Foundations: Building on Christ
Kurios exists to enable young adults to build their lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
February 2022 is our month long fundraising campaign. Throughout the month we will email stories of how God is at work in our community, and invite you to partner with us financially as we seek to raise $85,000 to meet our budget.
For more information about donating, please visit https://www.kurios.ca/give/.
Laurel and Jack Fitzsimmons – A Pandemic Love Story
By Jenna Hanger
Fifty years after they first met, Jack and Laurel Fitzsimmons’ whirlwind, social-distanced romance is a moving testimony of God’s care and love for the most intimate parts of our lives.
Jack and Laurel first met as classmates in the BLTS class of 1969. While they were friendly, there was no hint of a romance between them. At the time, Laurel had just met Jim Dixon, the man who would become her husband for 46 years. He was part of a young adult’s group in a church next door to BLTS and would often organize events for the two groups. Laurel and Jim dated for four years before they married. They lived in Calgary, where they both were from, and had one daughter together.
A few years later, while driving the bus for other BLTS groups, Jack met his first wife, Ivy Stark. They were married for 43 years and had three children and five grandchildren. They moved around a bit before settling in Medicine Hat. After Ivy passed away, Jack relocated to Yorkton, SK, to be close family.
Jack and Laurel had virtually zero interactions for the next fifty years. Their first contact came out of the blue––a friend of Laurel’s found an old hymn book she recognized belonging to Jack’s mom. She contacted Laurel to see if she knew how to reach him to return it. Laurel, who was good friends with Jack’s cousin, got his contact info and messaged him on Facebook. They chatted for a little, but it wasn’t until a year after Jim passed away, in January 2020, that they truly connected again. Jack saw a Facebook post Laurel had written on the anniversary of Jim’s passing. He reached out to give his condolences and to let her know he understood what she was going through.
Shortly after that, Laurel received an invitation to attend a BLTS reunion. She thought it would be fun to reconnect with classmates and sent Jack the invitation as well. Jack planned on attending and asked Laurel if she would be interested in going for coffee when he came. Laurel had no thoughts of a relationship and assumed he meant he wanted to get a few classmates together.
After the BLTS reunion was cancelled because of COVID, Jack said he would still come to Calgary since he had a hotel booked, and perhaps they could go for dinner. Laurel finally caught on to his interest. Having not dated for 50 years, it took her a moment to see it, but when Calgary locked down hard, their plans were put on hold.
Both of them were living alone, unable to have friends or family over.
“It was lonely. Everybody was in the same boat, but it was really hard,” Laurel said. “We started talking more and more. Jack and I had been chatting on Messenger. I said to him one evening, ‘Do you know how to use Facetime on this thing?’ and he called me right then.”
“I had it all set up,” Jack quipped.
After they started talking on video, things blossomed fairly quickly.
“We spent hours, literally, talking to each other on Facetime. We essentially had nothing else to do,” Laurel laughed.
One evening, after Laurel took part in a grief program that had moved onto Zoom during the lockdown, she was feeling quite low. She was Facetiming Jack and shared how she was struggling. She asked him to pray for her. Jack began praying right then and as he was, Laurel heard a voice in her head say, “This man is for you.”
Laurel was shocked, certain the Lord just spoke to her. She really hadn’t been thinking relationship at this point, more companionship. Earlier that year, when she had been really struggling––unsure what her next steps were, overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to move and sell her house and being alone––her friends asked if she would consider dating again.
“I said no! I’m not interested in anything like that. If God wants me to have a man, He is going to have to bring him and put him right in my lap. Which He basically did, because I’m on my iPad with this man on the screen on my lap, and God’s saying, ‘This man is for you.’”
Jack, for his part, was already thinking Laurel was the answer to his prayers. A few months before they started talking, Jack had gotten on his knees to pray. He had tried a few Christian dating sites but hadn’t found anyone who shared his same values and beliefs.
“I said, Lord, this isn’t working. If you want me to be single the rest of my life, so be it. I’m okay with that, and that’s where I left it. That was in November. In January we started talking,” Jack said.
After that night, things got more serious. By April, they were eager to meet in person. There was a sense that their relationship was heading for the next level, and Laurel did not want to be proposed to over Facetime.
“We decided if we quarantined ourselves for two weeks––which wasn’t a big stretch, because we were isolated already––we figured we could get together without killing each other,” Laurel said.
Jack arrived in Calgary on May 1st with a ring in his pocket. They spent the day talking, and he ended up proposing. By May 9th, they were married at Crescent Heights Baptist Church with just the pastor and two witnesses––a work friend of Laurel’s and her photographer husband, who agreed to take their picture.
Jack moved to Calgary and became a member of Crescent Heights Baptist. They celebrated their first anniversary by moving into a new condo together.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Laurel shared. “It definitely was God’s plan. We have no question about that. We’ve had amazing experiences since we got married.”
Now, they spend a lot of time with their “bubble friends”—a couple who also lost their spouses of 40+ years and are newlyweds. The support they have in their group has been incredible and encouraging, as they all still process their own grief in the midst of their newfound happiness.
“The loss of someone like that doesn’t go away, even if you find happiness with someone else—you are still grieving the loss of your spouse,” Laurel said.
She added that it’s been a lot of fun, being a newlywed again with that friend group. They are all going through the same things.
“The kids get a huge kick out of it, all of them,” she laughed.
Partner Spotlight: CBWC Foundation
A Season for Serving
We begin 2022 at the Foundation with an air of hopefulness and optimism. Yes , the pandemic is still disrupting all of our lives. And yes, it does not seem that will change any time soon. But even with that reality, the Foundation is looking forward to a fresh season of service to the CBWC family of churches.
The first hopeful development is the renewed relationship between the CBWC Board and the Foundation Board. This past season of corporate restructuring, a new alignment of purpose, and a fresh strategic plan have brought a strong sense of team and a breath of fresh air.
Next, is the potential return of the Church Deposit Program, a popular ministry to churches and individuals which ended abruptly in 2019 due to regulatory changes with the Alberta Securities Commission. Today, we are researching viable options to rebuild the program and are engaging legal counsel to create the required framework.
Just in time! We are currently in discussions with several borrowers, requiring upwards of $6M to support redevelopment projects, infrastructure and ministry expansion plans and will rely on new investors to help meet these capital needs. In 2021, we funded two CBWC churches for strategic acquisition of adjacent property for future expansion. We applaud their vision and pray with them on how the Lord will lead each congregation in the coming years.
It’s a busy time at the Foundation, filled with intention and imagination of a future filled with hope and anticipation. Pray for us to have courage, discernment, vision and energy in this new season.
Jodi Spargur – A Resource for Churches
By Jenna Hanger
Jodi Spargur has been a pastor for 27 years and is the founder of Red Clover—Healing at the Wounding Place. This faith-rooted movement works to bring reconciliation between churches and Indigenous Peoples.
Her convictions about how to be a church and how to be a pastor have always been tied to caring for those most marginalized in the community. She strongly believes the church should be a benefit to our neighbours as much as it’s a benefit to those within our walls.
It was these beliefs that eventually led Jodi into her current work of educating churches about local Indigenous issues, and moving those churches to action in their local communities.
Born in the USA, Jodi spent her early years attending an American Baptist church in Vermont, before moving to Canada to attend Regent College. After looking around for a home church, she found herself drawn to Kitsilano Christian Community Church (aka, “Kits”)—mostly because of their welcoming attitude and acceptance of people from all walks of life. She soon became a lay preacher and sought out ordination in CBWC through Kits.
After 11 years with Kits, in 2009, Jodi became the pastor of a church plant in downtown Vancouver called God’s House of Many Faces. It was formed largely around First Nations families. This was a powerful, life-changing time for Jodi as she began to understand first-hand the reality of systematic racism and the impacts that colonization has had on Indigenous Peoples.
During this time, Jodi was invited to work with the Ecumenical Advocates for Reconciliation as a CBWC rep. This was a group convened by survivors of residential schools. They had a vision of doing local work that brought together faith leaders and residential school survivors to ensure that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations would be worked out on the ground. This work shaped the model that Jodi uses now in her work. The idea that the church absolutely has a role to play in the healing process, but first needs to understand it was a site of wounding, is foundational for Healing at the Wounding Place’s work.
After the TRC closed, Jodi had a conversation with one of the leaders, Chief Robert Joseph, who expressed concern that churches’ interest in the work of reconciliation seemed to be fading, even as it was being embraced by other pockets of society. He said that “if the people who pray aren’t engaged in the process, then reconciliation has no hope.” He then asked if Jodi would work to help people who pray stay in the conversation.
After asking her church to help her discern the next steps, it was decided that God’s House of Many Faces would join Strathcona Vineyard, freeing Jodi up to fully pursue this new calling. She now leads the Red Clover Initiatives, whose main purpose is to create Indigenous-led, local actions for healing and justice. Part of her work is serving as a consultant to churches to help them figure out strategies of engagement. She also offers conferences that connect churches with local Indigenous folks and the things they identify as needs. Jodi is also available to come preach, about Indigenous issues, or justice and mercy issues in general.
Toward Indigenous Reconciliation
Rev. Bill Christieson
Our churches have the responsibility to equip our members to faithfully confront the devastating relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Our eyes and hearts are being opened to the concealed colonial history of the oppression and marginalization of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people and communities. The 2021 discoveries of the graves of children at Indian Residential School sites has catalyzed a movement toward truth and reconciliation that is long overdue. In a movement toward reconciliation, a group at Westview Baptist Church in Calgary gathered this fall to engage Canadian history, develop a biblical perspective of justice and begin to create an imagination for moving forward.
Among the Calls to Action created by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is a call for churches to educate their congregations with respect to colonization and the oppression of Indigenous peoples (Call #59). While not directly involved in the operation of residential schools, CBWC churches have a role to play in acknowledging the complicity of Christian churches, confronting the legacy of oppressive systems, humbly offering remorse and apology, and committing to the re-flourishing of Indigenous people and communities.
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada is an issue of Biblical justice. Chris Marshall’s The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice gives an excellent framework. In a nutshell, justice is at the heart of who God is and who He calls His people to be. “Biblical justice touches on every aspect of life—the personal and the social, the public and the private, the political and the religious, the human and the nonhuman” (p. 10). In pursuit of the ‘right-ordering’ of the universe, Canadian Christians cannot neglect the need for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. We witness to the reconciliation power of Jesus when we embody reconciliation with our neighbours.
Recognizing the daunting aspiration of reconciliation, the Westview cohort focussed on addressing their own social location within the movement. In their book Decolonizing Evangelicalism, Randy Woodley and Bo Sanders emphasize that non-Indigenous churches must take responsibility for their own (re)education—what they call anti-colonization. The group focussed on understanding their own history, preconceptions, misconceptions, biases and fears. They wanted to do the work that would prepare them to engage Indigenous folks with humility and respect.
To this end, the Westview cohort confronted the reality of racism in Canada, in general, recognizing how the historically dominant, white-European culture has a significant negative impact on all immigrant communities. In particular, these historic perspectives established a polarity between the advanced white-European colonial government of Canada and the primitive “savage Indians.” In the pursuit of colonial expansion, the Indigenous Peoples were seen as a problem to overcome. Under the guise of mutually beneficial treaties, the Canadian government systematically subjugated Indigenous Peoples and worked to eliminate their culture. The Truth and Reconciliation reports state that the efforts of the Canadian government, by any standard, amounted to cultural genocide. The Westview group took the time to try and understand the impact that oppression, generational trauma and government neglect has had—and continues to have—on Indigenous Peoples. And the Westview group worked to create an imagination for what a mutually beneficial and flourishing future might look like. The history is heavy, but our hope points the church toward a future marked by reconciliation.
Hope has been the product of the Westview group’s engagement this fall. The group has developed an appreciation for an Indigenous spirit oriented around relationship—with one another and with the land. An essential principle for the Southern Alberta Treaty 7 region is “We are all Treaty people.” The spirit and intent of treaties was to create a mutually beneficial relationship between Indigenous Peoples and settlers. Recovering this spirit and intent, we would be equipped to move into the future together. Likewise, the Indigenous relationship to the land is a model for sustainability and mutual benefit. Indigenous Peoples recognize they are intimately connected to—related to—creation. What happens to creation always has a significant impact on people and communities. As those who have been called by God to steward creation, we ought to resonate deeply with this perspective. When we move from seeing creation as merely a commodity, toward embracing our relationship to creation, we foster the motivation to act with discernment. The church has the opportunity to come alongside our Indigenous neighbours, begin to make reparations for the harm they have experienced and imagine together a future of mutual flourishing for all.
The Westview Baptist Church group has taken a first step. It is a first step that is accessible to other church groups. Support and equip those in your CBWC congregation who can champion and facilitate a learning cohort. Begin by learning the history of your region. Who were the original inhabitants of the land where your church is located? Learn about their enduring communities. Be interested in the lives of your neighbours. Be sure to listen to the history according to Indigenous Peoples. There are many stark contrasts to the lessons many of us learned in history class.
- The CBWC Justice and Mercy Network can direct you toward resources and support church groups. Connect with JMN here: https://www.justiceandmercynetwork.com.
- Jodi Spargur helps JMN and CBWC foster attentiveness to issues and initiatives related to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Through Healing at the Wounding Place, Jodi is developing resources, services and events to equip churches to engage relationships well. Connect with Jodi here: https://www.redclover.ca/.
- The Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada have created a free course: Walking in a Good Way with Our Indigenous Neighbours. This course engages Indigenous voices and gives a good overview of history. The course is available here: https://courses.baptist-atlantic.ca/course/walking-in-a-good-way-with-our-indigenous-neighbours/.
- The University of Alberta offers a free online Indigenous history course. “From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.” The course is available here: https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html.
- Finally, Common Word Bookstore and Resource Centre curates an extensive list of resources on Indigenous-settler relations. Many of the resources are free. Access these resources here: https://www.commonword.ca/Browse/8118.
We acknowledge Westview Baptist Church is located on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (comprising the Siksika, Piikani and Kainai First Nations), the Tsuut’ina First Nation and the Stoney-Nakoda peoples (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley First Nations). This is also home of Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III. As residents of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta, we ought to seek to live, work and play in ways that honour and respect the spirit of the treaty and the lives of our Indigenous neighbours.
Planting the Gospel
By Shannon Youell
At the recent Church Planting Canada Congress, Missiologist Alan Hirsch spoke this word to planters and catalysts across the country: “Plant the Gospel, not churches.”
You may be wondering, “Aren’t they the same thing?” Not necessarily. At CBWC Church Planting, we’ve long advocated that church planting is the making of disciples who make disciples. From that increase of disciples comes new communities of gathering: churches. Jesus sent us to make disciples; He didn’t say “Go and make churches of all people.” Churches are a result of disciple making. Maybe this seems like a bit of a chicken-or-egg conversation. Does it really matter which came first?
We think it does.
It all comes down to fruit. Which is the intended fruit of the Gospel? An organization, or the disciple who is committed to the work of the Spirit in transforming them to reflect God’s love and character into the world and make more disciples? This is the outworking of discipleship. Thus, the clarification from Hirsch, “Plant the Gospel, not churches.”
Measuring by this metric also shapes the dynamic of how we view success and failure. If the Church, beyond the period of the Epistles and Letters, were to view success and failure the same way we do now, mass discouragement would have probably wiped out the establishing of new faith communities. Paul and others planted churches in communities throughout the diaspora that are no longer in place. Does that mean those planters, those churches, failed?
What if instead we would ask, “Where do we see ongoing evidence of the Gospel planted in Ephesus, in Europe, in my city?” We could point out evidence of the Story of God and His people, of Jesus as the Son of God who ushered in God’s kingdom dynamic, of people pursuing lives as God’s image bearers and ambassadors, as being still active and present. Thus, the Gospel was successfully planted. Even if the number of believers in a specific location have diminished, they are the fruit of the seed long-ago planted, nurtured and going through life cycles.
How we measure, or by what metric we use to deem success or failure, will vary greatly on what we determine the goal is. If the evidence of a successful church plant is ownership of a building, the number of folks engaged with the ministry of that church, and financial stability, then it is a natural progression to see the decline of people, funds and ability to hold on to a building as a “failed” church plant.
But if the metric is planting the Gospel, then a plant dying to the ground and scattering seeds with the Gospel DNA embedded would still be success. People came to faith in Christ, grew and flourished in a particular community and then scattered to plant Gospel wherever they find themselves. Thus, the church plant is a successful Gospel Plant!
In our world today, and even in our own church communities, we are experiencing a decline in church attendance, and some churches have just aged out. But does that make them failures? Can we celebrate what has been planted and scattered, even if the particular location of gathering is no longer on the geographical map?
Isaiah’s beautiful recounting of God’s words in chapter 55 reminds us of the invitation for people to come to the well of God’s goodness. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
A no-longer-gathering worship location does not return void. There is seed that has been and is still being scattered. It has accomplished far more than we understand with our human limitations. Perhaps we see closed churches as fails because we have been planting churches—when we were meant all along to plant seeds of the Gospel in our gathering and our scattering. Perhaps we view this as just a nuance of the same thing, but what if it isn’t?
Can we ask ourselves these, and questions like them, without feeling like we’ve somehow failed? I don’t think we have failed. I think we may need to simply, in a variety of ways, realign ourselves with the reality that any planting at all is “…for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”
Life Together | Assembly 2022
Theme Verse:Ephesian 1:17-19a
Date: May 26-28, 2022
Location: Best Western Premier Calgary Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, Calgary AB
Registration: Online Registration opens February 1, 2022
The purpose of assembly is two-fold: To foster deeper and meaningful connection with other affiliated churches and people of the CBWC, and to do the business of the CBWC. After a long season of gathering restrictions, we look forward with hope to being able to meet in-person to encourage one another in our life together!
Decisions on policy, new church affiliation, board member elections, and budgets are made at assemblies made up of delegates from our churches. The CBWC Volunteer Board of elected representatives bring to these meetings the motions to be discussed and voted on. The decisions made at Assembly then guide the staff and board in the implementation. In addition to doing the business of CBWC, we look forward to learning together with our keynote speaker Dr. Gordon Smith, participating in amazing worship, engaging with resources and in conversations, and exploring vendor booths of various ministries associated with CBWC.
Every church may send one (1) pastor and two (2) delegates to vote, plus one delegate for every 50 members above 100 members. All CBWC members and visitors are welcome as non-voting guests. For a legal quorum we need 35 churches represented with 100 delegates present.
We look forward to welcoming you!
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Making Connections is the monthly newsletter of the CBWC.