Elise Feltrin found her calling in recent years and a place she’s happy to now call home.
The new minister of the Chemainus United Church only got into the profession after completing her studies and then being ordained in 2013.
“It’s a second career for me,” said Feltrin, 58, who started her position Oct. 1 after moving to Chemainus in late September. “I was in the restaurant business for many years – a bakery and catering company and a health food store for a while.”
You just know those baked goods are going to be delectable whenever social gatherings after services can resume.
Feltrin was doing part-time work administrative work for the United Church in Ontario that grew into more involvement beyond the office when people suggested she should go to school and become a minister. She shrugged at the idea at first, but it turned out to be fate.
Feltrin was born in Burnaby, but moved to Ontario at a young age. She grew up in Thornhill and lived in Thornbury along Georgian Bay and Bayfield on Lake Huron.
“I realized I loved being near water,” Feltrin chuckled.
In her late 40s, Feltrin attended Emmanuel College in Toronto on the path to making the career switch. It’s never too late to do anything in life, she’d be the first to tell you.
“I did five years of school and got two degrees in five years and was ordained,” Feltrin explained.
She got her first full-time job at St. Andrew’s United Church in Bayfield in 2013 that lasted until September of this year.
Feltrin is a divorced mother of two and one of her daughters, Andrea Feltrin, 26, lives in Vancouver. Her other daughter, Jaymie Feltrin, 24, is currently in Australia but expected to return at some point soon.
“I felt a strong calling to be out here,” reasoned Elise.
She began investigating whether any churches were looking for ministers.
“I heard Chemainus United was looking for somebody. That was in February pre-pandemic.”
Feltrin was visiting her daughter and decided to check out Chemainus.
“I came over here and I immediately felt at home,” she said.
Feltrin did a walkabout to get a feel for the town and many thoughts came to mind.
“As I was walking, ‘I like this place, I like the houses, I like the trails, I like the ocean,’” she recalled of her initial reactions.
“I started in conversation that day – met Jamie Stephen, chair of the board.”
Feltrin happened to be in Chemainus during the church’s annual general meeting. “It was a good learning opportunity for me to hear about this church,” she confided.
She was later interviewed via Skype. “I wasn’t prepared to apply for a job yet, but I did,” said Feltrin.
Of course, the pandemic changed everything, including plans for Feltrin to take the job.
“Everything was in upheaval,” she conceded. “There were so many questions about the future, but it just worked out.”
Feltrin couldn’t make the move earlier as had been hoped, but finally got here to start Oct. 1 after shopping on-line for a house.
“It’s very close to the ocean and that was my priority,” she said. “It ended up for the best. It gave everybody that breathing room to not rush.”
Chemainus United did without a minister for a while for outdoor services in the garden after the return from the COVID shutdown and then moved back indoors with the limit of 50 people and taped pews to coincide with Feltrin’s arrival.
She moved Sept. 21 and had time to unpack and get settled in her house. The transition has been seamless.
“I’m a runner and a walker,” Feltrin indicated. “That’s how I get to know a community. I’m getting to know the area.”
Chemainus United Church members couldn’t be happier.
“She’s very pleasant,” said Stephen. “She seems like it’s going to be a really good fit. I think she’s going to be not just an asset to the church, but an asset to the community.”
“What we can do to help serve the community and be a hub of the community, that’s what I feel a church should be, not just about Sunday morning,” said Feltrin.
“It’s challenging with COVID, like everything. There’s not the opportunities for mingling and socializing. It’s challenging, but you have to get creative with how you connect with people. I’m all about community and connections. These are important things to me.”
Past connections are playing a part in her current role.
“You bring all your life experience with you,” Feltrin reasoned. “My background is hospitality. It’s all about customers and service. That’s what I bring to my ministry.
“It’s been a very interesting time to be in a ministry. We had to relearn everything to adapt and be flexible and we’ve got to figure out how to do this differently. It’s forced change on us in a good way.”
With masks, folks are allowed to quietly sing and “people are happy with that,” said Feltrin, who’s also singing the praises of the community where she’s chosen to live.
“I love it here,” she enthused. “I look forward to staying here.”