Rock moves on to take up new ministry in Toronto

Credits Red Deer postitve experience as laying foundation for new role

As Gaetz Memorial United Church Rev. Jeff Rock prepares to leave for a major new ministry in Toronto, he reflects on his time in Red Deer.

“I feel like the city is growing and changing and diversifying, and becoming more inclusive with every passing day, and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten to be part of that for six years.”

“That’s part of what’s laid the foundation for me to be able to take this position at (Metropolitan Community Church) in Toronto,” he said.

Rock, who is gay, said Red Deer has bit of bad reputation as “redneck Red Deer.”

“It is a deserved reputation in some small percentage of places. But overall, the people of Red Deer are deeply inclusive and deeply loving people and I am hell bound and determined not to let one rotten apple ruin the bushel.”

The welcoming and inclusive community network is extremely strong, and the work that’s been done building bridges with the Indigenous community is “absolutely inspiring,” he said. “The city is transforming, and people are realizing the bigotry isn’t acceptable.”

Rock has been involved in numerous organizations in Red Deer, ranging from the Central Alberta AIDS Network to the local Truth and Reconcilaition Committee.

Last Sunday, Rock, 33, was chosen as the new senior pastor for Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. He gave his first sermon there that day, and as it so happens, John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, and a group of city councillors attended as communion was dedicated to the deputy mayor of Toronto who had died.

Rock is originally from Sudbury and his father has dementia.

“They need me a little closer to home.”

The church’s chimney poured pink smoke after the congregation elected him as their new senior pastor.

The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) is its own denomination, and was founded by gay and lesbian people in the 1960s who weren’t allowed in any churches, Rock said. Since then, the United Church has also become a more inclusive place, as have a lot of other denominations, he said.

As it turns out, the fastest growing group within MCC is actually people who identify as straight, Rock said. The Toronto church has about 1,000 members.

Rock agrees the United Church is a close fit with Metropolitan Church. He’ll be taking over from Rev. Brent Hawkes, who performed the first gay marriage in the world in 2001.

Over his 40 years with the church became a world-renowned human rights activist. Hawkes has received many awards for his work, including the Order of Canada.

“It’s kind of daunting,” admits Rock. “It’s funny because I’m getting attention for having done nothing.”

They wanted someone with political experience as the new ministry is also a political position because the senior pastor represents a good swath of the LGBT community and is often turned to for comment, Rock said.

He ran as a Liberal candidate in the last federal election in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding. His new position is non-partisan and he’s made a 10-year commitment to it.

“Gaetz Memorial has been a really great place to hang my hat for six years and I’ve truly loved my experience in Red Deer. This community has been spectacular.”

Rock will give his last sermon at Gaetz Memorial United on Sept. 17. He starts in Toronto on Oct. 1.

“It’s bittersweet. Leaving Red Deer will be a tough challenge but I feel like it’s the right thing.”

barr@reddeeradvocate.com

Just Posted

Sport of axe throwing growing in Red Deer

True North Axe Throwing wants sport to be ‘Canadian version of darts’

Optimism remains for Red Deer hospital expansion

Red Deer’s incoming UCP MLAs both have been strong supporters of expansion

RDC cancels championship-winning golf program due to tight finances

Short season, small number of student golfers were also considerations

Fire investigators comb through industrial fire wreckage looking for answers

Industrial building in north Red Deer was completely gutted in Wednesday morning fire

WATCH: An ‘Eggstemely Fun Easter’ at Bower Place in Red Deer

Bower Place mall made sure Red Deer families were able to have… Continue reading

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

PARIS — A “computer glitch” may have been behind the fast-spreading fire… Continue reading

Former journalist pleads guilty to robbing two banks in Medicine Hat

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former journalist arrested almost two years ago… Continue reading

Austria fears for three top climbers missing in Banff National Park

BERLIN — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday his thoughts are with… Continue reading

As Vancouver fights over 4-20, Seattle’s Hempfest enjoys tolerance, some support

VANCOUVER — They both came from humble beginnings: small protests against marijuana… Continue reading

All eyes on the surging Greens as Prince Edward Island goes to the polls

After a brief provincial election campaign devoid of drama, voters on Prince… Continue reading

North Dakota company where 4 were slain seeks normalcy

MANDAN, N.D. — Camaraderie was so important for the “coffee club” at… Continue reading

Trump blasts ex-advisers who say he tried to stop Mueller

WASHINGTON — A day after celebrating the release of the Mueller report… Continue reading

Sanders claims she didn’t lie, despite Mueller finding

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders pushed back Friday against… Continue reading

Most Read