Vol 11 No. 52 A Happy and Blessed New Year

Dear friends,

Happy New Year!

The experience of many of us indicates that this January 1st is one of many New Years with significant anniversaries and events. There will be Chinese New Year, significant birthdays, new life in the birth of a baby, and the passing in death of others.

We have tried to follow those in the Christian faith by distinguishing our beginning and our New Year from the secular cacophony around us at Christmas by saying that the new year really begins on the first Sunday of Advent, the anticipation of the birth of Jesus, and the mark of a new beginning for Christians. The best definition I heard of new year (yes, there are different definitions of new year) was a minister named Archie Pell who got up in an evening service near the end of summer and stated this very obvious fact; “as any teenager knows, New Year’s begins on the Tuesday after Labour Day when school starts.” I kind of like his definition, but nonetheless, choosing a different time to start fresh is a metaphor for the grace of God who allows us, despite our self-induced traumas and tragedies, to start over again and again and again in His Son’s name, grace, and in the Lord’s willingness, like the prodigal, to continuously welcome us back.

This year has included, but is not limited to, so many exciting new things:

  • Celebrating over 7500 residential and day campers this summer
  • Renewal programme for healthy churches with Sam Breakey
  • Affirmed active discussion between delegates when we gathered at Assembly
  • Legacy for Ministry, led by Bob Webber
  • Tenancy / debt discussions with camps
  • Found and purchased an office in Calgary
  • Founding of Musqueam Church in Vancouver
  • Excellent Assembly
  • Election of a new Board, including a new Chair in Laura Nelson
  • Increased Leadership Forums

Despite, or maybe in spite of, all of these things, which are only a snapshot of part of what we do together, as a family of churches serving each other in Christ’s name, I am regularly reset, reconfigured, reframed and reminded that it is the Lord that “set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure,” (Psalms 40:2) not myself, and as I am reminded of that, I am drawn to these following verses.

Warmly,

In Christ

Jeremy

 

Psalm 115:1

NRSV

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
The Message

Not for our sake, God, no, not for our sake,
but for your name’s sake, show your glory.
Do it on account of your merciful love,
do it on account of your faithful ways.

 

Psalm 127:1

NRSV

 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.

The Message

 If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.

Philippians 4:8-9

NRSV

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Message

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

 

Vol 11 No. 51 The End of Advent, The Birth of Christ

Dear friends,

The joy of Advent and the coming of Christmas Eve and Day bring with it a flood of memories, mostly happy. For most of the time we were, as a family, poor. That is not a new experience for many who are reading this letter. It is not simply a distant memory; it is for many our present reality.

This is a season also full of regret, not the usual regret. Research shows that most people put on an average of 7 lbs between Halloween and New Years. I think the research must be wrong. I think it was meant to say between Halloween and the beginning of Advent!

No, the regret is not in the over-consuming, the cards not written, phone calls of friendship and reassurance not made; no, it’s that in this Advent I did not walk with the remarkable characters of this season who have much to teach me. Yet, they remain silent in my life, for I have not spent that kind of time in their presence that would have allowed me to benefit from them.

  • The faithlessness silence, awe, and joy of Zachariah.
  • The excitement of Elizabeth.
  • The trusting obedience of Mary to the living God so that she might indeed bring to us the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The courage of Joseph.
  • The incredible wonder of Simeon and Anna, who had waited on a faithful God only to be met in their own faithful response to Him as they met the infant Jesus.
  • The shepherds who while they were first frightened (how wise was that?), could scramble past their own fears, running through their fields and the outskirts of such a small town like Bethlehem to probably arrive winded, grubby, tearstained and wondrous at the sight of a babe that as Chesterton once said “There was once a stable that contained a child that was bigger than the whole world” (paraphrase) – and indeed the angels declared Him so, and the wise men acknowledged Him for just that.
  • And then there was Herod, the temporary power of the brutal who reminds us of the futility of the fear monger, the banality of the barbaric, the elixir of evil that pours out its trauma on the more vulnerable… ah yes, Herod. Malcolm Guite in his poem Refugee,sums up in 2 simple lines as a reminder of God’s judgement on us all.

    But every Herod dies, and comes alone

    To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.

It is the lessons and the people I have still not allowed to mentor me, yet again. Yet again. But they have much to say. Even now, come Lord Jesus. And might I come running like the shepherds, having heard the message that He is born and to be in the tumult of my business and buying, my singing  and my chatter, silent before the gift of the Christ child to the whole world. The whole world, but also in me.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy

Advent 2015

Vol 11 No. 49 Leadership Forums

Dear folks,

An essential aspect of our life together has become the Leadership Forums / Seminars for many of our regions. These take many different forms, but essentially are a quarterly meeting of church leaders from a variety of regional churches that meet to worship, share a meal, encourage each other, and participate in listening and dialoguing about a particular resource. As these develop into cooperative, collaborative sharing of resources by churches I am trusting (indeed I am expecting) that these will deepen and grow into a meaningful part of our lives together. Below are examples from the three Regional Ministers and their experience of these forums.

Looking forward to your own comments about your experience of your Leadership Forums and your suggestions for future topics.

Christ be with you as we responsibly prepare for His birth.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Advent 2015

 

Mark Doerksen – Heartland Regional Minister

Filipino Evangelical Church hosted Winnipeg’s Leadership Forum on November 17th.  We had 16 people in attendance from 5 churches, and we enjoyed Filipino food for supper.  Then we listened to Christine Longhurst speak to us about Worship.  Having heard Christine at the Assembly in Calgary, we invited her to speak to us about getting people engaged in worship as we invite them to be more than spectators in worship.  Christine said that “young people want to encounter God.  They do not want worship done for them, or to them.  They want to engage directly with worship, not just their minds, but also with their emotions.  Worship needs to be much more participatory these days.”

Dennis Stone – AB/NWT Regional Minister

Our Leadership Forums for Alberta were held on November 16th in Calgary at Crescent Heights, and on November 17th in Edmonton at Braemar.  The speaker was Rev. Sam Breakey who presented material relating to what makes a healthy church.  He presented ten universal principles in that regard.  The meetings were well received.  In each setting there was 19-20 attendants with leaders from about five CBWC churches.

Rob Ogilvie – BCY Regional Minister

The attendance for the Leadership Forum at Gateway, Victoria, on November 18th was 103 with 12 Vancouver Island churches present.  The speakers were Tad Inboden, the new church planter for Southlands on the Musqueam land in South Vancouver, and Jodi Spargur joined the group via video conference from Ontario.  The topic was based around the work of the Musqueam folks, Tad and his team, and Jodi and fellow First Nations people within our communities.

Wes Morrison led the folks in worship.

The attendance for the Leadership Forum at Trinity, Vancouver on November 19th was 68 with 20 churches present.  Both Tad Inboden and Jodi Spargur were the presenters for the evening.  Krista Dawn Kimsley led the group in worship and prayer.  The topic was First Nations as well.

The responses we have received from both Leadership Forums were very positive and encouraging.

 

Vol 11 No. 48 Remembering Births, Dedications, Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths

Dear folks,

Someone who is close to me wished to join one of our churches recently. She was asked to provide a record of her baptism and membership from the previous church she had attended, where she had been baptised, been part of a community, lived a significant part of her life, and felt a real bond, rootedness, and debt to. The new church’s request was reasonable, understandable, and very clear.  The trouble is that the person that was close to me was not able to procure from her former church any documentation that they had been baptised and were a member of a previous fellowship. The previous church and the one wishing to receive my friend are both large churches within our denomination.

While new members lists can be gleaned from annual reports and charter members lists are often available, we seem not to care about the intensely deep and personal commitments people make in the lives of our churches regularly. I remember my own baptism in May of 1968. I remember the class. I remember my father baptizing me. I still have a friend from that class, Nancy Scambler, who goes to FBC Vancouver. I remember how the two deacons tried to dissuade me from being baptised because they didn’t think I was ready and my vehemence that I had been a Christian well nigh on 3 years, thinking that far from being unprepared I felt I had waited too long.

It is very important that we remember, record, and can go back to the special celebrations that we collectively mark as congregations. The old state/church/parish system which were very much part of Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions took their record keeping seriously, because in some cases their parish records formed a legal if not a quasi-legal function. Our marriage registers are a legal document and when complete are returned to Vital Statistics in most constituencies. It is fair to argue that in many of these cases of birth, dedication, baptism, marriage, and death these stories are in the heart and hand of God. Of course that’s true, but there is absolutely no reason why they should not also be in the mind of our churches as we record them, so that in our thanksgiving to God for His faithfulness, we can return to these times and renew our attitude of praise and thanksgiving.

New methods of electronic record keeping and social media enable us to do even more than usual on interesting things. For example, a 30 second video clip of a dedication, or a testimony of someone being baptised, or a eulogy at a funeral. All those things can be encouraging parts of who we are in God and with each other. Early next year we are going to provide some basic record keeping platforms that function like a simple and freely available excel sheet. It will go something like this:

Births

Name

Date

Name of parents and siblings

 

Dedication

Dedication date

Date of birth and age of child

Person leading dedication service

Any sponsors (some would use the word godparents)

 

Baptism

Name of candidate

Person presiding over service

Date of service

*Please note that our adult baptism forms or certificate for baptism are readily available, and as with dedications should be issued for an individual’s record. A copy should be retained electronically.

 

Marriages

Basic information available in our register is adequate, but really only that. A photocopy of the marriage certificate (appropriately filled in), would be very helpful. It is important to re-enter the marriage ledger information in an appropriate and secure place.

 

Death

The death of an individual and the date on which it occurred is important to note, along with the date, time of the funeral, and ideally the obituary. I tried (with Ceal Mclean) to create biographies/obituaries for folk with the emphasis on the biography. We both felt that this living record of God’s story in people was important, but we got some pretty fierce pushback that if we started doing that we might forget someone and people would feel neglected or hurt. I am grieved over those who I carry in my heart and mind who have passed, that so many would benefit from if they only knew a part of their story. In the spring we will begin to share a biography with one another. Slowly at first, but Ceal and I have a commitment to these things and look forward to giving people the opportunity to participate.

I do not mean to suggest that a lack of serious record keeping shows a shallowness of character. It does not. We are all busy and committed to many, many things. However there is a sense that there are always folk who are gifted in keeping track of God’s story in our midst. These people if encouraged and supported would happily provide us with that long look into God’s faithful activity amongst us. It is unacceptable that we do not take seriously the important nature of these events in the lives of individuals and in the lives of our churches.

Could you think on these two things?

If you have ideas or are presently practising keeping these covenant records, would you like to share how you are doing it; what the experience is like; how far back it goes; and any lessons you might like to pass on? Secondly, would you indicate even in a brief acknowledgement, whether you are interested in this kind of encouragement and input in the early new year? Would you do that by dropping a note to Shelby Gregg at sgregg@cbwc.ca?

In closing I would like to dedicate the thankfulness of these remarks to five very different people. Firstly, to Callum Jones (FBC Penticton, BC), who has a strong and wonderful commitment to history and the story of our CBWC family. He desires to keep an accurate picture of the ongoing narrative of our life together. Secondly, I would like to thank Louanne Haugan and Ruth Longhurst for their work in the Calgary office with our archives. Thirdly, I would like to thank Ruth Marshall (Gateway, Victoria, BC) who was helpful to me and to Gateway in their recent anniversary in connecting the dots, stories, and histories of four churches over a 100 year period. Finally, I would like to remember Vic Stevenson who passed away some years ago now. Vic was a teacher and a Reservist LT Col in the Artillery. You have to have a detailed mind for that kind of role. Vic put that energy to work by re-establishing, nurturing, and developing FBC Vancouver’s archives in an experience which has been very meaningful to that church.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

Vol 11 No. 47 Preparing for Christmas

Dear folks,

I am counter the retail preparations for Christmas happening earlier and earlier each year.  The buzz of collection and stuff on offer becomes almost a cacophony of noise to such an extent that I can hardly extract myself from the grotesqueness of the Christmas clutter at Canadian Tire, Costco et al.  The record for early preparations seems to be July; I may be wrong.  I’m open to examples of even greater crassness, but spilling ink on all the usual suspects on the retail industry at Christmas is as old as Dickens himself and should be no great surprise or cause any great angst.

I’ve always prepared well for Christmas.  From a childhood where resources were slim and the temptation to covet was great, I have enjoyed a leisurely, well-thought-out, long-term prep for the season.  This allows me to relax and enjoy the many things that are on offer… Handel’s Messiah every second year, an organ concert, a Mennonite Choir, my own church’s supper, and the Christmas Pageant at Kitsilano Christian Community.  My son’s previous involvement at a local shelter drew me back to the street in a more personal way than I had been for some time.  Contributions to many groups and partners like Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM), the Mustard Seed, and others, are part of celebrating and marking well my response to the gift of the Christ child.

My point is, that unlike the Cromwellian Puritans, Christmas is to be engaged in moderation not ignored.  I would remind us of three brief things.

First, the bumper sticker “Keep Christ in Christmas” is something I wrote about several years ago.  It annoyed me then and it annoys me now but for reasons some of my fellow Christians do not understand.  If we “Keep Christ in Christmas” we could well be saying that we keep him there.  In other words, we limit him there.  We don’t allow the wondrous gift of His birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection to become part of our daily and weekly story and not just one for Advent.  Let’s “keep Christ every day of the year” (paraphrasing Scrooge from A Christmas Carol).  By the way, this Chai-tempest-in-a-teapot over Starbucks and their Christmas affiliations is rather silly (sidebar – I have come to prefer Tim’s coffee in this job)… considering that their best coffee blend is their “Christmas blend.”  Yes, you got it, Christmas, the full word.  If some of us are challenged to keep Christ in the rest of the year, at least a secular for-profit business like Starbucks is able to keep Christmas in their coffee.

Secondly, I would remind us that the Christian year is demonstrably and emphatically not the secular year for the simple reason that it begins earlier, on the first Sunday of Advent.  This year that was Sunday November 29th.  The themes of each week are faith, hope, love, and peace.  Any opportunity we get to individuate, separate, and be apart from the secular world around us, even in the simplicity of a date that begins our new year, should be something we seize upon.

Lastly, Christmas is the time when people from every tradition, perspective, and age are open to the person and gospel of Christ.  There is no easier or better time to welcome people in the winsome name of Jesus.  There is no greater opportunity to celebrate the gift of God in Christ than to speak of a homeless couple, and a child born in poverty, who as a family quickly became refugees.  Indeed, no better time to name those “dots”, so to speak, and to connect them.  We who are far away have been brought near.  We who are near must call those who are from afar to come closer, or to meet Christ for the first time, or to take this new year and new Christmas to come back to Jesus from whom we may have strayed.

It is essential that if you have a church supper there is room for those who do not believe.  It is essential that you have Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services so that people who feel comfortable for some reason at this time of the year, even in ways that make no sense, come this Christmas because we have made it possible for them to come.  I would ask us, and I will practice myself, a simple prayer in this Advent season.  It is for those that I know and those who I do not know but encounter – a simple prayer for myself and others:

Lord, make yourself known to me.  In the coming of this season when people are most open, might there be a joyous and animated expectation on our part that this is a great opportunity for others to come to experience the Christ.

Welcome to Advent.  Happy New Year!

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy

 

Vol 11 No. 46 Public Prayer

Dear folks,

Many of you will be aware of the Canadian Supreme Court ruling against the municipal council prayer in the Quebec town of Saguenay. They used to open their council meetings with prayer. An article by Canada Post summing up the piece can be found at cbc.ca.

This issue has a long and complicated history in this country as Bruce Clemenger, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, commented in his article on the topic: “The question is whether abstention is the best way of accommodating religious pluralism while respecting freedom of religion and conscience. The court commends abstinence, but in this case it stopped short of imposing it.” The court may have stopped short of imposing it, but for various real and imagined motives, many government groups in the country have begun to seriously question the place of prayer in public life.

There is a confusing picture in Canada: On the one hand a chaplain prays at the “ramp ceremony” when a deceased Canadian soldier is placed on a plane to return to Canada; on the other hand no such prayer occurs when the repatriated soldier arrives at Royal Canadian Air Force Base Trenton, ON. The Remembrance Day service in Ottawa has public prayer because it is in fact not a public but a private event sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion and not the government of Canada. This is why the only “prayers/speeches/homilies” (it’s hard to describe what they were) were given by the Chaplain General Guy Chapdelaine and an Ottawa Jewish leader Rabbi Reuven Bulka. Yet as you could see from the televised event the Governor General and our Prime Minister were both present. When our present Governor General David Johnston was installed at a formal state-sanctioned event in the Senate Chamber he and his wife Sharon held hands and bowed their heads as their former Anglican priest prayed for them. Johnston swore his oath of office on a Bible and had the Bible autographed not only by himself but by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, and the Prime Minster of the day, Stephen Harper. The number of bowed heads in that Senate Chamber was both profoundly moving and puzzling considering the over-stated success of secularism in Canadian culture.

Consider the contrast in responses to David Johnston’s prayer and Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis when he simply called on Winnipeggers of all faiths to pray as a way to reduce crime. He also told people to back that prayer up with action as all of us will be better engaged in terms of creating a safe environment in Winnipeg, MB. Contrast the “no comment” in the media and in the public sphere on David Johnston’s prayer at his installation and the fire storm of withering denunciation and ridicule that descended on Police Chief Clunis, in particular from the Winnipeg Free Press and the CBC. I know this will offend some but I wonder in part whether the contrast is also religious and racial profiling. David Johnston (who is someone I deeply admire) is a Harvard-educated college president, white, wealthy, and Anglican. Chief Clunis is a police officer who rose through the ranks, (no college president is he), black, and Alliance. I wonder why David Johnston, whose prayer was much more “specifically Christian and exclusive” if you like, got nary a grumble.

So much for contrasting opinions in our country, the Christian community in our country is also divided in much kinder and subtler ways. Lorna Dueck, a powerful voice for the faith in this country, wrote a Globe and Mail article entitled “No Prayer Rule? A godsend.” She’s got a point. So does my friend Bruce Clemenger, when he writes “Will Religious Observance Be Allowed at Government Functions?

Regardless of where you come out in this area, the country is in transition. We do not have a formal separation of church and state like the Americans, nor do we have the constitutional introspection and legal precedent set by a constitution which is viewed by some as nothing less than sacred writ. We are, however, in the midst of great social reflection and change in this matter. A new social contract is somewhere on the near horizon. It will be a social contract that will make neither the secular perspective extinguish faith from public life in this country, nor will it provide those who embrace the status quo any kind of long term comfort.

May we as Christians be wise in our interactions, honouring of the Lord and His presence in every sphere of life, and thankful that in so many ways we live in a wonderful, passionate, and passionately free country. Thanks be to God.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Vol 11 No. 45 The Stranger At The Gate; The Stranger In Our Midst

 

Genesis 18:1-16; Hebrews 13:2

Dedicated to Margaret Ridgeway

 

Dear folks,jbellnewsnotes

We cannot begin a newsletter this week unless we begin by addressing the terrorist attacks in Paris.  We cannot begin to address those without also noting that Beirut experienced one of the most deadly terrorist attacks in many years with no great note; no Western media gnashing of teeth or no great public remonstration.  We could also think of the attacks in Baghdad.  I wonder if we seem to have a different value for life depending where in the world someone is murdered.

One of the best and most comprehensive statements on this desperate tragedy is found in the letter from the President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Bruce Clemenger:

In response to the terrorist attacks of recent weeks, most recently on the people of France, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed, with those who have been wounded and with the people of these hurting nations.

As our sister alliance in France has said: “This horrendous jihadist violence that has struck our country must not prevail. Refuse to give in to panic and hatred and let us put our confidence in justice. In these times of adversity, let us bond in national solidarity. And, for those who believe in the hope that the gospel brings, let us pray for our country and those in authority”.

We call upon Canada’s Christians to pray for these countries and their leaders in the days to come. May God give them wisdom and courage in the face of terror and adversity. Let us respond not out of fear, but with resolve in the pursuit of justice; let us strive for peace. True religion is that which cares for widows and fatherless children, which binds those who are wounded and cares for those with broken hearts, which uplifts all who are in distress.

May we remind ourselves that perfect love drives out fear and of our call to love our neighbor as we show kindness and respect to people of all faith groups including at this time the Muslim communities of Canada who are also shocked and grieved by terrorism.

We are beset by another challenge, not simply the one that presents itself in Paris; that is, how will we now live into receiving refugees from areas that are both conflicted, and religiously and ideologically compromised?  It is reasonable as a Christian to hold in tension and in balance (both words are simplistic and overused) the need for radical hospitality with the need to ensure that refugees that are arriving on our shores are those that are appropriate to the honourable name of refugee (like our Lord Jesus as an infant).  We must do more than simply passively approve.  We must understand fully Genesis 18:1-16 and how it is cited and summarized in Hebrew 13:2.  We must surprise ourselves by our steady steadfastness and courage, our dependence on God, and our recognition that we offer to those in need the mending, welcome, and generosity with which we have been treated by Christ himself.

I dedicate these remarks to Margaret Ridgeway who, as a single woman in the early 1940’s, from a well-established and excellent Vancouver family, was deeply grieved as a Christian about the internment of Japanese Canadians after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.  This internment occurred against the advice of the army, military intelligence, and the RCMP.  It was spearheaded by a Christian.  For many years Margaret was a member of First Baptist Church in Vancouver, BC.  She knew of the way of the cross.  Over the years until the end of the war she experienced the way of the cross.  She left the comfort of her home and was disowned by her family because she believed that to be the hands and feet of Jesus, she was to teach in a Japanese internment camp.  She faced the fear of those around her and the anxiety driven by racial hatred.  She followed a simple belief from Hebrews 11 that inasmuch as it depended on her “God would not be ashamed to be called her God.”

I pray and trust that each one of us might be like Margaret, who in turn was like Jesus.

Peace of the Lord be with you in these turbulent times.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

Vol 11 No. 44 Thanksgiving and Prayer

The following is presented in bullet form to make it easier to grasp. I trust it does not appear too disjointed.

  • Greg Anderson, Pastor of Riverdale Baptist Church in Whitehorse, was our Bible Study leader at Banff this year. He exhorted us to pray for the new government that had been elected, and also encouraged us to remember all those in elected public service and office. For some that is an easy command to respond to positively; for others not so much. May I remind you of something a friend recalled recently: when the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, in his speech that acknowledged his defeat, praised the new President Elect Barrack Obama, there was booing from the crowd. He admonished them not to do so saying, “President Obama is my President.” And so this is true for all who ran and were elected or defeated in the Canadian Federal Election. As Rex Murphy on a CBC editorial commented, “Successful and peaceful transfers of elected power are accomplished in part because of what we mark every November 11th on Remembrance Day.”
  • Please pray with thanksgiving for those who have served in our Armed Forces, both in peace time and in conflict; for those who paid with their lives and those who were injured. Please pray for their families. Also pray for all victims of war, for there are many.
    When I think of national celebrations I also think of and give thanks for our Head of State/Governor General Daniel Johnson. I thank him for his service to our country, his personal warmth, and his sincere Christian faith.
  • Please pray for Rod Olson who leads our refugee initiative. Rod tells me that we have 41 CBWC churches that have expressed interest and over 9 churches from outside our denomination with whom we are working. Pray that Rod is protected from the overwhelming nature of this need; that he might pace himself, be strengthened, and that he might be encouraged.
  • Please pray for Sam Breakey and his colleagues as they visit churches to be involved in their renewal and health. May more and more churches recognize the need for this ministry in their communal lives. Might Sam and colleagues have real wisdom as they respond to churches who have agreed to enter this process. The encouraging news is that more and more churches are willing to do so.
  • Thanksgiving for the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference: the largest number of folk for many years and a time of personal growth, reflection, and building of community. God is good in so many ways.
  • I pray for this time and season in the life of our camps where, having just recovered from summer, people are about to launch into planning for next year. May refreshment and recovery be truly meaningful from the previous summer. May there be vision, industry, excitement, and God’s imagination throughout all of next year’s plans.
  • As we approach the Advent season, the beginning of the Christian year and the birth of Christ, may we this year see it as a wonderful challenge and encouragement to celebrate the community God has called us to but also see it as an opportunity for service in unique and sacrificial ways. Might we also see it as an opportunity in two other ways: first, might we see the Advent and Christmas season as a gift to be able to pray faithfully for our friends, colleagues, neighbours, and acquaintances that they might see, meet, and have relationship with the Lord Jesus this year, maybe for the first time, maybe anew; second, might we be open to give and receive the hospitality of ourselves, our church communities, and our Christ in new, surprising and exciting ways this year.

Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Warmly,

In Christ

Jeremy

Vol 11 No. 43 Banff and More

Dear folks,

The Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference this year started out on an encouraging note this week with 251 participants – last year there were 219, the year before 191. We are moving in good, healthy and encouraging new places. We began our time together with Ordinary Time, a folk acoustic group very familiar to those who have gone to Regent College and Carey Theological College. We were led into the music by the familiar face and soul of Sam Chaise, who has been called as the Interim Pastor at White Rock Baptist Church, BC.

We begin each morning this week with Bible study and communion. I would invite you to read the passage that Greg Anderson (Senior Pastor at Riverdale Baptist Church, Whitehorse, YT) is leading us through. The passage is below. His topic is The Formation of the Pastor / Leader / Believer. One wonderful thing to draw our attention to, to quote Greg (or paraphrase rather), is that “the patriarch Jacob sends to us this place that is awesome”; or as the King James translation would have it, “this place that is dreadful” – both terms inspiring awe.

Acts 20:17-38 (NSRV)

Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

17 From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. 18 When they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. 22 And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. 24 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. 26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 29 I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. 35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

36 When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. 37 There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.

Acts 20:17-38 (The Message)

On to Jerusalem

17-21 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. When they arrived, he said, “You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally—laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn’t skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.

22-24 “But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.

25-27 “And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God’s inaugurated kingdom. I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God’s will for you.

28 “Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.

29-31 “I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.

32 “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.

33-35 “I’ve never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”

36-38 Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.

 

This is a very simple and interim report of what is happening at the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference this week.

A few further things:

Tony Campolo had two wonderful definitions or commentaries on two important topics. Firstly, he spoke about the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross for us and he quoted the orthodox liturgy:

He became everything that we are so that we could become everything that He is.

Secondly, in a very teaching way, he talked about how we often do prayer especially personal and petitionary prayer. He said prayer is intended to establish dependency. It is not primarily framed to inform God; or, in a quip, “prayer is dependency not information.”

We are very grateful to Heather Thomson, Jill Schuler, Victor Ku, and Bob Webber for their great work. Many others are involved; more to follow.

Warmly,

In Christ

Jeremy

Vol 11 No. 42 News From There And About

Dear friends,

With a title like today I feel a bit like a Maritimer or a Newfoundlander. There are many expressions that we use to greet one another, engage in ministry, and encourage one another. I want to share some of them today along with some items for prayer.

Keats Camp is having its gala Admiral’s Ball on Thursday night. Pray for all the staff and volunteers who have organized it and for those who will be there.

I attended the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) gatherings in Winnipeg last week. I was deeply encouraged to be sitting with Tim McCoy (CBOQ Executive Minister) along with the new President of World Vision Canada, Michael Messenger. Michael is from the Moncton and Halifax area originally; my family immigrated to Moncton from England in 1957. When I go to EFC, I am deeply grateful for Bruce Clemenger and his consistent desire to bring Christians of core gospel faith together. Karen Hamilton from Canadian Council of Churches was there, as were some good friends of CBWC including David Wells (of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada). I will write more on the meetings another time.

Our next item is a 17-year tradition for First Baptist Church Kelowna. On the last Sunday of October everyone shows up to church in their jeans and flannel shirts. Why? All are invited to the King’s family orchard after the service. The King family organise a weiner roast and everyone is invited to glean the apples left on the trees after the harvest. Our BCY Regional Minister Rob Ogilivie was grateful to join in this fun community gathering this year.

In Vancouver, someone with a lot of apple trees donated their fruit to the Kitsilano Christian Community so a few families got busy to make as many apple pies as they could. Last Sunday, these were sold to raise funds for refugee sponsorship and since everyone loves apple pie, everything was sold out in about 20 minutes, bringing the church $500 closer to welcoming refugees to Canada.

This week the Executive Ministers of each of the denominations in Canada will be meeting in Mississauga in conjunction with the CBM Working Partners Group and CBM Board meetings (Canadian Baptist Ministries). Please pray for Terry Smith and his installation as the new Executive Director of CBM on Friday evening, and Malcolm Card, the new chair of the CBM Board. We are thankful for the leadership of Ken Bellous over the last couple years as the outgoing chair of the CBM Board. We are also thankful for the CBWC reps to the CBM Board whom we elected at our CBWC Assembly in April: Laura Nelson, Greg Anderson, Val Fenn, and Paul Stade.

Please continue to pray for Sam Breakey and friends as they begin the church health and renewal process with several churches. One of our churches that is engaging in this process had an excellent bulletin insert for the congregation. Here it is: Kitsilano Christian Community bulletin sample.

Finally, Rod Olson continues to work on our behalf in sponsorship of refugees. We have been entrusted with a resource, the legal sponsorship agreement, and now much is being asked of us by the government, individuals and churches. Rod has been in touch with 45 churches that want to be involved in sponsorship, 37 of which are CBWC churches; 3 are ready to select a profile. So far we have had 9 profiles accepted. We have 6 profiles awaiting final decision by the church and we have several in process. These 9 profiles translate into 20 refugees that will be brought to safety by 6 different churches.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell