United Church Minister Reverend Frances Flook will tell you that her favourite Bible scripture is 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and love is kind.”
She has been a beloved part of the communities of Emo and Devlin for 25 years but is about to embark on a new adventure.
Frances has accepted a position as the minister for Knox United Church in Kenora and will be delivering her first sermon to her new congregation on August 24.
“It’s a bittersweet move,” said Frances.
Although she’s looking forward to new challenges and experiences, she has thoroughly enjoyed her years in the Rainy River District.
She has served as minister at the Devlin (Guthrie) Emo (Knox) United Churches for 25 years, and in Rainy River (Knox United) for nine years. Throughout that time, she was a fixture in the community, at teas, community suppers, youth camps and fundraisers. Her many years leading music and drama at Sunny Cove summer camps are a particularly special memory for her.
The love she has for her congregations is mutual. She’ll be sadly missed by the United Church community.
“Frances is a multi-talented minister who shared her skills with Emo Knox for 25 years. Church choirs, youth summer camps, study groups and after school drama benefited from her time and energy. Her compassion and care successfully contributed to many funerals, weddings, and worship,” said Joyce Meyers of Knox United in Emo. “We’ll miss Frances’s words, singing and guitar, knowing Kenora really isn’t that far.”
This isn’t the first big move for Frances. Born in Thunder Bay, she grew up in Sudbury, but attended seminary school in Vancouver, where she was finishing her master’s degree — and met her boyfriend.
Part of her schooling required a nine-month placement, which she served in Sioux Lookout. It was the start of Frances’s migration back to northwestern Ontario. She laughed as she recounted how much she and her boyfriend at the time spent on long-distance fees — back then, calling after 11 p.m. was 66 per cent off, so they would call at 11:01 p.m. each night. Expensive long-distance rates are a thing of the past, but the boyfriend stuck around — Frances married Lincoln Dunn on June 28, 1997, in Vancouver.
Frances had only been ordained for three weeks when they got married. And three days later, the couple moved to Emo, to accept her first permanent placement as minister for Devlin and Emo.
Although neither had family here, northwestern Ontario was a fit for the couple — Lincoln had grandmothers and extended family in Manitoba, and Frances fell in love with the region during her time in Sioux Lookout.
The position came with a home, and fortunately for Lincoln, who was working remotely as a web developer and designer, the town had dial-up internet service.
Frances remembers being nervous about the move. It was a big change for both, but they felt warmly welcomed. Frances will never forget how she and Lincoln were made to feel like family right from the get-go. Every special occasion, there would be an invite to join a family to celebrate along with them.
Frances and Lincoln started their own family in Emo. Gareth, now 22, is a power engineer in Hamilton and Naomi, 19, is attending Wilfred Laurier University in Brantford. Having both children grown has made the decision to move a little easier. Frances shared that although her kids are happy in their current surroundings, they will always consider Emo to be home.
Over the past 25 years, church life has been busy for Frances. She has conducted services in Devlin and Emo weekly and Rainy River every third week. She has delivered over 1,000 sermons, 250 funerals and more than 150 weddings.
Frances is forever grateful that she has been able to learn all aspects of ministry in one place. She praised her congregations for being supportive and encouraging. As she says she wouldn’t have remained for 25 years if she wasn’t so happy here.
Frances remembers coming back from a conference, enthusiastic about new ways to deliver Sunday morning worship — and the congregations were always willing to try the changes. Sometimes the changes stuck and sometimes they faded away. They were always open to trying out new hymns, as well.
She has found the Rainy River District to be a generous community, both inside and out of the United Church. She has had the opportunity to get to know people, celebrate with them in happy times, and mourn in sad times.
Frances is very happy that the United Church is known for being welcoming and open. She’s proud of the way the church board and worship committee have worked so well together to make the church a better place. She will also miss the amazing food, the Rainy River potlucks and the Harvest Supper.
Along with her vibrant church ministry, and being a vital part of the District, Frances has embraced scrapbooking, which she feels is one of the benefits of living in a small town. She remembers attending a Creative Memories party in 1998 and has been hooked ever since.
They purchased Rejuvenate Fitness in Emo from Gaydonna Baker in 2012 and have no regrets. Frances became a Zumba instructor and has enjoyed her classes immensely.
Although the move to Kenora will bring many changes, some things will stay the same. Frances and Lincoln intend to keep the gym and operate it for the foreseeable future. They have downsized to a smaller home in Keewatin, but they intend to run two households for the time being. Lincoln is currently the general manager at the Fort Frances Times — a position he loves — so he will remain here for the time being. The pair is no stranger to long-distance relationships, but this time around, the drive will be shorter, and the long-distance rates much lower.
Unlike her arrival in Emo 25 years ago, the Kenora church isn’t new to Frances. She has given several guest sermons there and has made many friends over the years.
She wishes she could bring her whole congregation with her to Kenora. Many tears have been shed by both Frances and her congregation since she announced the move, and they would take her back in a heartbeat, if they could.
“I’m going to miss this lady,” said Pam Bujold, board chair of Guthrie United in Devlin. Bujold has accompanied Frances on the organ for a number of years. “She has a way with the youth; to understand them and to work with them, a soft touch with the elderly, and her musical talent is amazing — any song, or rhythm or beat,” said Bujold. “She’s game for trying any new song at any time any Sunday morning. And, she is always helpful at the community suppers and tea.”
Now the churches have the challenge of finding a new minister. They have joined the waiting list, but it is a long process — and as ministers retire, it is harder and harder to find someone to fill the position. This is something Frances and church members will be praying for.
I have known Frances for many years and have had the good fortune to be at funerals, weddings and other events she has performed. This dynamic woman and minister radiates love; the words love is patient and kind couldn’t be truer of any other human being. The District, and especially your congregations, wish you all the best as you continue to share God’s love among all you encounter.