Our Minister -
Reverend Lionel Ketola
Rev. Lionel Ketola was called to Claremont United Church in October of 2019. Originally ordained in the Lutheran tradition, Lionel received his M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, completed a 3 year diploma program in Expressive Arts Therapy from The Create Institute Centre for Expressive Arts Therapy Education (1998), and completed a one year residency program in Spiritual Care (2011) at St Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton.
Lionel was received into the order of ministry of the United Church in Canada in 2013 and previously served for 4 years as minister at Fairbank United Church, Toronto. Lionel brings a diverse background which includes work experiences in the non-profit housing sector, working as an expressive arts therapist, and 20 years of chaplaincy ministry in a variety of settings including long term care, acute care and critical care.
Lionel is excited to be serving at Claremont United Church and has a passion for worship and pastoral care, the emerging church movement, and exploring new ways for churches to be the hands and heart of Christ through acts of love and justice in our world. Lionel and his husband Steven have been married since 2003 and enjoy their home surrounded by the beauty of Ontario’s ‘near north’. Lionel enjoys gardening, canoeing, swimming, camping, and treks into the city for Jay’s games.
Our Music Director -
Music has always been a huge part of my life. All my family played instruments and sang in choirs. I was about 13 when I was first asked to play the hymns for school assemblies. A BA in music from the University of Durham (UK) led to teaching and travelling before I met Gerd, who brought me to Claremont and to the United Church.
From the start I got involved with various musical activities, particularly the Christmas Eve play which has been a tradition since 1988. In 1996 my predecessor, Clarion Baker, a “real” organist and amazing musician, retired due to ill health, and I found myself with very big shoes to fill. The 100-year-old 9ft.7-inch Mason & Risch concert grand piano that now accompanies most of our services was left to us by Clarion.
In recent years it has been a very great pleasure to be joined regularly at the front of the church by Julia Watts on Violin; Barb Gilbert on Viola, and Steve May on guitar, and lately cello as well.
One of the favourite parts of my job is choosing the music for our Sunday services. I also love working with our choir of about ten dedicated singers whose occasional anthems enhance our worship services, and who particularly excel at the Christmas Eve family service.
The other musical highlight of the year is our Music Theatre Camp in August; in just one week the children and youth (7 and up) work towards a performance of a musical play based on an Old Testament story.
Our occasional, and beautiful candlelight evening services in the style of Taizé, led by Debbie Andersen, are another example of music enhancing prayer. “When you sing, you pray twice”.
Claremont United Church has been a part of our community since 1817 when Wesleyan Methodists began meeting for services in Pickering. In 1865 the Pickering Circuit included Duffins Creek, Kinsale, Salem, Greenwood, Claremont and Brougham, among other hamlets. The first services in Claremont were held over an old planing mill and factory. In 1853 a proper church building was constructed, which served the Methodist congregation until the present church was built in 1889.
The Presbyterians also had a congregation in Claremont beginning in the mid-19th century. But by 1920 both Methodist and Presbyterian congregations were small, so they joined together to form the Claremont Union Church, meeting in the Methodist church building and being led by the popular Presbyterian Minister, Reverend Alexander McLellan. This predates by 5 years the nationwide union of Methodists and Presbyterians to form the United Church of Canada in 1925 (at which point the church became known as Claremont United Church).
Beginning in the 1930s, Claremont United formed a two-point charge with St. John's United in Brougham. In 1972, however, the Brougham church building was expropriated, along with the whole community, for the construction of the proposed Pickering Airport. However, the congregation continued to meet until 1987 when the church was closed, and the members of the congregation divided themselves amongst Claremont and other local churches. Since 1987, Claremont has been a single-point charge.