OK, First thing’s first… You’re from Northern Ireland. How did you ever come to hear about an internship opportunity at Redwood?
I was in the middle of my first year at university, living in Belfast and really having a hard time with medical school. I began to think that I needed to take a gap year to settle myself and re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. Having always been a travel bug, I desperately wanted to get out of ‘our wee country’ and explore a new life in a different culture. I had recently started leading worship at a youth group I grew up in, and thought that doing something ministry-focused would be worthwhile.
I was out for dinner with an old friend and when I was telling him about my plans, he mentioned of a church in Canada that a friend of his was currently working in. To be honest, moving to Canada wasn’t really on my radar, and I had never even heard of Thunder Bay before. This friend of his seemed to be having a great time in Thunder Bay, and he thought that it looked like a great opportunity for someone like me. I looked into Redwood’s website that evening, and sent an email right away saying that I was interested!
You’ve been an intern in Worship & Creative Arts for going on 2 years now, you have grown to become a very key player in our ministry. Tell us about some of your weekly responsibilities and what they include.
On a weekly basis I’m doing a whole host of things – planning Sunday services with regards to music, flow and theme, organizing and scheduling our worship teams, building and designing new set ideas and set pieces, designing graphics for Sunday, and leading midweek band practices. I also enjoy getting the chance to spend time with the Worship Pastor and Lead Pastor in dreaming up new message themes or branding for the church, and being given creative freedom to think up ideas for dramas, monologues, or any other creative elements that you might see on Sundays.
What skills and passions have you been most able to grow into and develop during your time here? Where have you seen the biggest growth in your life?
Wow, where do I begin? In my 2 years here, I think if I was to try and list everything I’ve learnt about life, both inside and outside of church we’d be here all day. I’ve definitely been able to exercise my passions of singing and playing music here, and to be given ownership of this ministry in this way I’ve been able to develop leadership skills that I never knew were held within me.
But the biggest area of growth? For me it’s been the transition from someone who has followed others their whole life, to someone who leads and steps out, bringing new people and new ideas with them. Being a good leader and someone who can make a difference means putting in the hard work, taking risks and making clear decisions. I like to think I’ve developed into a person who isn’t afraid to fail, but someone who learns from mistakes, isn’t scared to push the boat out and try something new, but also listens to the advice given from others around him. What I’ve come to understand during my time here at Redwood is that there should be intentionality in EVERYTHING that we do. Things should be done with reason and purpose.
What have been your favourite local TBay restaurants? Where’s your go-to food stops?
Well, firstly I have to mention that your famous Canadian ‘delicacy’ of Poutine (also referred to as ‘cheesy chips with gravy’ by the rest of the world) doesn’t do it for me. I’m a bit of a creature of habit, so you’ll usually find me pigging out in Burger Barn for a quick snack.
My favourite local eatery though is definitely The Sovereign Room. Honestly, the fried chicken will change your life. I think the good Lord Himself was pleased when it first crossed His lips.
But seriously, Poutine? Gross.
What is the biggest thing you’ll always remember about TBay?
Eh, the state of the roads?
Joking… Sort of. No, the thing I’ll always remember about Thunder Bay is the fact that I can drive 10 minutes from my house and be in the back end of nowhere. That, and the fact that people actually enjoy living here when it’s 40 degrees below freezing. The people here are something else, especially those who have been so diligent in making sure that my time here has been special. I’ll never forget some of the relationships and friendships that I’ve developed during my time here. Let this be my first opportunity to thank you for your amazing hospitality, you’ve made this place feel like home to me and that is more than I could’ve asked for!
What is one major thing that God has taught you about yourself through this internship experience?
One thing that sticks out that God has been pressing into me through this experience is that I need to stopping trying to control every detail in my life. I had no intentions of being here at all. In my eyes, I should be soaring through medical school on my way to a nice life as a doctor right now. But He had other plans. Much, much better plans, in fact. I’ve learned that we can make all the arrangements we want, idealize whatever we want to in life, but ultimately if He has a calling on us to do something else, we have to trust His process and take things as they come. Things only begin to make sense whenever He is present and begins to breathe life into it. I see it in my work every week – as a team, we can plan Sundays in 1000 different ways, rehearse and practice until there’s no tomorrow, but unless we submit ourselves to Him on Sunday morning and say ‘God, have your way today. Do what You want to do. It’s all about You.’ – we’re really wasting our time.
So yeah, I’ve begun to understand that I should maybe worry less about how my life might turn out in the future, and focus more on the present moment and what is possible in the here and now.
You’ll be wrapping up your 2 year internship in early July. What’s your plan? What’s next for you?
I’ll be leaving here early in July and heading on a road trip in California with some friends from home for a month. Then, I’m heading back to the motherland for the foreseeable future! Back to Belfast to begin studying Theology at university.
Tom has been an amazing addition to our staff team these past 2 years and it has been such a privilege to work alongside him. He wraps up his internship in a little over a month from now, so next time you see him make sure you express your appreciation to him and wish him farewell!