St Paul's United Church, Midland, Ontario

Real People ~ Real Stories


A strong woman believes that she's strong enough to face her journey, but a woman of strength has FAITH that it is in this journey that she will become strong... (anonymous)

Zena (Mylopoulos) Pendelbury,
a woman of strength: strength of will, and strength of purpose

     Zena came to Midland with her husband Cliff Pendlebury and her young family in 1993. The community of Midland has benefited from the gifts of the Pendlebury family in so many ways. Cliff left his legacy not only in St. Paul’s United Church but the whole community when he died in 2009.
     Zena was born in Athens and raised in Filothei, a suburb of Athens, Greece. Her mother's family (Karnemidis) was forced to leave their home in Pontos, Turkey, in 1922 when Turkey exiled all Greeks from the country. Her father's family (Mylopoulos) came from Sohum, Russia. They left Russia in 1917 after the Russian revolution. Zena’s parents Paul and Ioanna met and married in Athens during the German occupation of Greece in 1942. Paul had a successful business exporting goods from Greece, mainly tobacco and lumber; he travelled to Egypt, Lebanon, and Czechoslovakia frequently.
     As Zena reflects on her family history she is very aware that she comes from a history of exile and what it’s like to be a refugee.
     Zena was baptized in Ste. Filothei Greek Orthodox Church and attended elementary and high school in Filothei. These were tough times for young people in Greece when Zena was a young woman, Greece was under a dictatorship rule. Being young and of an inquiring mind she came to Canada as a foreign student to the University of Toronto where she studied Sociology and French. Her brother was already in Canada and was a professor at the UofT which was a support to Zena.
     One night Zena’s colleagues in residence insisted that Zena go to the bar with them. This was not her normal evening’s entertainment but she went. A group of hockey players came in on their way home from a game. They were an unsightly group of young men, battered and beaten up after a rough game but there was one in particular that caught her eye. He looked the ‘best’ of the lot. He must have noticed this young woman as well. They talked into the wee hours of the morning. That was the beginning of their life-long friendship and love. When Zena found out Cliff was a seminary student that was cause to ponder but not for long. Their common passions for justice and education and making the world a better place overcame any differences.
     Cliff was sent to Manitoba after his ordination. That didn’t dampen their growing relationship. Zena worked at becoming a ‘minister’s wife’. She says she was a ‘reluctant minister’s wife’ but she had a very understanding partner and she always was there for her husband in his chosen calling and her children who were growing in their spiritual practices. All the while she worked for the Ontario Government except for six years when her family was very young.
     Oh, there’s a piece missing in the last paragraph. Cliff was ordained in 1975 in St. Paul’s United Church in Midland. Little did they know that they would end up in ministry here eighteen years later!
     Zena admits there has been much adapting and challenge in her life. Being raised in a very mystical yet closed faith background, the openness was what attracted her to Canada and the United Church.  “I believe in evolving”, Zena explains.
     “I must be engaged,” says Zena, “in the environment, education, transportation, non-partisan politics, kids and my Church. My faith is important and especially my friends at St. Paul’s and in the community.
     On May 27 and 28, Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada is planning its AGM in Midland where eight people will be ordained and commissioned in St. Paul’s United Church, forty one years after Cliff Pendlebury was ordained in St. Paul’s. There will be 400 plus delegates plus visitors at this event. This is the first time St. Paul’s has hosted this very ambitious venture for many, many years, but was a dream of Cliff before he died.
     Zena is coordinator of the Local Arrangements for this Annual event. Most of the proceedings will be held in the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre except for the Celebration of Ministries service in St. Paul’s on Saturday, May 28 at 6:00 p.m. where over 600 will be in attendance. The choir alone will be about 75 voices under the leadership of St. Paul’s Director of Music, Victoria Warwick.
     The St. Paul’s organizing team has been working on this event in concert with the staff and volunteers of Toronto Conference for over a year. Over one hundred volunteers have stepped up to assist in hosting. This has been a massive undertaking for St. Paul’s congregation. We can credit the leadership and excellent response in making this event a resounding success.
     Thank you to all, and thank you to you Zena for your leadership.

Σε αγαπάμε   Se agapáme    We love you!
The first in a series
Helen Elizabeth (Robertson) (McMann) French