February 28, 2022
Since a young age, Denise Michelle Byard has been passionate about ministry. When Denise was exploring possibilities for ordained ministry, two factors came into play: a recommendation by her parish priest and attending a presentation at the Diocese of Toronto’s Bishop’s Youth Ministry Committee Theology Day in 2019. Fast forward to 2021, Denise started her Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree at Trinity College – a program directed to the education and formation of persons for ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada.
Denise was born in Nova Scotia and grew up and currently resides in Toronto. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity Western University in British Columbia. Since 2012, she has worked at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Guildwood in Toronto, and is currently the Missional Outreach and Discipleship Ministry – Lay Pastoral Associate whose ministry is focused on connecting elders and young people.
An avid reader and traveller, until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, you’ll find Denise doing the former, and looking forward to the day when she can do the latter and explore the world again. We sat down (virtually) with Denise to learn more about her background, what’s important to her and what life is like amid the pandemic.
Trinity College (TC): Can you talk about your journey to ministry?
Denise Byard (DB): My spiritual journey in Christ began as a tween in the Baptist church and eventually led me to Anglicanism, which has deepened my faith and developed a spirit of contemplation and love of liturgy. I have always served the church, either through children, youth, and family ministry or as a ministry assistant. My priest and mentor had seen the gift and encouraged me over the last decade to pursue my calling.
TC: What is your favourite thing about the Faculty of Divinity?
DB: Their passion for the Gospel and training up godly Christian leaders. I truly appreciate the intimacy of the classes and lessons.
TC: What do you enjoy most about your current position at Church of the Holy Trinity, Guildwood?
DB: It is a wonderfully supportive environment to learn and grow and try some innovative ministry.
TC: As a Black church leader, can you share your thoughts about the importance of diversity, inclusion and representation in the church?
DB: I was raised with a positive view of God being for all people regardless of race or colour. Christians from different demographics who have traditionally been excluded from common biblical interpretation are beginning to claim the biblical story more fully. Diverse biblical interpretation enriches corporate worship, reverence and spiritual development.
Faithful women of colour have added light and life to their religious environment while fighting prejudice because of their social class, discrimination about sexual preference and a general lack of fairness. It is exciting to see the Diocese of Toronto employ a young Black female Bernadette Arthur, founder of Co:Culture Collective to begin these conversations whereby Black Anglicans can have their stories heard and the establishment be open to hearing those stories in order to make necessary adjustments.
TC: Any words of advice for those who are interested in theological studies or ministry?
DB: It is important to have a great support team of family and friends to juggle the many responsibilities and expectations.
TC: What are your future plans?
DB: I look forward to seeing what God has in store for me and where the journey will lead me.
TC: What is an interesting fact about yourself?
DB: I am pre-Canadian. My family has been in this country before this country was confederated. I have travelled to more than 50 countries.
(Photo courtesy of Denise Byard)
SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC, WHAT IS/HAS BEEN…
TC: …the one thing that you look forward to every day/week?
DB: I look forward to reading every day.
TC: …your biggest challenge?
DB: Life balance.
TC: …the thing you miss, or miss doing, the most?
TC: …the one thing you enjoy the most about learning remotely?
TC: …your (new) favourite food or item to eat/cook/bake?
DB: Farm Boy food.