Ministry Team

Rev. Debra Bowman – Coordinating Minister

Rev. Debra Bowman is a minister who loves the church, theology and the people she has had an opportunity to serve. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t see that there are many challenges along the way, but she finds the call to be part of God’s beautiful reconciling love in and for the world surpasses any warts and wrinkles.

Debra was ordained some 20+ years ago. As well as being a congregational minister she has also been Executive Secretary for BC Conference and President of BC Conference. She has also volunteered widely in the national church.

Debra and her partner Bob have raised three great sons, (if she does say so herself) and now also cherishes two daughters-in-law and a third about to be.

Debra enjoys politics, popular culture, Stephen Colbert and the great outdoors.


Rev. Dr. Richard Bott – Congregational Development Minister

Having served with congregations in Ontario and BC, Richard comes to Dunbar Ryerson United Church with 23 years of experience as an ordained minister in The United Church of Canada. (Ok. 24, now.) With training and background in developing faith-based small groups, as well as being a writer for and facilitator of a number of United Church discipleship and stewardship programs, he is excited about helping the congregation to grow, both in its faith in God – Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit – and through invitation to others to participate in this journey on the Way!

So, what does a Congregational Development Minister do?

Think of me as part of the church’s Research & Development department! I get to come up and implement with ways of helping people already part of Dunbar Ryerson United Church, and people who are not yet part of this community of faith to enter into and deepen their relationship with God through Jesus.
I’m responsible for:
– finding ways of developing a sustainable congregation-wide small group ministry;
– developing and implementing programs and practices that lead people more deeply into their Christian discipleship, including helping people understand their spiritual and practical gifts, and to develop their leadership and facilitation gifts. (As part of that, that development of stewardship as a lived spiritual practice is part of my portfolio!)
– developing new (and additional) expressions of worship outside of Sunday morning, especially ones that are inviting to those not currently connected to a faith community, as well as growing The Open House – Dunbar Ryerson midweek congregation;
– supporting the work of a fantastic ministry team, a wonderful staff team and with the Spiritual Nurture and Outreach committees – taking direction from the Coordinating Minister for my participation in Sunday Morning worship and other parts of our church life.

I’m excited about the possibilities God has placed into our lives together!


Cathy Cryder – Minister with Children, Youth and Families

Cathy found her way to the United Church in 1984 through the camping ministry. Captivated and compelled by the theology, vision and mission of the United Church, she became a volunteer in youth and young adult ministry at the congregational, conference and national levels. Cathy worked as the Fraser Presbytery Minister with Youth and Young Adults and the CGIT Provincial Resource Coordinator. In the early 1990’s Cathy worked for various school boards counselling, teaching and supporting children and youth with severe behaviour disorders. While living in Port Hardy, in the early ‘90’s, she taught a grade 5,6,7 class at the Gwa’Sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw Band School. She also worked part time as a Youth Treatment Worker and Young Parent’s Support Counsellor for the North Island Crisis and Counselling Centre. In Victoria, Cathy was employed as Youth Counsellor with the Summit Program, an alternate program that incorporated outdoor education as a means of treatment for severe behavioural challenges.  In 1996, Cathy was drawn back to the United Church when she was appointed as Minister with Children, Youth and Families at Shaughnessy Heights United Church where she worked for 8 years.  Since 2004, Cathy has been a part of the ministry staff at Dunbar Heights United Church.

So, what does a Minister with Children, Youth and Families do?

Collaborate, integrate, create, celebrate and motivate… these are just a few of the words that emerge in the quest to define the role of Minister with Children, Youth and Families. Together with an extraordinary team of volunteer and paid leaders we strive to build space and relationships that declare, “Children and youth have an important place in the heart of this community.”

We teach children the language of our faith—the language of story, ritual and symbol… the language of space, community and relationship… the language of silence—we give children the tools they need to participate fully in the conversation and call of our church. We also equip children and youth with valuable tools to go out into the world and make a difference.

We support families in their quest to raise children that live lives infused with faith, compassion, meaning, hope, wonder and resolve.

We help people of all ages remember what it feels like to play, to be wise like a child and to be attentive to the divine in the complex and simple things in life.

We enrich the present and inspire hope for the future of our church and the world.

This is rich and rewarding work! I am exited about the opportunity and the abundant resources provided to explore, to lead and to live into Jesus’ call to, “…become like children.”


Rev. Dr. Brian Thorpe – Minister Emeritus & Pastoral Care Minister

Brian Thorpe grew up in Saskatoon and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan and St. Andrew’s College.  Following graduate work at Union Seminary in New York, he was in ministry in Saskatchewan in Gravelbourg and as a chaplain at the University of Saskatchewan.

He then completed a PhD at McGill University in Montreal.

In 1980 he moved to Vancouver where he served three different congregations.  In 1994 he became the Executive Secretary of the British Columbia Conference.  During that time the church’s response to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools System became one of the most critical issues facing the church.  In 2000 the General Council of the United Church asked Brian to work exclusively in this area.  One of the primary foci of this work involved the development, in partnership with survivors of residential schools and the Canadian government, of an alternate dispute resolution project in the Gitxsan Nation in northern British Columbia.

Since 2005 Brian has served as a minister at Ryerson United Church in Vancouver.  He has also taught at the Vancouver School of Theology and is currently the Chair of the First United Church Community Ministry Society on the downtown east side of Vancouver.

What does a Pastoral Care Minister Do?

 The Pastoral Care Minister works with the ministerial team to insure that no one is forgotten in our community in transition.  In particular the Pastoral Care Minister enters into a ministry of conversation and prayer with those who are housebound, those in care facilities and those carrying a burden of illness or grief.

The Pastoral Care Minister works with and reports to the Minister of Community Life and Pastoral Care to identify and prioritize pastoral care needs in the congregation.

The Pastoral Care Minister works with a team of volunteer pastoral visitors to develop a network of caring relationships with all members and adherents of the congregation.

The Pastoral Care Minister exercises a ministry in which no phone call or visit is an interruption in a busy schedule but which is, rather, the center of the ministry itself.


Dr. Greg Caisley – Co-Director of Music

An accomplished pianist, collaborator, director and music educator, Dr. Greg Caisley has worked throughout Western Canada for the past 30 years. His responsibilities as Co-Director of Music for Dunbar Ryerson United Church are focused on “helping people to become the best they can be through learning and sharing sacred music.” To this end, he is responsible for the development of the Pneuma Voices children and youth choir, the United Voices Choir and Chamber Orchestra, and the music for the mid-week services. He comes into this role with an entrepreneurial and experimental spirit – ready to see what Dunbar Ryerson United Church can grow.

So what does a Co-Director of Music do?

My name is Dr. Greg Caisley, and for 10 years I was responsible for all Music Ministry programs for two different congregations, Langley United, and Dunbar Heights United.  Outside of  the United Church,  I am heavily involved in the National Music Festival movement across Canada, as I am on the executive of  the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association. I am also the Artistic Director of the Chamber music group Postmodern Camerata. If you would like more info on these organizations, as well as my experience as a pianist, you can check out my website.

When both legacy congregations Dunbar Heights and Ryerson started looking at what a combined music ministry might look like, one of the critical ideas that I held on to was that whatever we did together, it had to be bigger than whatever either congregation could imagine separately.  My current position within the new congregation is testament to this new reality. To some, my position might seem developmental; to others educational; and to still others  artistic  director. In  fact, I am  now largely responsible  for two musical groups within the new church, neither of which are primarily involved in Sunday services. That Dunbar Ryerson United is able to grow and expand elements of its legacy programming to such an extent is one of the amazing realities of this new congregation.

The Voices Choir is a concert choir which is open to anyone to join, and currently  has about 55 members. It is designed as a teaching choir- people come together each week to learn the music and the text, and absorb the various symbols and meanings. Some of the people in the choir are there only to learn and study the music- they don’t actually sing in the concerts. The majority of this choir is made up of choristers not currently connected to any church. To those unfamiliar with the choir it might seem  that this is ‘just another choir’.  In fact, it is a fantastic opportunity for people to connect with the greater United Church community, and to learn about and grow their relationship the divine through wonderful  sacred masterpieces. It is a choir that only prepares sacred music, and uses the best available accompanists, orchestras, and even music scores. Currently, they prepare two concert programs a year.

Our upcoming Good Friday (April 14 and 15) performances of Mozart’s Requiem is a great opportunity to investigate this group’s work, and see the value it brings to our expanded community.

Pneuma is primarily a program for music education for younger people. But it is much more than just that. I originally realized the need for this program because of the lack of music education within the United Church specifically designed to teach young people the music and life of the United Church. Increasingly, it was challenging to find musicians (often well trained with University experience) who understood what a United Church service even was. Pneuma is an outgrowth of my realization that young people both inside and outside the church community- did not have any way to assist them to become familiar with  the  United  Church  liturgy, the nomenclature of the  church  (what is  a  narthex?), and  even the basic songs. Christmas carols – even those in Voices United- were unknown to the young people in the church. As a musician who has studied music all my life, I knew that in order to have a life long relationship with music in a spiritual way, our community needed to build and support institutions that could teach the musicians who will be leading the future church.

What started as a program to teach young people about United Church music has become so much more now. Some of these young choristers are 4 years old; some of them are 16. Currently there are about 28 students in the program, making it one of the largest youth music programs in any United Church in Canada. There is enough people in this program now to have two separate classes every Wednesday, as well as having two support staff to assist the learning. The younger choristers learn about reading, singing correctly,  and  about  working  together as a team.  The older  group  is  learning  how to sing in multiple parts, languages, as well as preparing music at a high level for every weekly service. Pneuma is the “main choir” for the Open House Wednesday service. If you have not had an opportunity to come and be a part of an Open House service, come for dinner first at 5:15. The service itself starts about 6:05, and is finished about 6:45. You will see the energy, the enthusiasm, and the magic of the future.

In closing, I am reminded that neither of these programs could exist in either legacy congregation. One of the direct results of amalgamation is the opportunity that DRUC has to develop generations of people currently not involved in Sunday services, but who are nevertheless deeply involved in the community.

For me, this reality is very daunting, exciting, and ultimately critical.


Bryn Nixon – Co-Director of Music

Bryn Nixon received his early music training as a boy chorister at All Saints, Anglican Church, Winnipeg. Bryn studied piano, organ and voice with Donald Hadfield at All Saints’ and continued organ studies with Conrad Grimes at the University of Manitoba. In 1983 Bryn moved to Vancouver to study with Patrick Wedd. Bryn has been the Director of Music at Ryerson United Church since 1989 and is now Co-Director of Music at the newly amalgamated congregation of Dunbar Ryerson United Church. Bryn has recorded with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, trumpeter Christopher Robertson, The Vancouver Cantata Singers, Elektra Women’s Choir and the former CBC Radio Orchestra.