Catherine E. Smith: Theme Speaker

Catherine is first and foremost a passionate believer in the life of God, the Living Presence, flowing in our lives, and if we let it, our churches. Her journey to ordained ministry within the United Church of Canada was supported by her recollection of words from the hymn, “By the Well a Thirsty Woman”, “and the woman with a question, told the world what she had found”. Catherine honours questions and the necessity of living in those questions even when they may make us uncomfortable. She longs to tell the world what she has found.

Catherine has retired from that part of her vocation that led her through active ministry with pastoral charges. One of the things that holds her love and attention now is the invitation of those in rural faith communities or congregations toward the imagination and experience of God in those spaces. She believes that each of us has responsibility for our own spiritual life and that this essential work must not be left solely to professional clergy or worship leaders. Vital though the work of those leaders is, nurturing one’s own life with God is not something that anyone else can do for you.

Catherine lives a contemplative life. The contemplative way is, simply put, a way that cultivates space to notice and receive the Holy Presence in all things. This Presence can be found as we walk or quilt, fish or bake, work or rest, feel anguish or contentment. In all moments and in all things the possibility is there. This is as important for the identity and life of our churches as it is for you and me. Trained at the Shalem Institute in the Transformative Leadership of Contemplative Retreats and Small Groups she brings that capacity to her life and work. She continues that work with small groups and congregations and other organizations.

We may often feel vulnerable in our life as individuals or rural congregations. It’s easy to develop a hard shell, to close ourselves off. Catherine’s doctoral work explored the value of remaining open and courageous in those sometimes hurt, ashamed or frightened places in our life. She tries to acknowledge those spaces in her own life and to en-courage others within those spaces. She believes vulnerability is an essential part of us, and so much beauty, creativity and compassion flows from it if we stay open.

Catherine received her BTh from McGill, her MDiv from United Theological College, her DMin from St. Stephen’s College and her certification in Transformative Leadership from the Shalem Institute. She continues to develop resources to nourish congregational life, Governance as Spiritual Practice, Table Church, Under it All Conversations, Stations of the Rural Church and a varied collection of prayers and reflections. You can follow Catherine’s work and read her reflections at

She lives with her husband, looking out over the marshes of Tantramar. There she writes and walks, gardens and gathers small groups, knits and reads, dances and delights in time spent with her children and grandchildren.