Mountain Standard Regional Newsletter April 2023

This is officially my first article as Regional Minister for the Mountain Standard area. It has been a whirlwind of learning and getting to know the constituency, and I have really enjoyed it!

As I have met with pastors, elders’ boards, and cluster groups, I find myself humbled by the faithful and diligent people who are working and volunteering,

giving their time and talents, and using their spiritual gifts in service to their churches and communities.

I am grateful for the work of Dennis Stone, with whom I was able to overlap during the month of January. Dennis provided me with a good foundation, and an understanding of the region and its unique place in our union. Dennis’ friendship and experience will be missed. I am also thankful to the executive staff team who have provided their wisdom and support to me as I learn the ropes. 

On one of our final days together, Dennis told me he had one more place he wanted to take me. On a cold sunny afternoon, we drove into Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Edmonton where we trudged through the snow to find the grave of Gospel Pioneer Alexander McDonald. Dennis wanted me to know where we came from. In the late 1800’s, McDonald arrived in Winnipeg with a passion to bring the Gospel to the western region of the newly united Canada. In his time, he would plant 10 churches, and see the beginnings of the BUWC, among other things.

I have spent some time thinking about our visit to the graveside that day. Here are a few of my observations:

I stand on the shoulders of those who have come before me. Long before I ever was born, there have been godly men and women who have in faith been leading our churches and bringing the hope of Christ to our communities. This places on me a responsibility: to honor their work, to learn from their contributions, and to continue the work. Sometimes, in arrogance, I have believed the world as I know it is my creation—as though the church is solely dependent upon my leadership. I forget that this is God’s church, and He has been and is at work. And repeatedly, He has worked through others, in their strengths and weaknesses, to bring His purposes to pass.

The wonderful church in Leduc that I pastored for the last 28 years, was born, grown, and formed by the hand of God under the leadership of those who preceded me. Leduc was never “my church.” I was simply the steward of Christ’s church for that season, and my responsibility was to be faithful to His call. Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 3 come to mind: I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.

Our calling has not changed. Like Pioneer McDonald, we are still living in a world that needs to know the life changing message of Jesus. While the west isn’t “wild” like we imagine it to have been back then, the realities of living in our complex and fast changing world, continue to present opportunities for great faith. People are no less in need of the power of the Gospel than they ever were. The challenges certainly look different, but the brokenness of humanity remains the same, and people are still desperate for a foundation on which to build their lives. 2 Corinthians 5 reminds us: 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[e] so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Finally, I am struck by the fact that the game isn’t over. At our winter retreat at Gull Lake, Wil Rogan, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Carey, asked a question in conversation during one of our sessions. “What if we are still the early church?” I’ve reflected on that a lot. What is my role, my calling, in this time, in the middle of the game? I don’t say game to be trite, but I realize that I’m on a team, in the middle of a game, working towards a goal. And my role, is to do my part, and to use my gifts. There is a time to pass the ball and a time to take the shot. I must also encourage my teammates and recognize when to take a turn on the bench. Great teams not only have good players on the floor, but a deep bench to draw from. The game is not over, we are still in it.  Faith is inviting us not to give up, but to work together, and show the world that the Gospel is real. Jesus prayed in John 17,

18 Just as You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give Myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Baptists, I recommend the following books:

  • The Baptist Union of Western Canada:  A Centennial History 1873-1973,  J.E. Harris, 1976
  • Pioneering in Western Canada: A Story of the Baptists,  Rev. C.C. McLaurin D.D.  1939.  

In my few short months as a regional minister, I have had the chance to talk with a number of our pastors about either their experience on sabbatical, or their desire to take one. As I thought about this, it seemed like sharing some sabbatical experiences might be insightful, and instructive to others. There is certainly value in planning and preparation, but also the need to be flexible when things don’t go as planned. So, I have invited some of our colleagues to share their experience of sabbatical with us. The two experiences you will read are very different, and remind us that even on sabbatical, life happens.

Jeff Gullacher (Lead Pastor -Trinity Baptist, Sherwood Park)
I had the privilege of taking a sabbatical from June – September 2022. It was structured around four major themes: rest, spiritual renewal, re-tooling for ministry, and wise re-entry into my role. Each one of those themes had a desired outcome and multiple activities to work at. I had not yet had a sabbatical, so I consulted with trusted people to craft a good plan for ministry coverage and sabbatical activities. When June arrived, I did not set an alarm clock for four months. What a treat! Though my days varied considerably, I often spent the morning hours in reading or courses, the afternoon in recreation, and evenings with family. As I reflect upon my sabbatical, a few blessings and benefits stand out. It was a timely reset from crisis-management mode that typified the pandemic, into a more sustainable mode of pastoring. Secondly, I seized an unexpected opportunity to chaperone my daughter’s handball team to a tournament in Denmark. There are so many cherished memories from that trip! Another blessing was being an online attendee of the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference, which was a preaching conference by black preachers, primarily for black preachers. In one word: wow! Lastly, an audio course on various prayer practices gave me tools and a desire to refresh my prayer life going forward. I am so grateful that our church gave me this four-month time of rest and refreshment. If you have been considering a sabbatical, let me suggest a few things. Encourage your church board to nurture a culture of sabbath-taking. Encourage them to develop sabbatical policy for the sake of its pastors present and future. Strategically prepare your congregation for your sabbatical by challenging your lay people into significant leadership. For example, we developed a preaching lab of lay people who did most of the preaching in my absence. They did an amazing job! Lastly, make a good and wise sabbatical plan, but hold it with loose hands. It is more important to get rest and refreshment than to justify (self-justify?) your sabbatical by accomplishing a large list of activities.

Peter Ma (Lead Pastor – McLaurin Baptist, Grand Prairie)
What do you think about when I say sabbatical? Rest? Renewal? Recreation? Learning? Yes, and Amen. That was my plan in the fall of 2022. McLaurin graciously give me a four-month rest. I had planned retreats, some learning objectives, and a whole lot of rest. The goal was a reset—physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was very tired and very much looking forward to the time. In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. I am not sure the passage applies, but the sabbatical was anything but what I had planned. The sabbatical began with an MRI that led to an urgent cervical spinal fusion surgery (6-8 week recovery). Just when I was beginning to feel better, my brother called me to inform me that our mother had passed away. Now, the light at the end of the tunnel was a family trip to Hawaii during Christmas, a trip that we had been planning for the entire year—a once in a lifetime thing. On the day that we were to fly, we were informed that our flight was cancelled (thanks to the Vancouver snowstorm), and the chance of getting another flight was zero! FURTHER…we learned that we would not get fully refunded for the trip… somehow that just did not come as a surprise after all that had happened! A fitting end to the Sabbatical?

What can I say? Nothing we planned turn out. Instead, I learned and gained a much deeper understanding of disappointment and struggle. Psalm 46 has been my anthem (or any of the Psalms of David); Be still and know that I am God. The psalmist says “be still” to himself and over himself because the world around him is not still—there is war and enemies and strife and natural calamities and sickness. More often than not, we do not find God on the mountain tops but rather in the trenches. For that I am thankful and glad. He is with me in all circumstances. When January rolled around, I wanted a sabbatical from my sabbatical, but the truth is God is meeting me where I am at, as I am still in the process of resetting some things in my life. It is a slower process than I had hoped for, but everything in God’s timing.

If you have any questions, please contact me or to speak to your regional minister. I would be happy to provide you with some direction, and samples of sabbatical policies if your church doesn’t have one already. You can also feel free to contact those whose stories you will read. I’m sure they would be happy to chat further.

Tim Kerber, Mountain Standard Regional Minister

2023 Mountain Standard Regional Retreat

After two years of not being able to gather for the annual Mountain Standard Regional Retreat, it was refreshing to be at Gull Lake Centre again. For three days in February, 33 Pastors, Chaplains and CBWC Staff from the Mountains Standard Region gathered for times of worship, teaching, reflection, fellowship, and great food.

The retreat started out with a Spiritual Reflection Workshop lead by Peter Anderson, CBWC Director of Next Generation Ministries. Peter invited participants to take part in Experiential Worship Stations. Some of the stations included opportunities for confessions, focused prayer, listening for God’s voice, thanksgiving, admiring creation, and contemplation. Each station was interactive, and all of the senses were engaged. This was a great way to start our time together.

Dr. Wil Rogan from Carey Theological College was the retreat speaker this year. He came from sunny California to the cold of winter at Gull Lake. Wil used repetitive scripture reading, discussion and reflection time to bring those present to the question of “Jesus, Where Are You Staying?” Through the Gospel of John’s stories of Nathanael, the Samaritan Woman, the Man Born Blind, and Mary, retreat guests were challenged to examine how Jesus met with them and how he meets with us today.

The retreat also provided times of rest, refreshment and, of course, floor hockey and archery tag. Awards were given to Matthew Hirch for the “Loudest Elimination in Archery Tag,” to Tyler Graftaas for the “Best Floor Hockey Player That Wasn’t Tim Kerber,” and to Randy Loewen for the “Best Player Wearing an Oilers Jersey.”

Gull Lake Centre is one of the camps associated with CBWC, and it was great to be in the beautiful setting and facilities there. We are blessed to have camps that we can support and promote.

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal recipient Pam Richards

On March 14, 2023, one of our long-serving CBWC pastors was awarded the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal. Pam Richards served as Co-Lead Pastor at Strathcona Baptist Church for 18 years. She has also spent the last 12 years as the CBWC representative on the Edmonton Interfaith Housing Society.

Rachel Notley, who presented Pam with the award, said, “Her efforts have improved the lives of countless vulnerable Edmontonians, providing them with shelter, resources, and hope for a better and brighter future.”

“Pam’s leadership and dedication serve as an inspiration to others, showing how one person’s commitment to making a difference; can have a very powerful ripple effect.”

Pam encourages everyone around her to see the needs of others and work to help and encourage them. Congratulations on this award, Pam. Thank you for being an example of Christ’s love to our neighbours and to us.

Photos From Our Region

Zion Baptist

Strathcona Baptist

Southgate Baptist

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: