I deeply appreciate Dennis Stone; his person, character and the work he does for the Alberta Region. I am also thankful to Dennis for his invitation to attend this year’s Alberta Pastor’s Retreat. I enjoyed the day that I was there; the relaxed tempo set by the leadership and the collective “cardio session” otherwise known as the annual floor hockey tournament.
I have asked Dennis to respond to several questions, which will illume (I trust) the background, ethos and purpose of the Pastor’s retreat.
Dennis, thanks for your time, your thoughtfulness, and your care for us all.
1. When and where does the Alberta Regional Pastor’s Retreat occur?
The Alberta Regional Pastors Retreat is held annually near the turn of the month between
January and February. It is different than the Banff Pastors and Spouses
Conference in that it promotes collegial connectedness between pastors
directly. My first retreat was in 1990 when the retreat was held, as it was for years, at the Grey Nuns Retreat Centre in Edmonton. Four years ago, with the up-graded facility at Gull Lake Camp, it was relocated there. The annual retreat has had featured guest speakers such as Mark Buchanan,
Bob Roxbourogh, and Cam Yates, but other years it has featured those from our own
Alberta Region. There is always worship music, time for sharing and prayer, and lots of time for informal sharing. The retreat attendance hovers around
45-50 most years.
2. What was this years’ primary theme and who were the speakers?
This year Hugh Fraser was our featured speaker, taking us through the book In The Name of Jesus by
Henri Nouwen. The book deals ably with pastors’ inner motivations within
ministry. There were brief introductions of chapters and guided questions
for group discussions, followed by small group prayer. Every year there is
a moment for presentations by the Regional Minister, and this year we were
privileged to have Jeremy Bell, CBWC Executive Minister, join us for a brief report as well.
3. I understand that the conference has rotating leadership. Who were the leaders this year?
The retreat is set up each year by the Alberta Regional Advisory Group, which was comprised this year by Pat Schoenberger, Roy Nickel, Jim Atkinson, Tim Kerber
and Jason Johnson. Jason agreed to coordinate this year’s event and Roy
Nickel acted as our guide (emcee). Music was coordinated this year by Luke
Potter from Webster Community Church and was assisted by Keith Thompson of
Dawson Creek, Colin Bruins of Stettler and Jason Johnson. Sharon Onciul, the Alberta Region Administrative Assistant, looked after the promotion as
well as the organizational details relating to the facility usage.
We are thankful for the hospitality of the team from Gull Lake Camp including Steve Roadhouse, the camp director; Blair Woodrow, the business
manager; and the great food that was coordinated by Nancy Wilcocks, the food services manager.
4. Are there experiences or stories you can share with us?
My first Alberta Pastor’s conference was in 1990. At that point I was new to Alberta and inexperienced in my role. What I found at the retreat were relationships and resources that encouraged me for the years to follow. This retreat is regularly well attended by youth and associate pastors; roles that are greatly helped by networking. This year the youth pastors were all put into one suite, which hindered sleep but deepened friendships. Experienced pastors also appreciate the retreat. Phil Crump has pastored for 26 years in Cold Lake and he still chooses to make this time a priority. The retreat is part reunion, part equipping, part peer ministry, part rest, part exercise … but 100% opportunity for God to work in and through those who attend. The retreat is always a highlight of my year.
Another story: I remember one year coming to the Alberta Regional Pastors Conference when it was about -45 degrees outside. When I got as far as Calgary the motor in my vehicle decided to drop its oil … creating transportation readjustments that took months to resolve. This year a similar event happened to Kevin Ewaskow, our pastor in Cranbrook. Kevin decided to come a day early to Calgary to do some premarital counseling with a couple scheduled for a future wedding. Coming from the South he was driving into the Banff National Park when he noticed that his water temperature gauge was not reading right. After inspection he noticed a rock had pierced his radiator. So it was the day before the retreat when Kevin had hoped to visit relatives and relax, that he ended up putting in a radiator in his vehicle … one his wife had successfully taken to the USA the week before. Kevin’s trip took some sweat (literally), but each year much effort is taken by those in the Peace River country. The drive is easily eight hours for most. I was especially pleased to have Derek Kaemingk from Yellowknife take the time this year to come and be with us. When these individuals endeavour so faithfully to come to this annual event, those of us who live closer need to be sure to join them here.