Joel Symonds: Apprentice based in Ontario
Joel Symonds and his wife Jessie have been married for 14 years - and riding the rollercoaster of church planting and ministry life together as a team since Day 1.
Originally from Scarborough with 16 years spent living in Thunder Bay, Joel describes himself as half "cultured urbanite" and half "rugged bushman." He is a loving pastor and thoughtful leader, and we are delighted to welcome him as a New Ventures Apprentice.
Joel celebrated his official start as a New Ventures Apprentice on October 1st, 2018.
We are thrilled to walk alongside Joel on his journey. Get to know him and learn about how you can get involved in the new things God is starting through Joel.
Introduce yourself in a few sentences.
Hey there, I’m Joel. I’m a pretty chill, yet fervid follower of Jesus. My perfect life partner and best friend, Jessie, and I have been married for 14 years, and we have 4 ridiculously amazing children who make our household chaotic and joyful. I grew up in Scarborough but spent 16 years up in Thunder Bay. I am also both a pastor and a forester, and I love all things wilderness. I’ll never be the one “calling it a night” while in the midst of hanging and having deep conversations with friends late into the evening.
What do you consider to be your greatest areas of skill and gifting?
I’ve come to learn that I’m a compassionate, gentle, and encouraging person, which makes me a gifted pastor. I am also a leader who sees the potential for great things in the people and communities all around me. My wife calls me a “hopeless optimistic” which is probably one of my greatest strengths - and also greatest weaknesses.
What does the idea that God does new things mean to you?
I believe that God is in the business of doing new things: He is diligently at work all around us to make all things new. I am convinced God’s heart is this - that through Jesus, each and every one of us would be transformed into the new creation that He desires us to be. And what’s more, is that all of humanity is invited to be a part of building this new creation. How crazy is that?! So I believe this means that life is really all about trying to have our eyes open, so that we may see the new creation work that is already taking place all around us, and then joining with God in that redemptive work.
What are you most excited about learning and doing in the course of your apprenticeship with New Ventures?
I have to say that I’m most excited to have the opportunity to wrestle with some of “big” questions that I’ve pushed to the side in the past few years. Questions like how do we be the church in a post-modern, post-Christian Canadian culture? How do create communities of belonging for those who don’t belong? What do we do to support healthy and vibrant Jesus communities in the more northern, remote parts of Canada?
To help answer some of these questions, I’ve got a long booklist that I’m stoked to read through this year. I’m excited to be stretched by podcasts, conferences and leaders that aim to pave the way in the ongoing process of reconstructing faith and everything that comes along with that evolution. I’m excited to have the creative space to think and dream, and to seek out what God wants to accomplish through me, my wife and family in this next season of life.
What or who inspires you most in the world?
I am constantly inspired by creation and the beauty of God’s natural world. It impacts my soul. When I spend time communing with God in these spaces, I am moved in deep and profound ways. I always return from these encounters and feel as though something in me has shifted; I feel inspired.
Do you have any secret talents?
If I told you they wouldn’t be a secret anymore... would they? Okay, maybe just one secret. I can whistle by curling my tongue and blowing air through it.
What is the most surprising thing about you, according to your social circles?
Everybody seems to be very surprised that I’m a pastor that brews beer... and not just “interesting” home brew but some of the best craft beer you’ll every taste. I don’t know why my brewing hobby surprises everyone - the monks have been doing it for centuries. They find praying, studying the Scriptures, ministering to the poor, AND brewing beer to go hand-in-hand. That and making cheese. Cheese is the next hobby on my list.
If someone were to visit your hometown with you, where would you take them?
Well, even though I was born and raised in Scarborough, I did spend almost half of my life in Thunder Bay, so it feels more like home to me. Therefore, for the purpose of this question, I’m going to use Thunder Bay as my hometown. If you were up in Thunder Bay for a visit, the itinerary would most certainly have to begin at the Urban Abbey for a morning coffee at The Habit Coffee House, followed by a late breakfast at the Hoito (a Finnish pancake house) and then we’d have to hike up to the peak of Mt. McKay... because as the old saying goes, “if you miss Mount McKay, you miss Thunder Bay.” Following the hike, we likely worked up a crazy appetite so we’d hit that hunger head-on with a delicious culinary experience at the weird and quirky hipster bar called the Sovereign Room where you would finish off the day with a cold pint of craft beer from Sleeping Giant Brewery. And if it was a Sunday, we’d do all of the above plus a morning time of worship at Grassroots Church (my old stomping grounds).
You can support Joel and the Symonds family in the following ways:
For clarity as they seek direction as to what God specifically wants them to do next.
That God would give them the desires of our hearts so that they would actually want what God wants.
That this season would be the perfect preparation for what is next (a time filled with learning, healing, and rest).
That they wouldn't rush the process of discovery but would savour every minute of the unknown.