Meet the Team—Susan Lukey, Editor

July 26, 2023
Susan Lukey on a colourful background

We, the Gathering Worship editorial team, would like to introduce ourselves to the whole Gathering Worship community! Get to know a bit about who’s behind the names that appear frequently on your page and screen—the people who put it all together. The first in the series is Susan Lukey.

Hello, Gathering community! I am Rev. Susan Lukey, the editor of the Gathering Worship resource (magazine and website). To my amazement, when I looked back, I discovered that I have been editing Gathering magazine now for 20 years, and the Gathering Worship resource for two. The first issue that I curated and compiled was Gathering Advent-Christmas-Epiphany 2003–04.

I grew up on a mixed farm with cattle, grain, chickens, and a huge garden, just outside of Acme, Alta., a town of approximately 400 people. I completed my public schooling there, and then went on to do a Bachelor of Education at the University of Alberta. I taught school for five years back in my hometown of Acme, working with Grades 2, 3, and 4, as well as teaching music for all the elementary students. I loved teaching public school, but the Spirit kept nudging me toward ordained ministry. I completed my Master of Divinity in 1989 through the Vancouver School of Theology (VST), and my internships for ministry were in Ladner, B.C., Queenswood, Ont., and Kingston, Jamaica. I also hold a Master of Theology from VST (1995). My thesis focused on the children’s hymns in the 1930 Hymnary of the United Church of Canada. My husband, Rev. David Robertson, and I have served our whole married life in team ministry, first in a four-point rural charge centred in Brooks, Alta., and for the last 28 years at High River U.C., High River, Alta.

I began as Editor of Gathering in March of 2003. At that time, David and I were working three-quarter time each, as well as managing the wonders and challenges of being parents to our two young children, ages three and five at the time. Now, 20 years later, those two little ones are amazing young adults, pursuing music and political science, and David and I are still in team ministry at High River U.C., both working full time. I have just celebrated my 34th anniversary of ordination.

I continue to love learning and growing through my work on the Gathering Worship resource. One of the things I so appreciated while I was a teaching school was the staff room. I could walk into the group of teachers gathered there and put out a query such as, “Anyone have a good idea for teaching fractions?” or “How do I deal with a parent who doesn’t like the fact that I have the students’ desks in a semicircle?” and there was always someone with ideas and resources to share.

When I began ministry, I missed the staff room: the collaboration and the wealth of ideas that came from colleagues who had more experience and new approaches I hadn’t thought of. Then I realized that Gathering is my staff room. I can open the pages (and now, search the website) and find a new idea that sparks possibilities for my worship planning or choose a prayer for a service that brings a perspective beyond my own to the congregation.

I am a worship planner, like you. I create the worship service for our congregation each week and share the preaching with my husband. I know the challenges of putting worship together while also being called upon to preside at a funeral (or two) in the midst of a week with several meetings and hospital visits. I know the weeks when words just won’t come together for prayers or for a sermon because my spirit is dry.

Even after 20 years as Editor, it is always a thrill to open up the submissions that are sent in by subscribers like you. There is always a fresh idea, a creative way of sharing the ancient story, or a phrasing in a prayer that captures my spirit. And I get to share those with you!

When I am selecting prayers and other worship resources for Gathering, I think of worship leaders from coast to coast. I ask myself, “How will this prayer work in Newfoundland and in the B.C. interior?” “How might I tweak this idea so it will make sense in Saskatchewan as well as Quebec and Northern Ontario?” “Will it work for the worship leaders in New Zealand, Bermuda, the United States, and other places where Gathering subscribers live and lead worship?”

I am privileged to be entrusted with the worship materials that worship leaders like you submit. Gathering has been, and always will be, a collection of worship resources by worship leaders who have developed these materials for use in their own congregation. Gathering only works because people share what they are creating. If you’ve never submitted something to Gathering, please do so! Don’t hesitate! Please share!

I have the tender task of editing your submissions. The Gathering team edits all submissions to make sure they work in the many different contexts and congregations in which they are used. While a certain phrasing may work when you share it in your context, we might need to change it just a bit so that it works across the country and, indeed, around the world. We edit according to The United Church of Canada Style Guide and the specific guidelines that the Gathering editorial team and the Gathering Advisory Board have set out, so that worship materials come to life for the broadest scope of worshipping people. Of course, you are always welcome to adapt these materials for your own context.

The editing of Gathering has become a spiritual practice for me. On days when my spirit is tired and my vocation of ministry is stretched thin, I love settling down at my computer and working with the worship materials that will go into Gathering. I feel all of you around me as I choose prayers, edit dramas, and draw together resources that I pray you will find inspiring and encouraging. As I spend time with each prayer and consider what tweaks in phrasing might be needed, I am blessed and energized by God’s Spirit connecting me to all of you.

So, this is me, your Gathering Worship resource editor. Besides congregational ministry and curating Gathering, I also love drinking tea, reading, knitting, sewing clothes, quilting, walking, and volunteering with Scouts Canada. I’m also passionate about parenting, family, and children’s spirituality, which all came together in my book Adventures in Faith and Family (2021, UCPH). 

I look forward to the worship ideas and resources you send my way as we continue the spiritual work of enlivening the worship life of our congregations as worship leaders from across Canada and throughout the world. Thank you, and God bless you in your ministry!                                         

Susan Lukey, June 2023