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Challenge and Change cover
  • Keywords
    • Inspirational,
    • Women in Ministry,
    • Faith History,
    • Nassau,
    • Reba Hern,
    • United Church,
    • Baptist Church

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Challenge and Change
The Travails and Joys of a Complex Woman
by Allen Hern

A naïve teenager in Northern Ontario, A United Church minister, A resident in a Catholic Convent, A teacher in the Government High School in Nassau, the Bahamas, A world traveler. What do these have in common? They are various phases in the life of Reba Ethel Hern, the second woman ordained into the ministry of the United Church of Canada in 1937. A fascinating woman whose story has been waiting to be told. Challenge and Change: The Travails and Joys of a Complex Woman is a celebration and exploration of the life of Reba Hern—the second woman in all of Canada to be ordained into the United Church ministry, a strong, independent woman who stepped outside the box, breaking ground for others through a wide variety of experiences and numerous major world events—a woman ahead of her time. After thirteen years of ministry, Reba burned out and entered a Catholic Convent for five years, following which, this native of Sault Ste Marie, ON, travelled to Nassau, Bahamas where she spent the next sixteen years teaching Religious Knowledge and English in the Government High School. During that time, Reba was on hand for the birth of a black government and for the Independence of the Bahamas from British Colonial rule. From this position, she began to travel the world, a recreation she continued after retiring to Tsawwassen, BC, in 1974. Challenge and Change illustrates the degree to which opportunities for women have progressed since WW II and investigates these questions: How did women secure the right to become ministers in a profession which had traditionally been male dominated? What was it like for a white woman to live and teach black students in a predominately black culture? What was the country of the Bahamas like? How did the Bahamas achieve its independence? What is it like to travel in countries in which English is a secondary language or where bathroom facilities consist of a hole in the floor?

"I enjoyed reading about Reba's life. You are correct to think that her life was lived on the cusp of significant times in history. It has made me want to study the times more carefully. You have a comfortable, easy to read writing style. There is no pretension and the meaning is clear." —Jeff Bloom, Kamloops. "I did not feel that I was reading a book. I felt that you were talking to me." —Mrs. Irene Mercer (about the author's writing style) Coquitlam, B.C. "How very grateful I am for the untold hours you must have expended to read and research, write and rewrite to accomplish this masterful work. Such a tribute to your cousin. Such a story to read and a life to celebrate. Page after page of Challenge and Change is filled with affirmation and encouragement. Your authorial voice is welcoming, non-judgmental, and engaging." —Editor’s Manuscript Evaluation

Allen Hern photo

Pastor Allen Hern, Reba’s cousin and the author of this book, was Reba’s executor and preached her funeral sermon. At the time of her death at 91 years of age in the year 2000, Reba had filled forty journals with her cramped handwriting. These became the basis for Challenge and Change: The Travails and Joys of a Complex Woman. To assist him in writing this book, Pastor Hern and his wife visited Nassau, meeting professors in the University and others who knew Reba personally or were able to help him research. Also by Allen Hern is the biography of his parents (and himself ): A Good Heritage - the story of Lew and Mabel Hern, published in 2020. Pastor Hern and his wife, Sheila, live in Kamloops, BC. They have been in British Columbia for forty-four years after arriving from Ontario in 1977. Together they have had two pastorates in Ontario and five in BC.


Allen Hern
Erin Linn McMullan

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