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New reverend now serving Shelburne and Primrose United Churches

February 3, 2022   ·   0 Comments

Written By Paula Brown

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When Reverend Valerie Vande Wiele moved to Shelburne late last year, she felt a calling to the community despite having never visited. It’s the same calling she says she felt more than 20 years ago when she made the decision to move to Canada. 

“Shelburne was a great discovery,” said Rev. Valerie. “I didn’t know the community at all when I came here, but that’s the way I answer God’s call. I trust that I’m being sent to the best place I can at that time.” 

Rev. Valerie has served as a minister in the United Church of Canada for 15 years and in September of 2021 she took up pastoral charge of the Shelburne and Primrose United Churches. 

“It has been fantastic,” Rev. Valerie tells the Free Press. “It would be even better without COVID because I could meet people in person, but I have started getting involved in the community, hearing voices of where there would be a need, and where the church could get more involved.”

Born in the “south, French part” of Belgium, Rev. Valerie made the decision to immigrate to Canada in 1996 and settled in Quebec City. Moving to Canada was an important, life-changing decision for her, one that she said allowed her to discover who she was.

Prior to moving to Canada, she worked for several years in a bank as a debt collector. 

“It was very hard for me because I was constantly fighting who I was, and what I wanted to do. But it also opened my eyes to the reality of the world around me and exposed me to socio-economic realities that I heard about but didn’t experience first hand,” said Rev. Valerie. “I discovered by doing that work the compassion for dealing with people and wanting to be there, it was very important for me and that is at the core of who I am as a minister still.” 

After working for years as an administrative assistant in Quebec City, Rev. Valerie took a leap of faith and began studying to become a minister. She began earning her bachelor of theology from McGill University in 2004 and completed her masters of divinity in 2008 at the United Theological College in Montreal. 

In her 15 years of ministry, Rev. Valerie has served in a number of churches including those in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Richmond, Que., and in Iroquois Ont.. 

She notes that she’s always served communities on a “multiple point situation”, meaning she’s always served two or more churches at a time, as she current does with the Shelburne and Primrose United Churches. 

Speaking with the Free Press about what had drawn her to the local congregation Rev. Valerie said, “It was their energy, their willingness to move forward and explore church beyond the walls of the church. I want to keep working with them to not just have church behind closed door, but a church that is active in the community, supporting community initiative, and offering what we can to help.”

She added that continuing that work is one of her main goals as minister at the two churches. 

“I want to continue the work that the previous minister did, opening the congregation and making the church a hub for the community.”

Community involvement, she specifically notes, includes working with the Shepherd’s Cupboard Meals on Wheels, and visiting the local long-term care homes as well as future programs such as an after-school program for children geared towards help with homework. 

When asked what she hopes to give the congregations over her time as a minister she concludes, “I want to help them realize how fantastic and generous they are, the potential they have to shine brightly in the community and to be a joyful congregation. They have that gift in themselves.” 



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