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Since 1979 • October 2020 • Circulation 5500

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Remembering Pastor Barrett Scheske at Inner City Pastoral Ministry

Pastor Barrett Scheske in front of the Inner City Pastoral Ministry office circa 1980. Supplied

I am now at an age where I regularly read obituaries. Last month I saw a familiar name in the Edmonton Journal from long ago. Rev. Barrett Scheske, the founding pastor at Inner City Pastoral Ministry (ICPM), had just died in Medicine Hat. Barrett came to inner city Edmonton in 1979 to start up and lead a new, innovative, ecumenical ministry initiated by Bissell Centre and the United Church of Canada.

I remember Barrett as a young, energetic, recently ordained Lutheran minister ready for new challenges. He started with Sunday services held in the basement gym in the old Bissell Centre building in the midst of a multitude of boxes, papers, bags of produce and children’s toys, with a card table for an altar. His congregation came from those who frequented Bissell Centre and the surrounding neighbourhoods. Unscripted dialogue homilies were common. The Sunday worship was usually accompanied by food supplied from local churches. During the week, Barrett conducted a “ministry of presence,” regularly visiting and talking with people at local agencies, rooming houses, and street corners. His office was shared with the old Bissell Thrift Shop on 97th Street. He became a regular at community gatherings. He even joined in a neighbourhood protest at City Hall to oppose a city proposal to close wading pools in local parks. He was easy to spot as he drove through the neighbourhood in his flashy red sports car.

Barrett stayed at ICPM for three and a half years. He helped to build an excellent foundation for ICPM. Forty years and several pastors later, ICPM has grown and thrived. It is still based at Bissell Centre, and it continues its important ecumenical ministry of service in inner city Edmonton.

I have now lived in McCauley for over 40 years. I always find it fascinating to revisit how the contributions of individuals and groups from long ago in the neighbourhood have grown and flourished over the years with succeeding generations. The story of Rev. Barrett Scheske and Inner City Pastoral Ministry is certainly one of these stories worth remembering.

Bob lives in McCauley.

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