Reverend Harvey Self is a warm, upbeat man with an intense gaze and finely tuned listening skills. As minister of Tweedsmuir Memorial Presbyterian Church in Orangeville, he employs these traits – and more – to deliver what he calls a “ministry of the present.”
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Ministry of the Present
Born in Cornwall, Harvey was a self-described “military brat” while his father, also a Presbyterian minister, served 20 years as a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces. After earning a BA in history at Queen’s University, Harvey says, “I went straight from university to the ministry. I felt a sense of calling.” He graduated from the University of Toronto’s Knox College in 1981 with a master of divinity and did three-year charges in British Columbia and Leaskdale, Ontario.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Harvey’s next stop was with the Canadian Forces, where he served as chaplain at bases in Petawawa, Goose Bay and Esquimalt over a period of nine years. By then, Harvey and his wife, Jayne, had young children and he was looking for a place to put down roots. In 1996 that search brought him to Tweedsmuir in Orangeville, where he has remained ever since.
One reason Tweedsmuir is such a good fit is its location, right across the street from Branch 233 of the Royal Canadian Legion. The two institutions share a long-standing relationship, and as part of that, Harvey serves as a non-denominational chaplain for the branch.
The position is voluntary, undertaken at the request of Legion leadership, and Harvey says a large part of his job is “to provide moral support for the president.” Beyond regular events and extensive time commitments around Remembrance Day, he has also conducted 47 memorial services for veterans over the last 18 years.
One particular service stands out in his memory. When Cpl. Matthew McCully of Orangeville was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2007, his family approached Harvey to lead a memorial service that was attended by more than a thousand people. The crowd was so large that it spilled out of the church and into the adjacent Legion parking lot.
“It was a privilege to work on Matthew’s funeral and memorial,” says Harvey. “It tied together everything I believe in.”
Harvey says another big moment in his career was linked to Matthew. Seeking to help shape his church’s response to the Afghanistan conflict, Harvey accepted the position of moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 2009. As moderator, Harvey was the public face of the Church, both in Canada and internationally.
Despite his leadership prowess, the heart of Harvey’s passion is people. In addition to his work with the Legion, there are hospital and nursing home visits, weddings and so on – the many human connections that make up his “ministry of the present.”
“Wherever people are at,” he says. “Celebrations. Funerals. It’s about bringing the ministry to where it’s needed.”
After a long career of caring, what has he learned? “You have to do ministry based on the things that stir you the most. For me, that’s God’s love for every person. If you work with people, you better make sure you love them.”
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