons, we are your priests, we are your deacons, we are your laity. We are all here tonight to support you and, in any way possible, help sustain you. Never forget that as you set about your ministry beginning tonight.”