In 1992, my friends Keith Boeckner and Joan Polfuss-Boeckner, Lutheran graduates from what is now Wilfrid Laurier University in southern Ontario, publicly joined the parish of Quebec. By then, they had been worshipping at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City for 25 years.
They asked to transfer their membership from the congregation where they had previously belonged—a common practice among Canadian Lutherans. A signal that some things were handled differently in Anglican congregations came with the response “just be part of our community and gradually grow into it—we have no formal process of church membership transfer here.”
“We found the people at the cathedral incredibly inclusive” Joan recalled in a recent conversation. “We started attending because there was no Lutheran church in the city.”
When they arrived as a young couple in 1967, Keith and Joan were eager to develop their linguistic and teaching gifts. They were like many young graduates from Ontario universities who fanned out across the country for employment and to contribute their skills to nation-building. Canada’s centennial had just been celebrated, and it was a time of expansive thinking.
Joan began to teach classical languages at a local high school, while Keith completed a master’s degree in French at Laval University. They decided to stay in Quebec.
Keith was drawn to teaching English as a Second Language in a Quebec City CEGEP, the publicly-funded general and vocational college level in the province’s education system.
Until his death last October, at 72, Keith offered an invaluable contribution by making French-English bilingualism an important part of education for many young Quebecois in the 48 CEGEPs that exist today.
Keith’s legacy continues through SPEAQ—the Association of English Second Language Teachers in the Province of Quebec—which he and Joan helped found. It endures through the Keith Boeckner Award for English-Language Proficiency, an annual prize for dedicated and outstanding contributions to the English as a Second Language program, which is now well-established in the largely French-language system. This is evidence of both the maturation of Quebec society and breakthroughs resulting from the work of a dedicated couple.
Joan’s teaching vocation expanded into ESL courses for adults. From 1984 until her retirement some years ago, she worked for Quebec’s Ministry of Finance to deliver ESL training using transferable skills to provide personal counselling and referencing of psychological services. Over the years she did much to establish the Employee Assistance Program for government civil servants and management personnel.
The Boeckners found the cathedral parish to be an invaluable spiritual and bilingual community and a strong support for them through half a century. In return, they offered a great deal to the congregation. They served as communion ministers, greeters and stewardship program developers. Through the decades, Keith was a parish warden, council chair, synodical representative and Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Foundation executive member, using his organizational and mediational talents.
Joan is most satisfied with the growth in Anglican-Lutheran relations in Canada over the past half-century. A good example of this in the parish of Quebec was the appointment of Bavarian-born Lutheran pastor, Christian Schreiner as dean of the cathedral.
While Keith’s funeral was conducted at the cathedral last October, interment took place June 2 at the Walkerton Cemetery in Ontario, with a commemorative service following at Trinity Lutheran Church. Lutheran pastor Catharine House presided, while Quebec Anglican Bishop Bruce Myers participated in the committal and contributed to the service.
Canada is now 150 years old. Our nation has developed considerably during the past half-century. In terms of Anglican-Lutheran relations, Joan’s vision for the future anticipates an increasing number of jointly-sponsored parishes across the country—especially for maintaining small congregations or providing ministries when supporting only one priest or pastor is possible.
“For many years” says Joan, “we have accompanied and have been accompanied by the Anglican parish of Quebec City. We have also maintained ties with our Lutheran heritage in Ontario. We have integrated both religious and secular contributions to the Anglican community so dear to us. Anything we have achieved individually, Keith and I have done together.”