It’s been a long, storied journey for the Reverend Simon Shenstone, who recently retired after 28 years at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Grand Forks. As the head priest for the Boundary Parish, he also precided over St. Jude in Greenwood and St. Mary’s in Kettle Valley.
Shenstone, who officially retired on Dec. 31, is planning on staying in the area with his wife.
Bob Purdy, who was an assistant to Shenstone since 2004, said Shenstone was very involved in the community and was a great person to work with. “He was very much the pastor to the town of Grand Forks,” said Purdy. “Everyone knew him. He was at a lot of public events including most of the Remembrance Day ceremonies. He took a lot of Legion funerals and other funerals and weddings. He was involved in the ministerial with other clergy and with the Anglican Diocese of the Kootenay. He was also chaplain for three years with the B.C. Anglican Youth Movement.”
Shenstone was born in a seaside town in Essex in Southeast England. “It’s opposite Belgium and north of the Thames,” he said. “I went to a lower school and for my teenage years I went to a Roman Catholic boarding school run by Jesuit priests.”
Growing up, Shenstone was fascinated with North American First Nations, particularly the Lakota (Sioux) people. “When I could, I studied all the anthropological books concerning the Lakota people and their culture,” he said. “When I was 18 I left England and came to the United States and went to live on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I stayed there for the summer of 1969 and then hitchhiked all around the U.S. and Canada having all kinds of adventures as one does when one is just turning 19.”
During that time Shenstone met his wife Juno on a Greyhound bus going across the United States. “I got on in Oakland and she was already on the bus,” he recalled. “I noticed her but it wasn’t until we got to Salt Lake City that we started to sit together and talk.”
Juno was living on a Chippewa reservation in northern Minnesota, while Shenstone went back across the pond. “I would send her postcards when I returned to England,” he said. “I wrote to her and arranged to meet her in her home state of California in the spring of 1970.”
The two were married that summer and lived together in a teepee in the foothills of the Sierras (California). Sadly, a friend of theirs accidently burnt the teepee down shortly after they were married and they lost most of their possessions. Shenstone went back to England but would soon return to North America with Juno.
“I decided I wanted to return and live in a teepee in the wilderness of the badlands of South Dakota,” said Shenstone. “But that didn’t work out because the Vietnam war was on and if you immigrated to the United States, you got your draft papers with your immigration papers.”
The young couple then decided to head to Canada in an old 1950 Dodge truck with their new teepee in the back. After crossing over into Manitoba they headed west to B.C. and settled into the mountains by Christina Lake.
“We moved around to where there was good water and wood,” said Shenstone. “We were hunter/gatherers for about five years, moving our teepee around from place to place in the mountains above Christina Lake.”
Eventually the Shenstones bought some property in the area and built a cedar log house. Shenstone took on a variety of jobs such as trail builder, archaelogy assistant and park ranger. During that time he became reacquainted with Christianity and attended Perley Church in Christina Lake and the Pentecostal Church in Grand Forks.
“By the mid ‘80s I felt a calling to a deeper ministry in Christianity,” he said. “I had become a volunteer lay preacher for the United Church in Grand Forks. I also took regular service in the church at Christina Lake.”
Shenstone went back to England with his family and studied theology at Oxford University. “I graduated from there in 1988 and was placed by the Bishop of Kootenay at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Grand Forks,” he recalled. “I became deacon in charge of Boundary Parish in June of 1988. I was ordained priest the following year and became priest in charge of Boundary Parish. I have had that ministry ever since.”
Shenstone has always loved the beauty of the Boundary area and that’s one of the major reasons he plans to stay in the area with his wife now that he is retired. “I would often travel to dioceses and conferences and various things and carpool with other priests,” he said. “As we would come through Grand Forks I’d often remark about how beautiful the city it is with the treelines, the highway, the old houses that you see along Central Avenue, just the beauty of the place. The Kettle River is also very attractive and you can float down it in the summer.”
Shenstone also enjoyed the people he has come across during his time the Boundary. “Especially the cross-section of English and Russian. I’ve always felt some affinity for, in particular, the spirituality of the Doukhobors.”
Back in the spring of 1997, the old Holy Trinity Church in Grand Forks burnt to the ground just short of its centennial celebration. Shenstone was responsible for helping rebuild the church. “I had some input into the design of the church,” he said. “It was finally put together by an architect from Nelson and he took some of my ideas and made it happen. So the building of the present day Holy Trinity is certainly one highlight from that time.”
Shenstone said the true highlights of his career have always been being part of and witnessing the spiritual awakening of parishioners. “There have been many,” he said. “It’s always a joy to see somebody released from oppression. Anything that helps them live their lives in a more real way—to find the way of Christ. When people release that guilt and become free and feel forgiven.”
Shenstone said we are all one with God whether we know it or not. He always wanted to bring into focus the love and compassion that we can express in the world through our beliefs. “When we show love and compassion to one another we are displaying God, we are showing God, we are incarnating God, we are making God real.”
The Shenstones raised four children, three daughters and one boy, all of whom live in the Kootenay region. They also have eight grandchildren with one on the way. Shenstone plans to stay in the area and work on fixing up the family’s 32-hectare property above Christina Lake.
A retired priest from Castlegar, John Ruder, has been appointed interim leader for the congregation until Shenstone’s position is filled permanently.