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Heather Erika Johnston.

Heather Erika Johnston was born in Germany. After graduating as a specialist in early childhood education, she studied languages in Heidelberg, Oxford and Paris. She worked for the World Council of Churches (WCC) before serving with her husband, Rev. Dr. John A. Johnston, in Nigeria, West Africa.

From 1975 to 1983, she sat on the Central Committee of the WCC -- the first Presbyterian and the first woman from Canada. She served as the first lay president of the Canadian Council of Churches (1979-1982). In 1984, Knox College awarded her the Doctor of Divinity degree -- the first woman and first layperson so honoured.

The international board of the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society (EDCS) elected Heather Johnston as one of its 15 directors (1984-90). She founded and presides over a Canadian EDCS support association. From 1986 to 1992, she chaired the Canadian Christian Jewish Consultation and, from 1992 to 1994, co-chaired the Canadian Christian Festival IV. She continues to chair the National Coalition of Christian Festivals.

Heather and John Johnston have two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren

What is your earliest memory of church life?

After Communion in the 10th-century country church in Germany, my mother would make a pudding of the left-over wine, and I would be asked to take it to shut-in or sick people.

What is your favourite hymn?

"Lobe den Herren" ("Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"). This hymn was sung at every family birthday.

What musical piece has most inspired you?

The liturgy in the Taize community in southern France, when it was first sung and celebrated in the '50s.

What book (outside of the Bible) has most influenced you?

It is difficult to choose one! Wir werden unsere Harfen nicht an die Weiden haengen (We Will Not Hang Our Harps on the Weeping Willow Tree) by Baerbel von Wartenberg-Potter. She is one of the leaders in the World Council of Churches who brought about the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998).

Where do you find inspiration to sustain your faith?

In Sunday services, through in-depth sharing and discussions with young and old friends, through interaction with deeply rooted people of other living faiths.

Who has played a major role in your faith journey?

My husband, John, and strong women friends.

If you could invite anyone (past or present) to a dinner party, who would you invite?

Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16), George Bernard Shaw, Martin Niemoller (leader of the underground, the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany). What a fascinating conversation that would be!

What is your biggest regret?

That I did not get to know my father well. He died (as a prisoner of war) when I was 13.

What one change in the church would make it substantially better?

Service to God through service to the whole human family, indeed, to the whole creation.

Write your own epitaph.

Her life was rich. She felt deeply loved.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Presbyterian Record
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Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Oct 1, 1997
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