‘One of my goals in life’

Ches Lethbridge ordained as Anglican minister at 85

Danette Dooley danette@nl.rogers.com
Published on December 2, 2015

Ches Lethbridge (center) was ordained as an Anglican minister at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Nov. 30, at the age of 85. Lethbridge earned a degree in theology after five years of study through correspondence courses.

©Submitted photo

It was seven decades in the making, but Ches Lethbridge has fulfilled a life-long dream of becoming an Anglican priest.

At the age 85, Lethbridge was officially ordained an Anglican priest on Monday evening at a service conducted at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Rev. Nellie Thomas of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church said the ordination was a beautiful ceremony.

“There were about 100 people there and the Bishop (Bishop Geoff Peddle) was in for it and all our clergy from Labrador. And Rev. Lethbridge’s family. It’s a big honour for Rev. Lethbridge to become a priest at age 85.”

An Anglican priest in Cartwright once suggested to Lethbridge that he stay in school, get an education and one day, become an ordained priest. Originally from Paradise River, Lethbridge was a young boy of about 11 of 12 at the time, attending Cartwright’s residential school.

“For the morning service we’d walk across the harbour to the other side and attend church on Sunday morning,” recalled Lethbridge.

“But he’d also drop in (to the school) during the week and have a prayer with us as well. He seemed to think I had something to offer and he begged me to stay in school until I completed my high school education and to become a minister (in what was then the Church of England).”

Barely into his teens at the time, that decision wasn’t one he could focus on. He was too homesick to think that far ahead.

“I was the second youngest of a family of 12 children. My mother died when I was only six. And I was missing something about being home and I wanted to be back home again,” he said of moving back to Paradise River to his family.

The young boy could never have envisioned at the time that he would indeed become an ordained minister – a journey that took him most of his life to fulfill.

Lethbridge left school with a Grade 6 education. He began trapping and fishing and was content that it would be the life he would lead.

“I thought the bit of education I had was enough. I could read and write and that’s all the education you needed to get by on to be a trapper or a fisherman.”

Rev. Nellie Thomas of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church (left) said Ches Lethbridge’s ordination ceremony was “beautiful”, calling it an honour for Lethbridge to be ordained as a priest. Joining Thomas and Lethbridge for the ordination ceremony was Bishop Geoff Peddle (third from left), Diocesan Bishop for eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, and Rev. Jolene Peters from Labrador City (far right).
Submitted photo

Lethbridge said his belief in spirituality was also the strongest when he was in the great outdoors and close to nature.

“I always thought there was some devine power greater than us… I travelled the country fur trapping when I was 13 years old. I spent many long nights 150, 200 miles in the country by myself with my two dogs. And when you are that close to nature, you start wondering about things. And that carried me all the way through life and gave me a lot of support through the years.”

Lethbridge went on to work for the provincial government in Cartwright and for the federal government in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He retired in 1995.

He and his wife Evelyn, who live in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, have three children.

Lethbridge speaks fondly of his mother – a woman he describes as a very religious woman. A woman, he says, who died too soon.

“I can’t even remember sitting on her lap. The disease that took her life was tuberculosis which was rampant at that time.”

Lethbridge lived his life believing that heaven awaits after death. He looks forward to his reunion with his mother.

“I want to see her. I want to get to know her. So I’m going to try to live my life as best I can and do as much as I can to help other people along the way.”

An accomplished author, Lethbridge has had his own share of sickness. A two-time cancer survivor, he earned a degree in theology after five years of study through correspondence courses.

He was ordained as a deacon in 2003 and has been active in his church in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for many years.

“I’ve had an interesting life, a very busy one. I can’t say that I ever remember being bored. All my waking hours I always had something to do. I guess I was blessed with a little more energy that most and there’s no harm in that if you use your energy the right way.”

Lethbridge said the ordination as an Anglican priest is something he’s always wanted but felt was out of his grasp.

“That was one of my goals in life that I aimed for but I never thought I’d ever complete.”