The new Pentecostal pastor in Hay River has connections to the community and to elsewhere in the North.
In fact, Samuel Acey was born in Hay River, although he can’t remember anything about the town. That’s because his family was living in Kugluktuk at the time and his mother came to Hay River to give birth because of its hospital.
“The North has always been a part of who I am and it’s always been a part of my story,” said Acey. “People ask, ‘Where were you born?’ And then it starts a whole conversation.”
Despite those connections, the 31-year-old said everything is still new to him about the North now that he has become the Pentecostal pastor in Hay River.
“People might know my parents, but I don’t know them and they don’t know me really, apart from online and Christmas photos and that sort of thing,” he said. “Everything’s fresh, yet at the same time it’s putting the pictures together with what I’ve been told by my parents over the years of what it’s like here.”
Up to the mid-1980s, his father, Tim Acey, was a pastor in Fort Resolution, while his mother, Lucy Acey, was a nurse at H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital in Hay River from 1981-1985.
The family lived in Kugluktuk until 1991 when they moved to Edmonton when Acey was three, and eventually settled in Lloydminster 25 years ago.
Acey was a full-time youth pastor for nine years.
“I was youth pastoring in Lloydminster, so looking after those between the ages of 12 and 18,” he said. “I’ve also done some young adult ministry, which is really up until the age of 40. And we felt ourselves moving beyond what we were doing and looking for a lead pastor role, which is what brought us here so we can do all ages together.”
Acey noted that, when he says ‘we’, he means him and his wife, Haidet, and their young child.
“There were definitely opportunities to look for lead pastor positions across Western Canada and we looked at a few of those,” he said. “And we had been talking about the North and we had been saying we hadn’t really considered the North, yet.”
Acey said he found out through the Pentecostal district office that there was a need for a pastor for the churches in Hay River and on the Hay River Reserve.
“So we talked to the leadership here and we came up to visit in August and met the congregation,” he said. “We had a meet-and-greet kind of thing. We preached on a Sunday morning. And we felt good.”
Acey returned a couple of weeks ago to begin serving the churches.
“We did interviews elsewhere, but this was an interview that we really felt that they were wanting it to happen,” he noted. “We were open to it happening and it came together, which was really good.”
The Pentecostal congregation had been without a pastor for two years.
Acey said he and his family are looking forward to experiencing the North.
“We’re definitely looking forward to getting to know people,” he said. “We don’t know a whole lot of people, yet, being that it’s only two weeks. We very much look forward to getting involved with the community.”
Acey also noted that his wife, who is from Mexico, is especially looking forward to experiencing the North.
“When I first mentioned the North, she was the most excited about this opportunity than any other church we’d previously looked at,” he said. “And she loves the winter.”
The new pastor will be serving with a church that has a long history in Hay River, including creating the old H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital decades ago.
“It’s good to know that Pentecostals have had a deep history here,” said Acey. “And we look to continue that in good faith.”