Rural churches often have difficulty finding a pastor willing to leave the city to live and work in the country. Armena Lutheran Parish was lucky. A small rural parish was exactly what Jim Appleby was looking for.
Jim graduated from Augustana with a BA in Religious Studies in 2002, earning the Laurence Decore and Onesimus service awards for his contributions to making Augustana a place of exceptional educational and leadership development. After three years at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon and a one-year internship, Jim earned a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
He was then called to Armena, a parish fifteen kilometres northwest of Camrose consisting of two churches—St. Joseph near Miquelon Lake and Scandia in Armena—with a combined weekly attendance of 55 parishioners.
Jim and his wife Angie (née Bannerman) (BA Psych ‘05) had been hoping for a call to a rural parish. Jim feels at home in the country. “I love the open spaces,” he says, “the fresh air, the wind in the trees, storms rolling in, and the passage of seasons.”
He also thrives on the lifestyle offered by living in a rural space. “I enjoy helping neighbours on the farm or with a meal or a ride,” Jim explains. “I admire the kind of character—both personal and community—that is fostered in rural life. Neighbours gather often here, for special events or just at the post office, and the result is a strong sense of community.”
Jim’s experiences growing up on a dairy farm near Steinbach, Manitoba, also provide common ground. “Deep rural roots make for a quick connection,” he says. “I remember the anxiety when rain is on the horizon and the hay is not baled. I remember the joy that comes with getting the job done, and the disappointment of losing a crop.” His understanding of the challenges of farming—not to mention his practical knowledge of agricultural machinery and practices—helps him connect with his congregation.
Jim admits that the learning curve is steep for a new pastor. Helping people in crisis is both the most challenging and rewarding part of his job. He helps them turn to God for assistance, and he also helps them connect with the many exceptional Camrose-area professionals and programs he became familiar with while a student at Augustana.
Jim shares his diverse interests with his parishioners. He takes his violin to seniors’ homes and hospitals and plays familiar old hymns for the patients. On his own time, he enjoys Irish tunes and gypsy music, which, he explains, “have both a spiritual depth and a joyous passion.” He’s studying Spanish, an interest that grew from his participation in Augustana’s Rural Development Exchange Program in Mexico. He also enjoys cycling with Angie and their daughters. Not surprisingly, his favourite route is through the countryside surrounding Armena, a place Jim is happy to be making himself at home.