Vol 12 No. 52 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:24)

Dear friends,

Unlike 2016, I would like to begin this year with not only the day the Lord has made but that this will be the year that the Lord has made.

I attended a church service last Sunday where the preacher suggested that 2016 was just about the worst year he could remember: Aleppo, the Missing Women’s Task Force, scandals in politics north and south of the border, the surge of refugees in Europe, and for many, particularly in industry and natural resources, a very insecure economic present and future.  We often define ourselves by what we are not rather than what we are.  That can be true of individuals, organizations, or the whole year as I have just illustrated.  I would like us to remind each other that this was the year that 4 young men from 1 of our churches this very day are ministering in revival and renewal services in Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.  In doing so risking their lives so that people would know Christ.  This was the year when a minister’s kid from East Germany, Angela Merkel (who knows full well growing up under Communism what it is to be persecuted, marginalized, and discarded), welcomed 1 million refugees to her country… not a recompense, not an atonement, just mercy and justice.  This was a year when 11 young people at New Life in Duncan became Christians.  This was a year when ISIS went to behead the young Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean.  When they came to behead the young Muslim man with them he was asked to convert to a different form of Islam.  He said, “I want to die for the God these other men have died for.”  This was a year when the world saw such atrocities that have provoked us to call out “No!”.  Even more for those of us who are Christians to call out “No!” in the name of our Lord Jesus and to say “Yes” in this Christmas season not only to a life in Him but a new world because of Him.  I’m done with the prophets of doom yet I hear the pain of the world as the whole Creation groans.  I’m done with the pathologies that we teach our children and one another at times that cause us to have conversations with God that doom us.

Rather, I’m drawn over and over again in this Christmas season and the beginning of this new year to the Lord who would say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  I am humbled and remade by a God who would say “ For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  I stand amongst you… No, indeed, I do not stand alone.  We stand together in the midst of the verse which began this newsletter.  This is not only the day that the Lord has made… May it be the Lord in me and in each of us, a life that the Lord has made… Indeed, may this be the year that the Lord makes and remakes us all and the world He has made, died for, and loves yet again.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Quote of the Week: Leonard Cohen wrote, “There is a crack in everything; That is how the light gets in.” – quoted by Anna Robbins at our Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference, and quoted by Lee Best who is the envelope secretary at Kitsilano Christian Community. I couldn’t think of a better commentary on the world askew as it is nor a more wonderful perspective on our view of money.

Notes from the Family: Please pray for those who came to Christmas services seeking the person of Christ and relationship with Him, that they may have found Him and that the seed that is sown falls on good ground.

Finally, a note from Doug Johnson telling the full story that I relayed in a previous newsletter:

“Let me tell you the exact incident.  I was seated between Phil and your dad watching me on video give my brief message.  Half way through the message Roy got up, went to the portable door and rattled the door knob and called over to Phil—“Phil let me know when it’s over.”  At the conclusion I was asked 2 things: #1 Doug how many times did you put your finger up to your eyelid?  I said 8 times—your Dad looked at me and said 21 times.  He looked at Phil and said, “he can’t count.”  We all laughed.  The clincher came when your dad asked me “Doug what didn’t you like about your presentation?  I thought for a minute and I said, “I haven’t listened to myself on tape or video, and what troubled me was how strong my accent was.”  To which your dad replied, “Doug at this time in your preaching career it’s the only thing you have going for you—In the America that accent is worth $10,000 a year more, in Canada $ 5,000 a year or more”  Your dad and Phil were the most encouraging gift to me when I was preparing for the ministry. They were always there for me and never once did they give me any cause to be discouraged.”

 

Vol 12 No. 51 Christmas Day. Merry Christmas. Christ is Born. Thinking of Home.

Dear friends,

If the Easter greeting is:

He is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

Then a Christmas greeting might well be:

Christ is Born.

Hallelujah, Amen!

We’ll each find our own way of starting out the joy of this day.  Each Christmas morning Kerry and I gather with our children (if they be home): Jessica with her husband Stephen and their son Bartholomew (16 months old), and our son Andrew with his wife Anna.  We’ll do a number of things together but will in the course of the day read the Christmas story and give thanks.  We will repeat that experience with extended family at my sister Gillian and Stephen’s home.  Christmas for me is marked in my memory in over a dozen different homes but still in the midst of family.  Thinking of love at Christmas can have many different memories attached but for some this year memories at Christmas will be touched by the loss of those we love who are no longer present.  Some close to many of us have passed; a relationship may be compromised or severed; distance may “make the heart grow fonder” in different situations… “Out of sight, out of mind.”  My childhood Christmas’ were marked by relative frugalities yet times of great happiness with family and church community.  Turning our hearts to a memory of what was is sometimes great but sometimes harsh.  It is not a platitude or easy cliché when we say to each other at Christmas that thinking of love places us intimately in the presence of the Christ child and ultimately in the presence of the Triune God throughout eternity.  The comforts, security, sadness, unfinished feelings, and reassurances that all get tumbled up at Christmas. C. S. Lewis in the “Problem of Pain” (incidentally written before the loss of his wife, Joy) wrote a prodding, gentle challenge to our sense of “love” in a paragraph entitled “Refreshments on the Journey”:

“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast.  We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.  The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshed us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

There are lot of good and joyful thoughts to be had this Christmas Day… and in Christ every day.  Lots of ­­­primers in our lives for great good and pleasure.  All this good simply points to being even more at home in Christ this day and always.

May this week find you in your grief, comforted; in your joy, met; in your memories, reconciled, thankful and at peace in full measure.

In this Christmas Day as you rise alone, or in a crowded house, or are awakened by an excited child, may we all experience the simple joy of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph that first Christmas Day.  Amidst the uncertainty and joy of it all… Jesus is home.  Hallelujah, Amen!

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

Vol 12 No. 50 Fourth week of Advent: Peace

Dear friends,

Isaiah 9:6 calls the coming Messiah the Prince of Peace among other things. In John 14 Jesus said, “My peace I give to you.” Prince of Peace, Amen!  Giver of Peace, Amen…

Its personal… a gift to us for ourselves and others, yes!

All this peace talk is pretty “rich” given the sadness, mayhem, and grief all around.  The list of tragedy extends from Aleppo to the refugee crisis seemingly everywhere, from the ­­­Missing Women’s Taskforce to political polarization in a degree rarely seen in modern times.  Given the chaotic and confusing nature of this week’s Advent theme of peace let’s start simply by establishing some foundations for the topic.

Peace is personal.

Unless peace begins in my own life and relationship with God it is elusive and unsustainable.  It is a personal peace based on relationship with Jesus but never exclusively for ourselves.  The “joy” the angels sing of was for “all the people”.  So is the peace of Christ not just to be appropriated by me.

Peace is contagious.  1 John 4:19-21.  I cannot withhold or contain peace within myself, my friends, my family or intimates.  Peace as a Christian is contagious.

Peace as freely granted to me must be given away.

Peace is measured in different ways (and is not just about us!).  For the first time in 1,000 days Vancouver experienced snow that stayed on the ground.  How amazing is that!  More importantly there is snow in the local mountains but not just for skiers.  While snow was chaotic for Vancouver drivers it was heaven for Vancouver skiers.  Peace comes to us in different ways.  What the snow really means (and the fantastic growing snow pack on the mountains from the coast to the Rockies) is that there will be water for rivers and irrigation canals next ­­summer on the Prairies.  That water will grow crops for Canadians who export more lentils-legumes than any other country in the world.  Big deal.  Yes, it is.  Mark Doerksen and I talked to a lentil broker in Chaplin, Saskatchewan, last month.  He said the market for lentils grows by 100 million people per year.

Peace is reassured in different ways.  Temporary occurrence of snow in Vancouver robs a driver of peace for a few days.  The same weather brings snow to the mountains which enables our farmers to put food on a family’s table in India.

Back to Christ’s promise of peace: He has given us what he has promised but it begins with me.  If the peace of Christ rests in me it is contagious to others.  Peace doesn’t just extend to those I know; it is for the whole world.  From lentils to the gospel… the peace of Christ for all.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Vol 12 No. 48 Second Week in Advent: Theme of Love or Remembrance

Dear friends,

I am an unabashed fan of Christmas.  When I was age 2-8 years old in West Lane Baptist Church in Moncton, NB, Christmas was a church celebration of wonderful memories, family, and joy.  We were not wealthy and in the mind of a child actually quite poor.  I would go and visit my neighbour Peter Blackman to see what he got for Christmas in a fit of early covetousness; a characteristic which often changes with age as to the focus of one’s desires but not the intensity of the feeling.

Good, worshipful, and warm as these memories are there is also a sense at this time of the year of loss; remembering those who have passed.  Some of those memories are still deeply raw.  We have had the pictures of several of those who have passed this last year in a particular place in our living room.  Here are their names: Brian Stelck, Valerie Milne, and Rob Des Cotes.  Those folk come to my mind and many more flood our thoughts.  I think of Bonnie Ogilvie’s mother Betty.

There are other losses that are upon us especially at Christmas… loss of a job, a move, a relationship… new seasons of life.  In the midst of the birth of the Christ child there is still the awareness, even a wariness that his redemptive mission will pass through death.

I find hope in the life of Christ and in his great love for us; a love that will neither let me go nor abandon me.  As I am reminded of the growing cloud of witnesses I am thankful for the love granted to us all through the Christ of Christmas and through the many that have gone before us. 

There is an increasingly common event in Advent know as “Blue Christmas”: a service where folk gather for whom Christmas is a particularly difficult time.  I don’t take away from any of that deep rooted and often anguished experience.  At Christmas in the midst of loss, bereavement (which means at its root to be robbed), and sadness there is the birth of the Saviour, the love of the Creator, and the gift of new life in Christ.

So it is with love (the 2nd week of Advent) that I give thanks for so many: those who have gone before and those around as co-travelers on the journey.  This December marks the anniversary of Fred Adrian, Christian psychiatrist, husband, father, and friend to many including me.  Fred had a deep love and shared anguish for those who suffered in areas of mental health and he struggled to find meaning in the suffering of so many.  Here is what was written as part of his obituary late last year:

“Along with all his passion for work, he greatly enjoyed sports, music, and reading.  He had a full range of life interests.  Of all his passions he felt his relationship with God was the most powerful as it permeated his every action and was a major part of his being.”

In the midst of the promise of hope and the love of the Christ child at Christmas we remember, pause, grieve, yet give thanks.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Quote of the Week: New York Times, Sunday Nov 27, in an article by George Blecher on diners, there is a quote from Robert Frost which could well refer to some people’s reluctant view about church: “where, when you have to go there/They have to take you in”.

Notes from the Family: There is a church who I cannot name to protect a child that in seeking to accommodate ministry to a child with severe autism brought their week-time daily caregiver to the church to consult how they might set up a healthy and meaningful learning environment.  I very much respect them for that effort.

Vol 12 No. 47 Advent and Other Good News: Theme of Hope

Dear friends,

As we have shared before the first Sunday of Advent marks for many Christians the beginning of the New Year.  Jesus is our beginning and our end.  The preparation for his birth reminds us to take seriously the profound upheaval in the world that was created by his coming; an upheaval for the world but a life-giving change for me as his child: new born to eternal life.  There are a variety of themes for each of the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas along with the appropriate scriptures:

Hope:  Isaiah 9:2.

Love:  Deuteronomy 10:17-19a; John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-9.

Peace:  Isaiah 9:6-7; John 14:27.

Joy:  Isaiah 65:18; Galatians 5:22-25.

Often people have an Advent wreath and light one candle each week representing the above themes and reading the appropriate scriptures.  This is old stuff for some reading this letter but this pattern of behaviours slows down the experience of the Advent/Christmas season and forces a savouring and reflection that is absent in the culture around us.  It is often absent in the cultural “within us“: the motives and behaviours we exhibit amidst this great indulgent, consumeristic binge.  Excess doesn’t just belong to the culture.  It is often lodged in Christ’s church.

The centre candle is often called the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Day.  That is tradition.  I am not kin to all traditions.  I begin, draw, am “lit” and on fire because of Christ.  I have always lit the Christ candle first because it is from Christ that I draw the great themes of hope, peace, joy, and love… From nowhere else save Christ.  Enough said.

One more thing… This is about “crèche” or manger scenes.  Some of you will notice that some Christian churches do not put a “baby Jesus” in the manger scene until Christmas; a shame in my mind but fair enough by their own logic.  Not to be outdone 1 CBWC church on Vancouver Island had 2 manger scenes each with a “baby Jesus” in it.  Seriously?  Enough said.

For myself this first Sunday in Advent celebrates hope.  I felt that sense of hope in our Celebration Dinners this past week (more on that later) in Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.  Hope in the strength of First Baptist Prince Albert and in Michael Engbers love for folk and the love the church has for God.  Hope in Moose Jaw as a church begins to turn towards growth and renewal with real creativity.  Their newly ordained pastor Scott Carroll challenges us all by his good work in a hopeful direction.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

Quote of the Week: Isaiah 9:6 (NRSV) says so much of what I am wanting to say today:

For a child has been born for us,

    a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

    and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Notes from the Family: Bingham Baptist Church in Droxford, SK, has not had active worship in it since the mid-1990’s.  Adjacent to the church (which remains unlocked for any who wish to visit amidst many multiple guest books) is a municipal graveyard.  Many of the founding members of the church are buried there.

Vol 12 No. 49 Third Week in Advent: Joy (and a little laughter)

Dear friends,

Joy comes in many disguises.  Joy is found in the tears shed while singing a familiar song or being prompted by the Spirit and moved by anything that the Spirit wishes to ambush us with.  I have always been joyous as I have seen someone baptized or watched the new birth into relationship in Christ as someone becomes a Christian.  C. S. Lewis wrote an entire book called Surprise by Joy and he went on to amplify that in Mere Christianity by encouraging us to see human joy as the prompting and almost tantalizing invitation of the Spirit to know we are made for something more:

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The quintessential story of Joy is the angels visiting the shepherds written in Luke 2:

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

These references about joy should include Nehemiah 8:10b “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (I have left out Nehemiah 8:10a which has many wonderful Christmas themes of “giving to those who have not” – the bit about eating fat and drinking wine is something some of us have already got down pat).

The official part of this newsletter is done but I would suggest to you that an aspect of joy is laughter.  The Quaker Elton Trueblood wrote a book on the humour of Christ which by being difficult to find shows you how much the Christian faith values humour.  I want to share with you some humour from my Dad who turned 91 on Monday.  His memory is causing him a little trouble these days but he is still sharp, dry, and funny as ever.  Here are some examples from past and present.  For those of you who don’t know: my father whose name is Roy Bell with my mother Elizabeth, served at First Baptist Church in Vancouver and Calgary, and Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton, and was Principal of Carey College.  Bear with me if humour is not your thing, especially dry humour… Read no further.

  • Commenting on someone whose anxious prayers got them into deeper trouble he said, “She has conversations with God that doom her.”
  • When accosted by a woman congregant at St James Road Baptist Church in Watford, England, asking where on earth they got the name “Jeremy” for their firstborn: “From the Bible, Mrs. Jones, from the Bible.”
  • Had an argument with Marshall McLuhan in the parking lot of CBC Toronto where he had corrected the Roman Catholic McLuhan on the historical sequence of Calvin and the Puritans.  Neither of them would cede the point.  You can imagine what it must have sounded like.
  • Phil Collins and Roy were teaching a preaching class to which the Scottish Canadian Doug Johnson had just completed his first in-class sermon (Doug told me this story, to his credit).  Roy asked Doug what he thought of the sermon he had just preached.  To which Doug replied, “I hoped they understood me given my accent.”  To which Roy replied, “Your Scottish accent was the only thing you had going for you.”
  • When my wife Kerry asked him if he was good he asked her, “In character or disposition?”
  • Finally, the last one belongs to Phil Collins, who succeeded Roy as Principle of Carey.  Phil was at Carey late one night when my predecessor Harry Renfree called.  The conversation went like this:

Phil: Carey Hall.  Who in the hall do you want?

Harry: Who is this?

Phil: You don’t know?

Harry: No

Phil: Then I am not going to tell you (and hung up).

Thanks for your patience.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

Vol 12 No. 46 Banff and Beyond

Dear friends,

Before we weigh in on the wonderful week that was our Banff Conference let’s deal with some of the backwash of the American election.  The big news from down south was not who won or lost but the discussion about what role faith played in it.  There are particular comments on the role of Evangelicals.  Americans consider themselves a religious nation where reportedly over 40% go to church on a given Sunday… That would mean almost 120 million people… Trouble with that statement is that it is not true.  The truth is probably closer to 17-18% of Americans go to church which doesn’t tell you a lot except that they are a nation that self-describe as particularly pious but like the rest of us don’t quite make the mark.  In May 2015, Christianity Today reported on a Pew research on Christianity in America comparing 2007 to 2014.  The 2 surprising things about the report (there are a lot more than 2) were firstly that 50% of American Christians reported themselves as Evangelical (up from 44%, and Pew describes, sort of, what Evangelical means).  Secondly, a lot of mainline Catholic and Orthodox folk consider themselves Evangelicals as well.  You need to read the whole article to get the drift but it is fascinating.  The reason why we bother to talk about religion in American is that American Christianity unfortunately dominates the religious narrative to a far greater extent than it should (or deserves).  Second and third world Christians feel the necessity to individuate from American faith as well. 

Now to Banff…  We had an excellent time with over 220 present and an outstanding gathering of leaders and presenters.  We began on Monday night with an incredible time of storytelling and music with Cheryl Bear.  Cheryl was introduced by her friend Mark Buchanan.  Our Tuesday and Wednesday Bible Studies were led by Iain Provan, New Testament Professor from Regent College, taking our theme verses of Genesis 1:31 and John 3:16.  I taught the Thursday study seeking to encourage us to live by the Fruit of the Spirit as not simply an antidote for the age we live in but a repudiation of so much of its crude values.  Don Hutchinson spoke to us about Canadian Christians in the legal challenges of our times.  Matt Wilkinson from CBOQ led us into strategic and new horizons in youth and family ministries nationwide.   Anna Robbins challenged us about the role and engagement of Christ’s Church in culture, and in particular our tendency to respond with fear or complacency to those cultural challenges.  Lastly, Sam Breakey engaged us to critically and open-heartedly reflect on the renewal of Christ’s Church both across the West and in our own community.

This was an unusually rich experience which included 10 sessions most of which will be available in audio files on our website in the weeks ahead.  We were prompted to reflect on our indigenous sisters and brothers; We were challenged by the God who loves humanity and the world he has created; We were provoked to come out of hiding as the invisible church; We were asked to recognize the true framework and opportunities of Christian freedom in this country and elsewhere; and we were invited with Matt on a journey with children and families.  I am thankful for all this.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Vol 12 No. 45 Such a Week… a Lot of News

Dear friends,

It’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with four new Baptist Chaplains that have graduated from the Canadian Forces Chaplain School in Borden, ON. I would ask that you would pray for them and their families as they begin this ministry.

The first is Sebastian Morrissette, who is from the French Baptist Union (FBU). It is wonderful to have a francophone. Sebastian is the first of three francophones (plus several others who are bilingual) joining the Baptist Cadre.

The second is René J.B/ Brochu, who is part of the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec (CBOQ) and had already been in pastoral work before he joined the military. His wife’s name is Christine and they have three children.

The third is Bruce Jackson, whose wife is Melody. They have four children: Mikayla, Sophia, Asher, and Felicity. Bruce is from the CBOQ as well.

The fourth is Ka Sam. He has been posted to Esquimalt and is the third chaplain from the CBOQ. His wife’s name is Alice, and they have a daughter Julianne.

That’s one exciting event for the week. The second is that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) met on Thursday 3 Nov for President’s Day.  The EFC comprises the leaders of about 100 different evangelical organizations throughout the country. I joined in the EFC’s meeting on Friday in Toronto, ON with about 30 folk present who are “denominational leaders” (whatever denominational leaders means in an evangelical and congregational context). Of the people there 5 of the 8 Baptist Groups in Canada were present; Fellowship Baptists (Steve Jones), Baptist General Conference (Kevin Schular), CBOQ (Tim McCoy), FBU (David Rowley), and myself from the CBWC. It was an animated, encouraging time as we prayerfully seek God’s vision for our work individually and together. I am very grateful for the leadership of Bruce Clemenger (who spoke at our conference just a few years ago), and Rick Hiemstra who does studies in research (this year was on missions). I am also grateful for David Wells, who leads the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, as he facilitated our gathering.

That leads me to this coming week in Banff and seeking your prayers for the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference. We have a particularly hopeful, practical, and comprehensive approach to our speakers this week. We seek to really thoughtfully engage the whole church in the whole culture. Please pray with us as we seek to meet that challenge.

Firstly, Cheryl Bear, a First Nations Elder and musician who sang at the CBM gathering, is going to tell us some songs and stories of a renewed journey with our brothers and sisters. Please pray for wisdom as we share with one another.

Anna Robbins will speak about Christ & Culture and challenge those of us who see ourselves and the church as invisible…we may feel we are invisible but the Holy Spirit does not. Anna has particular perspective on this because she has taught in England and knows Europe well, and from her experience at Acadia Divinity College she knows this country well.

Sam Breakey who is familiar to most of us is engaging the health of the church as he walks us through opportunities for covenanting wisely and preventatively around our own church health.

Matt Wilkinson from the CBOQ will speak to us about the key concerns of losing those under 35 in the engagement of the church.

Don Hutchison, former legal council for EFC, (note the remarkable timing of the BC Court of Appeals decision on Trinity Western University) will speak to us about the Christian Faith and religious freedom, both in Canada and around the world.

It’s a complete feast only fully framed by Andrea Tisher leading worship with an emphasis on prayer.

Please pray for Heather Thomson and Jill Schuler as they help organize this.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell 

Vol 12 No.44 Building Community in an Unconnected World

Dear friends,

Lat week we spoke about the challenges of our geography and I reminded you in a previous letter of an older and very experienced hand at Regional Assemblies, Annual Gatherings, and the old Federation Triennial, who intimated to me that we communicate far more than we ever did but we never see each other.  If you are not actively involved in Leadership Forums or Celebration Dinners, Ministerials or Affinity Groups that would very much be true.  However, there are other means of being together.  They only begin with some of the newsletters and communiqués that I am about to list.

You can read news from Alberta, BC-Yukon, and the Heartland in their Regional Newsletters.  Our camps have their own newsletters you can sign up to receive on their websites.

My personal newsletter News & Notes goes out weekly.  CBWC news comes in monthly Making Connections and the Church Health & Planting newsletter.  You can subscribe to any of these 3 newsletters at cbwc.ca/subscribe.  Resources and other stories can be found in the newly updated Resource Guide and in Partnerships & Possibilities.

With the greater use of Skype we are moving more from print to faces, from the word to relationship.  I trust that this is the beginning of the broadening (given our geography) and the deepening of our willingness to engage each other in our lives together.

Before I close I want to introduce an excerpt from a speech from the Afro-American evangelist, slave, and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth (read the speech here).  It has some offensive language in it but it is an Afro-American woman using slang to describe her own story.  Without mentioning the elections to the south of us (no names please).  Her speech can refer not only to the giftedness of woman, but the repugnance of slavery, and treating women with dignity.  When I read the piece about “none but Jesus heard me” I simply wept.  I present it to you for reflection… A voice from a tormented past… One that is appropriate for today (with maybe the exception of her unusual view of Eve and the creation story).  Please pray for our neighbours to the south and for our own tendency at times to experience and express a very unwarranted superior attitude towards them.  Given our own failings we are sobered by the world around us and the challenges in our midst.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Notes from the Family: Next week we will be launching a new way to connect through our mobile devices.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/TheCBWC/.

Quote of the Week: Whatever you may feel about the compulsory nature of the lifestyle covenant of Trinity Western University (no issue about covenants here), the Supreme Court of British Columbia in the unanimous judgement signed by Chief Justice Robert Bauman and 4 other Justices rebuked the intolerance of those who in the name of tolerance judge others: “This case demonstrates that a well intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”  More about the historic tenant of Baptist pluralism next week.

 

 

Vol 12 No. 43 Building Community

Dear friends,

This is a brief note so that you might chew over the issues it raises.  Be not discouraged but let’s challenge and encourage each other to the building of community.  For more than a dozen years now we have not had an annual Assembly while the 3 other partner denominations in Canada (CBOQ, CBAC, and French Union) continue to do so.  The other denominations have a clear geographic or historical affinity…  Of the 360 CBOQ churches over 90 churches are in the Greater Toronto area and the majority are within a reasonable drive of central meeting places.  Atlantic Canada have a central event called Oasis that people plan and anticipate to be part of.  Evangelicals in French Canada have always had a strong draw to gather together.  In Western Canada we have less advantages when it comes to history, ethnicity, and geography.

Previous leadership teams deemed it too expensive to meet together annually.  There are many ways in which they are right and continue to be so.  While I have submitted myself to the Boards and leadership teams I have served to meet biennially I have missed the opportunity for fellowship that this annual gathering offers.  For instance, if you miss one biannual meeting it will be 4 years between when you last met with the CBWC family and when you next attend.  Here is what we do to augment the absence of an annual gathering.

While pastors meet at CBAC’s Oasis we offer pastors 2 gatherings annually: regional ones and the Banff Pastors & Spouses Conference.  We have developed strong traditions of gathering people to build networks in the Leadership Forums which have been embraced well in BC and the Heartland.  Celebration Dinners have sometimes over a 12 month period exceeded over 1000 people altogether and have been well received in celebrating God’s faithfulness amongst us.  I found it amusing and frustrating when one pastor commented that we need less events and programmes and more relationship to build up the CBWC family.  The networking of churches in the Leadership Forums and the family gatherings which are the Celebration Dinners were all about relationship and continue to be so.  The supreme irony was this individual does not attend either of those events which brings me to the critical piece.

If we are not going to meet annually we must be more intentional about meeting regionally.  The BC Area Assembly continues to be an excellent place of fellowship and ironically the rather impersonal internet has provided us with an extremely effective biannual meeting called the Webinar which regularly draws over 100 churches and almost 200 participants.  This piece is meant to encourage participation and next week I will continue with all the communications and resources created to build up community in this disjointed age.  Just a beginning.  The peace of the Lord continue to be with you.

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

Notes from the Family: Jodi Spargur has been granted some funds from the Trinity Opportunity Fund to continue the work of responding to Indigenous Peoples in Western Canada as per the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Quote of the Week: Invocation of the Holy Spirit from the Celtic Book of Prayer:

 

Most powerful Holy Spirit,

Come down

Upon us

And subdue us.

 

From heaven,

were the ordinary is made glorious,

and glory seems but ordinary…