It is my privilege to write a tribute to June Zwier, longstanding Shalem staff member, on the occasion of her retirement. June officially retired from her employment at Shalem effective September 30, 2017.
June can look back with pride on a strong and eventful career. Shortly after her graduation from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June began her paid employment life working with people with developmental challenges at the Durham Association for Community Living. After a number of years there, she took a position at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in the Durham Region. There she worked especially at advocating for and providing community supports for people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders.
While at CMHA, June also developed an interest in psychotherapy, and she completed her M.Div. Degree in Counselling at Tyndale Seminary. She then joined the Shalem staff in 1999. Since 1999, June has divided her time at Shalem between providing psychotherapy and advocating for people who are dealing with psychiatric issues, especially in a church context.
When I reflect on June’s gifts to us at Shalem, and to her clients, I think especially about her passion for supporting people with psychiatric diagnoses. There were many contexts for this. Three that stand out for me have been her involvement in Faith and Hope Ministries, a project of Classis Quinte of the Christian Reformed Church denomination, dedicated to helping churches to welcome and create safe spaces for people with mental illness; the Gathering Place, a thriving, twice-monthly community dinner sponsored by a wide variety of churches in the Bowmanville, Ontario area; and the Disability Concerns Committee of the Christian Reformed church denomination, where she articulately brought forward the needs of people dealing with mental illness.
One of her lasting legacies is the creation, with her colleague Winnie Visser, of an effective Study Guide for Churches about mental illness, called Let’s Talk: Breaking the Silence around Mental Illness in Our Communities of Faith, under the auspices of Faith and Hope Ministries and the Disability Concerns Committee. I recommend it to any church seeking to explore further their calling in relation to mental health and mental illness (the Guide and Leader’s Guide are also available here).
In all of this, June has exemplified what Shalem is about: supporting communities to effectively look after the needs of their most vulnerable members, in the name of the Gospel.
We wish June the very best in the next chapter of her life: retirement. As a staff we have very mixed feelings: excitement for June, and sadness at the loss that her departure from us and from Shalem creates. That too is part of her legacy. We know she will not be far away, and we treasure her love for all things Shalem. We will do our best to walk even further down the paths that she has opened up!
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.W., is Shalem’s Executive Director