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About us

Hope United Church has been blessed to experience two amalgamations since 2005. Those amalgamations successfully united our founding congregations of Edgewood, Oxford Street and United Memorial United Churches into the thriving church family of Hope United, largely due to the spiritual leadership and guidance of two of our former ministers.

Rev. Diane MacVicar was the minister at Edgewood United when Oxford Street United and Edgewood began their amalgamation journey in 2004. She travelled with the two congregations, offering advice and encouragement, as they followed their road to becoming Edgewood-Oxford United Church in the fall of 2005. Rev. David Hann came to Edgewood-Oxford in February of 2006 and, under his vibrant and enthusiastic leadership, the newly amalgamated congregation truly became a united church family. Over the next 10 years, Edgewood-Oxford experienced growth – growth in numbers as many new, young families joined the congregation; and spiritual growth as Rev. Hann opened our hearts and minds to new ways to become a more worshipful and welcoming faith community.

In the winter of 2014-2015, Edgewood-Oxford and United Memorial – a long-time “sister church” of Edgewood and Edgewood-Oxford – embarked on a new amalgamation journey. As with Oxford Street United 10 years earlier, the United Memorial congregation had been getting smaller and, rather than closing their doors, the members chose new life as part of an amalgamated church family.

Hope United came into being on January 1, 2016. In the same year that Hope was born, our founding congregations of Edgewood United, Oxford Street United and United Memorial celebrated their 70th, 145th and 98th anniversaries, respectively. Each of the original three has a rich history of faithful service to the church, community and the world. Together, we are even better.

Today our Ministry Team includes Reverend Sean Handcock, music director Barbara Pate, organist Rafael Alcolado and office manager Nancy Nelson. Under the leadership of our Ministry Team and many committed volunteers, Hope United continues to build on the foundation of our faithful ancestors. We honour and respect our past. We are united today in faith. We journey together into the future with hope – as the family of Hope United Church.

our ministry TEAM:

Minister Reverend Sean Handcock
Portrait photo of Reverend Sean Handcock.

Rev. Sean is a progressive theologian who prides himself on his ability to deliver an accessible message that is not only thought provoking, but relevant to our modern day Christian context. In addition, he is a calm and compassionate presence within our community who dedicates himself to the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of each and every one of our members.

Rev. Sean has served as our Minister since 2017 and his core responsibilities include organizing our weekly worship, crafting the liturgy, preparing the homily, administering the sacraments, presiding at weddings and funerals, leading bible studies and confirmation classes, routine visitation, as well as crisis care, grief counselling, and spiritual direction.

As team lead Rev. Sean works closely with Caitlin, Nancy, Barb and Rafael to ensure the high quality of our worship and that the spiritual needs of all our members are being met. Rev. Sean also works closely with the Church Board, the Worship Committee, the Investment Committee, the Stewardship Committee, and the Pastoral Care Committee by providing support and guidance to their members. In addition, Rev. Sean is the Clergy Representative to Region 15 of the General Council Executive and enjoys participating in all levels of church governance.

Rev. Sean graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts Honours Music in 2001 and from the Atlantic School of Theology with a Master of Divinity in 2007.

When not at church Rev. Sean keeps busy with his family; his wife Katherine and their two children Ben and Alicia.

Phone: (902) 455-0261

Youth Minister Caitlin Smithers
Portrait photo of Youth Minister Caitlin Smithers.

Hi, my name is Caitlin Smithers and I am the Children, Youth and Families Minister at Hope United Church.


I have always loved working with children and youth and have been a youth leader virtually since I was a youth myself. I have completed 15 credits at AST towards a Master of Divinity and became a candidate for ministry in the United Church of Canada in April 2021. I continue to take a course or two and am hoping to complete this degree in the next couple of years. I have a passion for learning and look forward to being Ordained one day.

I love the story of Hope United Church as three churches who have come together to amalgamate to make one church family. I have only been a part of this church for a short time but I have fallen in love with the children and youth here, they are so willing to learn and so welcoming to new people that I already feel like I belong in the big blended family here at Hope United Church. I look forward to the fun and exciting times ahead, and most of all, being a part of each and every one of your journeys if you’ll let me.

Portrait photo of Office Manager Nancy Nelson.
Office Manager Nancy Nelson

Nancy is the face at the door and the voice on the phone in the church office at Hope United. She previously managed the office at United Memorial Church for 8 years and joined the Ministry Team at Hope during the most recent amalgamation process in 2015. Nancy keeps the temporal side of church life running smoothly and can be reached in the office weekdays from 9 am to 12 noon.

Phone: (902) 455-0261

Organist Rafael Alcolado
Portrait photo of Organist Rafael Alcolado.

Rafael Alcolado graduated from the Conservatory Esteban Salas in Santiago de Cuba as one of their youngest graduates in piano performance. His teacher, Raul Estevanell Abreu was a student of the famous international Chilean concert pianist, Claudio Arrau. A winner of a National Piano Competition in Havana, Rafael pursued further studies abroad in Poland and Germany from 1966-70 obtaining Diplomas from the State Music Academy, Krakow and the Franz-Liszt College of Music, Weimar. He also attended Advanced Music Theory, Harpsichord, Pipe Organ and Orchestration classes with other professors in Poland and Germany.

Soon after arriving in Canada, Rafael was a piano soloist with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, 1971-1972. He was a Faculty Member of the Maritime Conservatory from 1978-89. He has been President of the Halifax Chapter of the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers’ Association and the Provincial Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers’ Association. He also was Bethany Chorale Accompanist for over nine years.

Rafael began as Organist at the former Edgewood United Church in 1984, so is now in his 35th year at Hope United Church. Involved as a musical advisor and editor since the early days of Adventus Inc. (a piano education software company based in Halifax), Rafael took the responsibility as their “MusIQ Club” Program Director for the Halifax area from 2007 to 2014. Most recently, on April 19, 2018, Rafael was invited to play at the opening reception of the new Refuge Canada exhibition at Pier 21, in the very spot where he had lived as a refugee forty-eight years before, closing a symbolic circle for his life.

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