Phone: (613) 542-7134
263 Victoria St. Kingston, ON K7L 3Y9
br. brett ballenger
I was born and raised in a town called State College located in central Pennsylvania, a town similar in size and composition to Kingston. It is the home to the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), thus the name State College. I am the youngest of five children, (three brothers and a sister) with a span of fifteen years between me and my eldest brother. My parents divorced when I was five years old and upon their remarriages my stepsiblings grew by six, ten siblings total, all of whom are older than me.
In my youth I was very involved in scouting, school and community music programs, and church. I was 10 when I had my first trip to Canada, to the Upper French River where we spent a week fishing and blueberry picking. We would return to various locations between Alban and Lake Nipissing until my late twenties. The later part of those years we gathered as an entire family, reunion style. My family and I are encouraged that with my move to Canada we may be able to spend time together once again on the Canadian water.
In 2014 I met Marvin, and we celebrated our wedding before a gathering of 360 family members, friends and congregants two years later in October of 2016. Marvin has just recently arrived in Canada. Marvin’s family is from a very rural farming community in the southwest near El Salvador. While his family is very supportive of us and our relationship the culture as a whole is not tolerant and even hostile toward 2SLGBTQIA+ people. The rest of our immediate family is comprised of our dogs Cody (a fifteen-year-old West Highland Terrier) and Kuma (a fourteen-year-old Shiba Inu) as well as our three guinea pigs, Melissa, and Tammy.
Mission & Calling:
Loving in such a way that the earth and every being dances with Divine Wholeness by attuning to God’s immanence wherein we encounter the abundant grace that supports us in following the way of Jesus: feeding, forgiving, teaching, healing, and cross bearing so all may experience inclusion in the beloved community.
I am a child of God called to follow Jesus the Christ and live in Jesus’ Way of Shalom. My formation as a follower of Jesus has been decidedly Franciscan in spirit and practice as seen in their four charisms: 1) Penance/Conversion of Heart, 2) Poverty/Non-attachment, 3) Position/Minority, and 4) Prayer/Contemplation and the Foundations of Creation Care and Interfaith Bridgebuilding. Therefore, I am a sibling in the Order of Lutheran Franciscans. (I’ll share more about this at a later time but this is why you will often see me on a Sunday Morning wearing a brown robe and why I am often referred to as “brother brett.” By the way, you may address me anyway you choose: Brother, Pastor, or just Brett). Colossians 1:24-29 defines most clearly my call. As pastor I am called to proclaim, warn, teach, and make known the mystery that Christ with, for, and in us by walking with others in such a way that we may continue to recognize the inexhaustible grace of God shown forth to us through creation, and in the life transforming way of Jesus; and in so doing lead others into a community of people seeking to live out these implications.
Minister of Music
Mercedes was born in Napanee, Ontario in 1996. She holds a BA in Sociology from Queen’s University. In her spare time, she writes fiction, creates visual art, and attends live theatre. Along with her work at St. Mark’s, Mercedes is also employed as a nanny to two children ages 7 and 10.
She started with St. Mark’s in July 2022 and is amazed to see the changes that just one year has brought! She is thrilled to be working in close collaboration with David and Br. Brett and can’t wait to see what the next months and years will bring to our congregation and community.
How shall we, the people of St. Mark’s, awaken, nurture and renew our congregational and community voices? We have much to celebrate. St. Mark’s is a congregation with a rich history of creative faith expression in worship and continues to be a focal point for social justice and arts in the community. People here care about worship. Many have already communicated with me about valued traditions and dreamed-for innovations. I don’t think there has been a Sunday where no one has made a specific comment about some artistic element of the worship service. These compliments and constructive suggestions always carry with them a passion for what is personally or communally meaningful in the liturgy.
We are blessed at St. Mark’s that there is an amazing breadth and depth of talent, and that so many are delighted to share their gifts in planning and delivering worship. My own work is made so much more inspiring by my colleagues, Brett and Mercedes, as well as the many volunteers, who have a deep love and commitment to varied meaningful expressions of worship. The people of St. Mark’s are open-minded and warm-hearted, forging new paths, while respecting the legacies of our ancestors in the faith.
As an inner-city congregation bordering Queen’s University, we serve a diverse mosaic of people, backgrounds, ideas and needs. One of the main challenges for the ministry team is to explore answers to the question:In what ways can we best serve the spiritual needs of those who are already gathering here for worship, as well as those who represent, in the words of a Paul Simon song, “the face at the edge of the banquet”?
I see my ministry at St. Mark’s as being infused with active listening. It is a collaborative ministry that encourages participation and involvement, both in the exchange of ideas and dreams, and in the sharing of delivery and leadership. I depend upon the eyes and ears of everyone—people with their fingers on the pulse of life in our community and our world—to recognize opportunities for creative expression, and to bring these gifts as offerings, discerning and enriching God’s kindom on earth.
In the broader community, my work with children and youth as Program Coordinator for Beyond Classrooms Kingston, as a private music teacher in voice and piano for students of all ages, and as a freelance community musician, singer-songwriter and enabler of artistic expression, keep me in touch with a wide spectrum of learners, who may be looking for opportunities to offer their talents in a welcoming environment.
I am particularly grateful for the value the St. Mark’s community places on lifelong learning and professional development, as I continue to enhance my understanding and competencies in the art and craft of music-making, in liturgical and spiritual domains, and in the important role music and the arts and their practitioners can play in the pastoral care of the individuals and groups in our community of faith.
I would like to come to all these areas from as much of a global perspective as I am able, because I assume that my ministry may, at one time or another, be to or with persons of any age, cultural background, set of experiences and beliefs. While the congregation of St. Mark’s may comprise a small subset of worldviews, I believe that it is important for us as a community of faith, not only to be nourished ourselves, but to understand and nourish others.
Thus, a broad spectrum of musical styles might find its way into worship and musical outreach at St. Mark’s, of course, dependent upon human and material resources available, and balanced with the more familiar traditions of the Western artistic expression. In this light, I am interested in understanding the voice and its repertoire, the choir and its repertoire, and a range of instruments and their repertoires, as well as the roles of each of these in liturgical leadership.
Of paramount importance to me is the voice of the assembly. Believing that singing is for everyone, and that singing is one of God’s special gifts to us, to refresh and renew ourselves and others, it is important to me to get to know the congregation’s heart song, and to learn ways that I can best encourage the assembly to sing the songs of faith they already know and love (sometimes, perhaps, in different ways), and to explore the psalmist’s exhortation for us to “sing to God a new song”.
Besides ongoing study of varying styles of repertoire and liturgical leadership, I am eager to develop my knowledge of and depth of meaning in Lutheran spirituality, language, liturgical seasons, and worship ethos. The shape and flow of energy in the Word, ritual, and physical movement in liturgies is of special interest to me, and I seek to increase my understanding of ways in which music and other arts can contribute to the heightening of the worship experience.