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Honouring the ministers all around our community

The Zone provides not only a daily curated playlist for Victoria – a ministry in itself – but its hosts accompany all of us listeners as we just try to get through whatever life has handed us.
Victoria radio host Dylan Willows, fighting a terminal cancer diagnosis, stepped down from the radio show, The Zone recently. ROB PORTER

I had the honour of attending a good friend’s ordination to the Anglican priesthood a few weeks ago. This was the joyful culmination of her years of study and preparation. It was such an amazing morning being with everyone who came to celebrate her.

During the ordination, one of the speakers said that those who are ordained for ministry in the church aren’t sprinkled with magic dust at ordination that gives them any kind of special powers. Rather, it is their desire to serve their community that makes them ministers.

I’ve carried that thought with me since the ordination and, as a result, I’ve started to notice examples of ministry all around me that aren’t church related at all.    

On February 15, Dylan Willows signed off from the morning radio show he co-hosted with Jason Lamb at The Zone for the final time – ending a 20-year career at the station. Willows has been receiving treatment for terminal cancer since late last year and took most of December off to focus on that. He returned in January for some mornings when he was up to it but is now spending time with his family and others close to him.

The outpouring of grief and support for Willows was immediate. It’s affected not only the closely knit staff and on-air talent at The Zone, but the wider Victoria community. Willows has been a bedrock of the local music scene for many years, and a familiar morning voice for Zone listeners. His offbeat humor and comical takes on current events were a reliable source of levity bringing joy to even the darkest of days.

The Zone’s social media accounts were flooded with good wishes for Willows and memories from fans. The Zone’s text line received similar messages. In the midst of their own heavy feelings, the other Zone hosts made sure to respond to those texts, ask listeners how they were feeling and hold space for that collective grief and sadness.

The impact Willows has had and the widespread sadness over his departure mark his work at The Zone as ministry, whether he thinks of it that way or not. As is the work of the other on-air talent and everyone else at the station. The Zone provides not only a daily curated playlist for Victoria – a ministry in itself – but its hosts accompany all of us listeners as we just try to get through whatever life has handed us.

This is all ministry, and they are all ministers. So too are the many people we encounter every day who make our lives a little easier or raise us up. It’s the deli staff who know your sandwich and the barista who starts your drink without asking what you want. It’s the person who nods to you on the street and smiles, and the friend who calls to check in because you’ve been quiet lately or texts a funny meme to make you laugh.

That’s all ministry, and something Willows continued even as he signed off at The Zone, saying: “I can tell you, because I’m facing it, I’m up against it — not all is lost. It’s all about love. It really is, and that’s all we need to focus on. Please remember that today, and in the tough times.”

That’s it. Love. No magic dust. Just love. It’s the core of ministry – and we encounter so much love every day if we just take time to notice.

Kevin Aschenbrenner is a Victoria-based writer, poet and communications professional. He holds an M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. He blogs at

You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, at

* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, March 2nd 2024