Vol 6 No. 46 Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference

Dear Folks,

I wanted to briefly report on this year’s Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference.  It is hard to do so in the immediate aftermath.  One the one hand, there are wonderful memories and I can tell you some of the things that occurred.  On the other hand, there are many things of a personal, formative and relational nature which will require some time before they are fully understood.  The theme, the speakers and those in attendance gathered to fully engage our topic of “Ministering in Difficult Times”.  I’ll talk about that in a moment, but first I want to thank those who made this possible.

First, and foremost, I wish to thank Liz Swab in her second year of coordinating this major event.  Liz was thoughtful, unruffled, delegated well and was flawlessly organized.  I want to thank Colleen Schneider, who provided great assistance and was a sounding board for Liz and for the rest of us, and who, along with David Holten and Liz, formed a good liaison with the hotel.  As well, this event would not have been completed without the continued and thoughtful support of David Holten, as he not only manages the finances, but manages our anxiety around them.  As I mentioned at Banff, I would like to thank the CBWC Foundation for their financial support for scholarships for pastors and spouses to attend Banff.

In addition, I would like to thank Dawn Johannesson, from the BCY Regional Office, who remains a wonderful constant in these gatherings, not simply because of her longevity, but because of her relationships with the entire CBWC family;  Sharon Onciul, from the Alberta Regional Office, who continues to be extremely helpful, not only at Banff, but in working with Dennis Stone and John Prociuk, helping the Heartland as well as the Alberta region in the transition to the new Heartland Regional Minister;  Shelby Gregg, coming back from a 3 month leave, began her transition the week before Banff and yet participated in Executive Staff meetings; and Claudia Wakeman was instrumental in the organization of communion each day as well as helping with registration and other tasks. As well, let me take a moment here to thank Rob Ogilvie for his outstanding contribution to leading, prodding and creating community amongst us.

Some of you, but not many I trust, will wonder why I’ve spent such a considerable time in the previous paragraphs thanking staff.  I do it because we don’t do it often enough and because Banff is a unique context.  Those who are leading the retreat, which include myself, are not able to serve the attendees effectively unless all the background work is successfully completed.  Staff come to Banff, to work and while the setting is pleasant, often find themselves exhausted by the time it is done.  There have been comments at times, that we have too many staff at Banff.  We can’t do it without the above folk and we are thankful for them.

Each of our speakers, Darrell Johnson, Barbara Mutch, and Paddy Ducklow, had their own personal narrative around ministering in difficult times. Darrell’s leading us through three sessions in Romans was deeply appreciated by many.  Darrell had a wonderful exercise for us as he quoted Karl Barth, saying the phrase, “If God be with us” five times emphasizing a single word each time we repeated it:

  • If God be with us
  • If God be with us
  • If God be with us
  • If God be with us
  • If God be with us

Barbara Mutch’s exposition and exhortation out of Jeremiah, as someone said to me, “had people buzzing”.  That phrase is inadequate, yet conveys an incredible range of emotion, as Jeremiah was framed around Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday.  One of her more memorable lines for me was, “Jeremiah dwelt outside Jerusalem and inside the Torah”, phrasing for me the notion of being outside the culture (yet committed to the culture), but inside the Scripture.

Paddy Ducklow’s talk introduced thoughtfulness and levity amongst us.  He not only shared from his personal experience, but also unwrapped for us an extensive survey that he had done on clergy attitudes, experiences and perspectives.  It was a massive project, extremely helpful and very wise.  All who heard it wanted for more and I apologize to Paddy that his time was so limited.

Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference in 2009 had approximately 130 participants, 2010 had close to 230 participants.  While there are a variety of reasons for that, we will continue to pray, plan and hope that this singularly important event in the life of our work together continues to flourish.  Once again, thank you to Liz and Rob who led us, and thank you to each of our speakers who gave sacrificially of their own time and energy to be part of a challenging and exciting experience.

Thanks to God for this wonderful experience.




In Christ,