Archdeacon Thomas Leadbeater, 92, celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination on March 23 by preaching at an Easter Sunday service at Pine Lake Anglican Church in Red Deer, Alta., an occasion that was attended by his family, friends, and the bishop of Calgary, Derek Hoskin.
“At my age it’s not too bad. The congregation’s just thrilled,” chuckled Mr. Leadbeater when he told the Anglican Journal that he still officiates at services at the beautiful church overlooking the lake. The local paper, the Red Deer Advocate, wrote about Mr. Leadbeater’s rare feat, saying the part-time preacher “may well be the oldest Anglican reverend practising in Canada.”
An inveterate letter-writer (he regularly submits letters to the editor to the local papers and to the Journal), Mr. Leadbeater served Holy Trinity Church in Edmonton for 23 years – from 1959, until his retirement following major surgery in 1981. He continued his ministry by serving in Edmonton’s Veterans’ Home, and as a member of the University of Alberta’s senate. He and his wife, Betsy, moved to Red Deer three years ago to be near one of their sons, Graeme.
A native of England, Mr. Leadbeater arrived in Canada in 1934, at the age of 18, to study at St. Chad’s Theological College in Regina. After his ordination in 1938, he was assigned to St. George’s in Moose Jaw, Sask. He was later sent to All Saints, Weyburn, Sask.
In 1939, he was appointed sub-warden at St. Chad’s Theological College and for four years taught classes in Old Testament Scriptures; he also cared for five country churches around Regina. Studying in the summer, he earned a master of education in religious studies from Pittsburgh University.
In 1945, he and his wife moved to Victoria when he became assistant priest at Christ Church Cathedral. Three years later, he was installed dean at St. Saviour’s Pro-Cathedral in Nelson, B.C. and was in charge of St. Andrew’s Church on Kootenay Lake.
His next stint – at St. Barnabas Church in Calgary – was challenging since by then he and his wife had three children – David, Betsy Anne and Graeme – and they were happy at Nelson. Months after their arrival, a fire destroyed the church. “This traumatic event brought the congregation together,” he said, and a few weeks after the first anniversary of the fire, a new church was consecrated. Eight months later, Mr. Leadbeater was asked to serve in Edmonton. “I never saw so many tears in my life,” he said when he announced his departure to the congregation.
He served on various diocesan and General Synod committees, including the National Executive Council.
Mr. Leadbeater said that his ministry was concerned about three things: the value of visiting parishioners in homes and hospitals, the importance of preaching (“good preaching never drove people away”) and religious education for all.