Korean Pastors Of English-Speaking Presbyterian Churches In Canada

By Kevin Lee, Minister of Vision and Direction, St. Andrew's, Calgary, Alberta

After almost eight years at Bridlewood in Scarborough, Ontario, I accepted a call to St. Andrew's, Calgary, in beautiful Alberta. In September of 2014, I decided to drive across the country to begin my new journey. Along the way, I dropped in on friends that I had met on a retreat to Florida in 2013 for Korean pastors ministering in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Here is a brief account of their ministry.

My first stop was in Kapuskasing, Ontario, where the Rev. James Byung-Yun Ko leads an ecumenical shared ministry – a two-point charge of St. John's Presbyterian and Kapuskasing United Church.

James, his wife, and two sons welcomed us with a wonderful Korean meal as we were the first out-of-town guests since their arrival in Kapuskasing two years before. I was delighted to see the pictures of familiar faces in the entrance area of the church at St. John's – names such as the Rev. Morley Mitchell, founding minister of Amberlea, the Rev. Dennis Cook, currently serving in the Presbytery of Pickering, and the Rev. Dr. David Sherbino, looking splendid as he always does!

I made my way from Kapuskasing, which I found cold already by mid-September, across northern Ontario towards Thunder Bay, and after a night's rest, I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where my wife and I met up with the Rev. Captain David Inseob Won and his wife. Inseob is a chaplain at the air force base there. Before entering the chaplaincy, Inseob served a large Korean congregation as the worship pastor under the Rev. Cheol Soon Park, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. David was born in Korea, is a graduate of Knox College, a guitarist, a husband, a father, a minister and a chaplain, and still young to boot!

After our breakfast together, Inseob's wife, Sosun, gave us a traveller's pack with snacks and drinks and a CD of the album called "Good News", which she recorded.

My next stop in Manitoba was Carberry, where I met with two pastors ministering in the Presbytery of Brandon.

First, I met with the Rev. Min-Ho Yoo, who ministers at Knox-Zion in Carberry. Min-Ho has been serving there for a number of years. With him lives his high school-age daughter, while his wife has returned to Korea to resume her teaching career in design at a university. His wife visits twice a year, in winter and during the summer months.

One of the most impressive and inspiring aspects of the Korean ministers serving across Canada has been their willingness to make sacrifices to serve. I am currently in a similar situation, having made the move to Calgary while my wife remains in Toronto with our youngest daughter who is finishing high school. I now know personally how hard this is, and my admiration goes even deeper, knowing that many of them are not from rural communities to begin with, and when you consider their isolation from their culture, food, and friends, you begin to realize the scope of the challenge they have willingly embraced.

My next visit was with the Rev. Jeanie Lee serving at Knox in Neepawa, Manitoba. We met to have lunch together in the brand new casino in Carberry. Jeanie (pictured here on the left, with my wife Hannah) served together with Inseob in a large Korean congregation for over a decade as the Pastor of Children's Ministry before entering Knox College to pursue ordained ministry. The charge in Neepawa was supported through Canada Ministries, and Jeanie has now completed her first appointment. Knox is now currently a self-sustaining congregation. One of the most interesting aspects of Jeanie's ministry is the bi-lingual services at Knox. There is a small but vibrant Korean immigrant population in Neepawa, many of whom have come to work in the local meat processing plant. The services are in both Korean and English and their potluck suppers have the prerequisite Kimchi and rice as the staple items! Jeanie has managed to buy a home in Neepawa, where her daughter and grandchild come to visit.

My next stop took me to the spectacular prairie lands of Saskatchewan. Some people say that the drive through Saskatchewan is boring as there is nothing to see. I cannot disagree more! I now know why it is called the land of the Big Skies. In Saskatchewan, I met with the Rev. Jonathan Kwon ministering in Swift Current at St. Andrew's. Jonathan is a graduate of Knox College, and during his studies he frequently visited this province with the intent to minister here. After his graduation, the sponsoring presbytery in Saskatchewan certified Jonathan, and a congregation in Grenfell called him. In five short years, Jonathan helped to grow the small struggling congregation into an 80-member going concern.

After hearing at a presbytery meeting that St. Andrew's in Swift Current was slated to close, Jonathan asked the presbytery to send him with only one year of stipend guaranteed. There are so many interesting, innovative, cutting edge, and yet simple ministries going on at St. Andrew's that are so very inspiring and encouraging. First, the church is gorgeous both inside and out. Overgrown trees and shrubs have been cleaned up, new audio-visual equipment and new instruments were added, all donated by individuals. New programs include drumming class…jazz dance class…ESL classes…Taekwondo class (Jonathan is a black belt)…Tagalog (Filipino) class…Kimchi ministry (makes lots of kimchi and shares it with everybody). The best thing about St. Andrew's ministry is its ministry to children. There is art and familiar images that kids like posted everywhere throughout the church. There are little children's stools located in the front of the sanctuary for the children's time! I was so inspired that I wanted to stay and become a member of St. Andrew's. Sadly, I must report that Jonathan has resigned as of March 8 to return to Korea. He will be missed!

My next stop was in Bassano, Alberta, where the Rev. Peter Seok Ho Baek is the minister of Knox in Bassano and in Gem. The unassuming building from the outside is absolutely stunning inside. Great care has gone into the building with all of the original glass and 100-year-old pews, but also with all of the modern touches like a brand-new kitchen that Peter and other volunteers have installed. Knox is truly a community church with vital youth and children's ministry in partnership with a Korean congregation in Calgary sending volunteers to run summer camps.

The church often hosts large memorial services for community members who were not part of the Knox family. To assist them, they recently added a video system to accommodate all of the attendees in the fellowship hall. Once again, repeating a familiar refrain, the church is filled with signs that children are not only present, but welcomed.

I wish I could have posted more pictures here but due to the space limitations, I have posted only a few. If you would like to see more pictures of my journey across western Canada, please visit my Facebook page. Search me as "pastormaclee" and visit my 2014 posts and you will see the posts from my visits with ministers across Canada.

On the list that I have, there are approximately 20 Korean pastors ministering in non-Korean-speaking congregations across Canada. Here are their names and churches and communities they serve:

  • Rev. Joshua Jin-Soo Kang, St. Andrew's, Amherstburg, Ontario.
  • Rev. James Byung-Yun Ko, St. John's, Kapuskasing, Ontario.
  • Rev. Justin K. W. Kim, St. Paul's, Woodstock, New Brunswick.
  • Rev. Dong Ha Kim, First Presbyterian, Brandon, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Sean Kim, St. Andrew's, Perth, Ontario.
  • Rev. Owen Eun-Ho Kim, Knox and Kinlough, Teeswater, Ontario.
  • Rev. Jin Woo Kim, Memorial, Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
  • Rev. Thomas Jin-Hyuk, University, Toronto, Ontario.
  • Rev. Caleb H. K. Kim, St. Andrew's and Knox, Fenelon Falls, Ontario.
  • Rev. Jacob Juhang Lee, Bethel, Ilderton, Ontario.
  • Rev. Jeanie Lee, Knox, Neepawa, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Tim Choi, Edmonton Urban Native Ministry, Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Rev. John Jungwoo Paeng, Knox's (Galt), Cambridge, Ontario.
  • Rev. Yong Wan Joey Cho, Cedar Tree Ministries, Cowichan Grace, Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Rev. Chuck Moon, Tolmie Memorial, Port Elgin, Ontario.
  • Rev. Peter Seok Ho Baek, Knox, Bassano and Gem, Alberta.
  • Rev. Min-Ho Yoo, Knox-Zion, Carberry, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Kevin Kyu-In Lee, St. Andrew's, Calgary, Alberta.
  • Rev. David Inseob Won, Canadian Armed Forces, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Wally Hong, Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church, Niagara Falls, Ontario.
  • Rev. Joshua Kang, York Memorial, Toronto, Ontario.

March Prayer Request: Please pray for the safety and return of the Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim of Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario, who went missing January 31 during a humanitarian mission, and is facing charges in North Korea. He has made hundreds of trips to North Korea where he helps in oversight of a nursing home, a nursery, and an orphanage.

A Lesson for the Teacher

Liwonde, Malawi Baptist College Class with teacher James Statham
Liwonde, Malawi Baptist College Class with teacher James Statham

Sweating profusely after the hot midday hike along a winding road, I carefully eased myself into the crowded and dilapidated Toyota minivan. The minibus was made for eight and had seen its better years in Southeast Asia as a taxi, but, like Abraham and Sarah, new life was being wrung out of it. Two nursing mothers and several preoccupied Muslims were my nearby companions. For the next hour, 18-20 of us lurched along the potholed highway, occasionally stopping at tattered villages to disgorge and then to swallow up eager new riders and often huge bags of maize.

It wasn't Canada. It was Africa, and I was way out of my comfort zone. It was Malawi, September 2014. I was neither safe nor comfortable, even though we passed nonchalantly through several police checks. Everybody knows that minibus capacity is "just one more". But I felt secure, for I knew Who had put me there.

Why was I in that land called "the warm heart of Africa" nestled next to Mozambique and Zambia where we Presbyterians have a lengthy history going back to David Livingstone? Presbyterians Sharing, for the last four years has been supporting my son, Todd, and his family, to teach Systematic Theology and Church History at the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Seminary in Zomba. An hour's drive away in Liwonde is a Baptist College that also trains men for the ministry. "Would you be able to come and teach New Testament?" Todd was asked. His answer? "No, I can't, but I'll ask my Dad."

I retired from congregational leadership two years ago into a time of significant and unexpected spiritual renewal. I considered this request as a call from the Lord to step into the unknown. We had been to Malawi two years previously to visit family, but God had more for me to learn than what I was going to teach.

After the Baptist bishop (!) approved my coming, I was asked if I would also teach Homiletics. This College operates on ten-week semesters twice a year for two years and had been functioning for eight years. Out of deference to my being away from home too long, the Academic Dean compressed 36 hours of teaching Matthew to Acts into four weeks, necessitating three-and-a-half-hour seminars, less a fifteen-minute break. In addition, there were four seminars of preaching instruction. The twelve men in the class were mostly in their forties and fifties, and, as Malawi has a subsistence economy, being one of the poorest countries in the world, they were of necessity farmers as well. (Everyone grows their staple food, maize, and everyone knows what hunger feels like. Fifty percent of the population is under fifteen years of age. The national HIV rate is 18%.) What I discovered was that the students had been preaching, pastoring, and evangelizing for many years, but with little formal training. One man had been preaching and pastoring among several village churches for 17 years. To my surprise, only two men spoke sufficient English, so I made good use of an interpreter and a blackboard. I lived nearby in a typical African village with a most gracious family of seven.

Church women meeting on mats in the yard of my host family
Church women meeting on mats in the yard of my host family

Little in Liwonde was familiar to me except the passion that these men had for Jesus. The church in Africa is growing exponentially. I had been told that the church in Africa is "a mile wide and an inch deep". It's true. They are not a book culture and few Bibles abound. John 3:16 is the constant core of preaching. The African church is close to being a New Testament church. Should I be teaching homiletics to men who are doing a better job than me at bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? My goal was to get them into the wonders of God's grace and love in Scripture, but not away from John 3:16. If we have grasped the gospel at all, the essential question will always be, "was Jesus necessary?" So when the goal of our preaching is no longer lives changed for Christ, we have stopped preaching. Jesus' message to Nicodemus was simple and unequivocal. Michael Horton, in his new book, Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever, writes, "The high minded of our age are offended by the simplicity of God's speech to us, which addresses the learned and the unlearned alike." Nicodemus was a changed man because "It's not the church that creates the Word, but the Word that creates the church" (p.59).

The church that I saw in Africa is rich with a passion for Christ, but lacks education. The church in Canada is rich in educational opportunities, but lacks passion. These twelve meagrely-educated men are passionate about the necessity of being born again/from above for themselves and for others. And they are now concerned about, as one said, "the looming Goliath of Islam in the villages". Thirty percent of Malawi's 14 million population is Muslim. Churches near Liwonde were torched last year. These men are front-line troops.

Spiritual battle is not comfortable, but if we seek only the comfortable, we will never find the Lord who meets us where He is – in strange places – often well out of our comfort zone. I had the privilege recently of listening to Bob Kuhn, the President of Trinity Western University, a college often found fighting for us on our front lines. We are not impacted by militant Islam here in Canada. Our "Goliath" is militant secularism and the narcissism born of excessive affluence. He said, "Christians in Canada fear standing up and standing out. We would rather head for the closets recently vacated by others."

I was ashamed of myself in Malawi. I met again a part of myself that I do not like. Too often, I counted the days until leaving. Too often, I summoned dogged perseverance. The long flights, the intense heat, the squalor, and the boredom stretched me emotionally and physically. I lost ten pounds. I suppose I'll get that back, but I don't want to lose what my students taught me.

James Statham <jhwstatham@shaw.ca>, Peachland BC

Paris Presbyterian Church Sports Camp

Campers paddling the Grand River in Ontario
Campers paddling the Grand River in Ontario

Extreme Water
Canoeing, swimming, team competitions

Extreme Land
Ball hockey, soccer, basketball, team challenges, wacky sports

Sports Camp is a mission on the move. Through sports, the leaders strive to emulate the work of Jesus by focusing on building relationships and leading by example. This is the model of ministry that Sports Camp has been built upon. Every time there is interaction with someone, that person is being influenced. Our influence is dominated by our actions. Certainly, a week at camp allows for a lot of interaction. The goal at Sports Camp is to make all of our actions intentional, actions that reflect Jesus. So how do we use that opportunity?

Building Relationships

Over the many years of Sports Camp, so many unique relationships have been built within our community. People are drawn to our camp, not just for what they do, but for how they feel. PPC Sports Camp is the only exposure to church for many in our community. We are able to show them the love of God. Actions often speak louder than words.


Another word for leadership is people-building. Our Leadership In Training (LIT) coaching program has impacted the lives of teenagers through the training, experience, and support that they receive. The skills that the teens learn during camp are ones that impact how they deal with other people long-term. We are not satisfied with building up our LITs; we also seek to impact the campers. Sports Camp has connected with hundreds of families in our community through a common interest in sports. Our adult volunteers, from the church and the community, make this possible. The families that have participated in Sports Camp have experienced far more than sports. Their lives have been influenced by our commitment to be a reflection of God. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Stephanie Nolson <ppchurch@bellnet.ca>

Glenbrook Upward Soccer Camp

Glenbrook Upward Soccer Camp
This past summer, the eyes of the world were watching the World Cup of soccer in Brazil. The names of Maynard, Messi, and Rooney, if they were not already known, became even more well known as they played in soccer stadiums across Brazil. With each day's coverage, the CBC usually had a panoramic view of the city of Rio de Janeiro, including the famous statue of Jesus Christ with His arms outstretched over the great city. What does soccer (or football to most of the world) and Jesus Christ have in common?

Over the past five summers, Glenbrook Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario, has run a one week Soccer Camp for children and youth. With the increasing popularity of soccer in Mississauga, aided by events like the World Cup and the Canadian Women's National Soccer Team success during the Olympics, Glenbrook decided to use an alternative to a traditional DVBS to connect with children and youth interested in having fun playing soccer but also with a purpose to share the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ.

The program that Glenbrook uses is provided by UPWARD Unlimited, who provide a well-planned curriculum and the basic equipment (each child gets a soccer ball, T-shirt and a water bottle). The congregation in turn provides the venue, which is a local soccer field, and the volunteer staff, which ranges from a prayer team to coaches for each of the teams. God provides the sunshine! This summer from August 11-15, 55 campers enjoyed learning soccer skills and the value of teamwork, along with a daily Bible memory verse. Twenty-five volunteers (which included high school students and yes, even a 75-year-old soccer enthusiast) from Glenbrook and two other sister congregations (St. Thomas à Becket Anglican Church and The Indonesian Reformed Evangelical Church) worked together and provided a great week of fun. If your congregation is interested in having an UPWARD soccer camp, please contact Debora Lim at Glenbrook and she will be pleased to assist.

Rev. Ian McWhinnie <pastorian@glenbrook.ca>

More Sports Camp News

From July 21st to 25th, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Bolsover, Ontario, ran a sports camp for 5- to 13-year-olds. It was an all-day program that included snacks and lunch. We were blessed with a great staff and 30 wonderful campers. One of the highlights was the amazing full participation in the daily memory verse.

Also, from August 11th to 15th, in conjunction with Athletes In Action and a local Pentecostal church, the Bolsover/Woodville Charge participated in running a soccer skills camp for 7- to 12-year-olds. With an international-level qualified head coach, the program was of high calibre and well received. It was a half-day program that will likely be extended to full days next year. The kids loved the daily Jesus dramas.

Fred Stewart, Executive Director RFwPCC <fred@pastorfred.ca>

Celebrate Freedom: Freedom Session Report

Last year, at the prompting of my daughter and son-in-law, I attended "Freedom Session" at their church. Freedom Session is a Bible-based twelve-step program, aimed at freeing us from our addictions, compulsive behaviours, and tendency to do the wrong things. The goal is to find healing and freedom through Jesus Christ. (Website: www.freedomsession.com)

What follows is my testimony on graduating from the program.

The main reason that I went to Freedom Session was to support my wife in her need to attend in order to deal with painful depressing memories from her youth. I also wanted to evaluate the program to possibly take it back to our home church. I also thought that, just maybe, I could also learn something on the way.

The most meaningful breakthrough for me during the 26-week program was, surprisingly, what I learned about myself and what I needed to do to break the grip that Satan had on me, and then doing it to obtain freedom.

What I have learned is that:

  • I needed to forgive those in the past who have hurt me.
  • I needed to take responsibility for my own life and the hurt that I've caused others.
  • I needed to confess my sins and hurts to myself and to God and to others. "Therefore confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16a).
  • God has shown me that I needed to make amends to those whom I have hurt.
  • I had to admit that I was wrong and had no right to hurt them in that way.
  • What I do, now, after the fact, cannot undo what I have done or remove the hurt I have caused. I have no excuse for why I hurt others as I have. They did not deserve that.

In the future:

  • I need to recognize my errors as they happen, admit them, and make amends right away.
  • I need to train myself in humility and godliness, through filling my mind with godly things, like the holy Scriptures, the Bible.

I have set in motion a strategy to prevent myself from again slipping into Satan's power but continuing to live with the Holy Spirit, in freedom from Satan's power. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV).

And yes, I plan, as the Lord allows, to take Freedom Session to our home church. Also, as the Lord allows, I plan to take steps to incorporate Freedom Session into the renewal activities of our whole denomination.

Praise the Lord for loving us and caring for each of us. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Now, ninety days afterwards, I am still praising the Lord and still reading the Scriptures daily, which I had gotten away from over the years and slipped into some other bad habits. In effect, Satan had quietly grabbed hold of my life, subtly, and made me an ineffective Christian, despite all the good things that I was doing, or thought that I was doing. Now, I am reading a short passage of Scripture daily, marking it, and writing down how it is meaningful and applies to me. I am talking and praying with my wife daily, which we had also gotten away from. I am asking the Holy Spirit to help me with my compulsive behaviour, to keep me from being dragged back down by Satan. Yes, I am trying to walk with God, and loving it! It is great to be free.

Many of us, both in the church and out of it, have hurts and abuses from our past, as well as broken relationships. People are living in states of addiction, compulsive behaviour, envy, bitter jealousy, greed, anger, and other things that are keeping us from living the life of freedom that God has designed for us. This program, Freedom Session, can help us, as it has me, if we take Scripture seriously and really want to get closer to God. It is the first step for renewal in our lives and thus renewal in the church.

George L. Myers, Guelph, Ontario <glmyers@bell.net>

Am I Thankful?

October 2014 Presbyterian Record Article

The more I pray for, study, and seek renewal for the church, the more I realize that personal renewal is a necessary part of what happens corporately. I am not completely sure if it is a precedent condition, a coincident condition, or a result of the other. I am pretty sure there is reason to ask a "Chicken and Egg; which came first?" type of question about many of the past times of renewal.

In thinking about Thanksgiving holiday observances, I was drawn along a path that is relevant to personal renewal. It started with wondering why we needed a holiday to remind us… Read More

Adult Discipleship Studies

St. Andrew's, Scarborough, Ontario, in 2014

We have been blessed in so many ways this year and want to share our recent experiences and thoughts with you. First, we are grateful for the thanks, queries, and comments regarding the studies we wrote about in a 2013 Renewal News article. We only recently learned that while most churches do Bible studies, these "theme" studies are still very much in the minority. This is partly because the concept is fairly new and the books and DVDs are not readily available in local stores. But we go online to see what new studies are available and which themes would be of help to our church.

Our studies are held in our church, and we start off with a social time. This relaxes the group and they are then more likely to participate in the discussion time. In addition, some of the group are friends of our members, and so it is important to strive to help them to feel comfortable. We play the DVD section prior to the discussion time. (If it is not convenient or possible to play the DVD, you can still gain much from the study because the spoken content is usually part of the book.)

When our Pastor Duncan Cameron quotes in a sermon from one of these books, we make note of the author and explore the book to see if it would be a study of interest for our congregation.

So why are we doing these discipleship groups when we have regular Bible studies? It is because we find that they help us to understand our Scripture readings and our theme studies. In turn, they guide us as we deal with our everyday lives and the challenges we face in our modern world. Since we all have people in our lives who are not believers, these studies also help us to find opportunities to open their hearts and minds to the joys of being a Christian. Do we always succeed? Of course not –- but we keep on trying and praying that some day, they will realize how blessed we are in how we handle difficult times in our lives and that our Lord will guide us if we give Him the opportunity.

In our discussion times, we frequently hear about a painful situation that one of our group is experiencing, and amazingly, often someone else in that same group has been through a similar time and can be of help and comfort to that person. This is an incredible affirmation of how our Lord guides us in setting up the groups and reminds us anew that He is always there for us. And it comforts others as they realize that when they need our Lord to help them, He will find the right person to be there for them.

The last study we did was Grace by Max Lucado. So often, we take the word "grace" for granted and use it in so many ways, i.e. grace period, grace note, graceful dancer, pre-meal grace, etc. We all learned that we had much to learn about grace, and we hope we will never take that word for granted again.

The decision in selecting our next study to start in September is a wonderful lesson in itself. I had been researching what book and author to do next. Pastor Duncan had quoted from John Ortberg on occasion, so I decided to check out his books. Six were of definite interest, but one title just would not leave my mind: "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of The Boat". So early in January, I met with Duncan about the next study and said that this title really appealed to me. Duncan gave me a big smile and said, "I'm starting a new series this Sunday on l Peter". It was a wonderful example of how our Lord guides and leads us. Have no doubt that something special will come from this study. How could it be otherwise?

– Margaret Maciver, Elder <margaret.m@bell.net>

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Dr. Jeff Loach is Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Nobleton, Ontario; Clerk of the Presbytery of Oak Ridges; and a sessional lecturer in spiritual formation at Tyndale Seminary. This article was adapted from his blog post at www.passionatelyhis.com.

Recently, I had a three-hour conversation with a colleague whom I deeply respect and genuinely like. Our conversation went "around the world" in one sense, but found its focus on God, the things of God, and being leaders of God's people. It was the kind of conversation that leaves one energized and encouraged about the task of serving God's kingdom.

It doesn't matter whether you're in church leadership or not — you need a friend with whom you can have those comfortable conversations. Ideally, you need a friend with whom you can talk about your work and your faith; for my colleague and I, of course, those two things are intricately interwoven. But to be able to chat freely, openly, and vulnerably with someone about life and faith is a real gift. You can do this with your spouse, if you have one, and that's an important part of any marriage. But it's also good to have friends, particularly those who share similar vocational or avocational interests, with whom to exchange ideas and just generally commiserate.

John Calvin certainly had this in mind when he created his Company of Pastors, a weekly gathering of clergy from all around Geneva and environs, in the 1530s. Not all jobs have any sort of built-in method for fellowship, but that doesn't stop us from creating them. Even if we are not working outside the home every day, as is the case with retirees and stay-at-home parents, there can still be room for connecting with friends in a similar place in life. (If you're not sure of the value of this, check out any moms-and-tots group, or the coffee klatch at the nearby doughnut shop most weekday mornings!)

These examples allude to another form of Christian fellowship from which we all can benefit: the small group. Congregations have different names for their small groups; at St. Paul's Church, Nobleton, Ontario, we call them LifeConnect Groups. They are avenues for study, fellowship, mutual support, and service, and are key means of helping the congregation fulfil its mission to connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community. Being part of a small group is a great way to remember that our faith is not just a Sunday thing –- God calls us to integrate our faith into every aspect of our living. That's just basic discipleship. Following Jesus is the vocation from which every other part of life flows. Having a church family, a small group, and faithful friends makes a difference in our walk with God.

We all need people in our lives to keep us sharp, in the best way –- they are gifts from God. Sometimes, though, we need to seek out those gifts! Have you?

"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend" (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).

A Christmas to Remember

I had the opportunity to hear Rodger Nishioka (Associate Professor, Christian Education, at Columbia Theological Seminary) speak this past fall. One story he told was about a research interview he did with a woman who lived in an apartment building across from a church. She told him that nothing that happened there had any effect on her life. She said that if that local church ceased to exist, it wouldn't make any difference to her. Dr. Nishioka then challenged us to think about whether the people in our communities would notice if our local churches suddenly disappeared.

The other thing he shared that I thought was noteworthy was this: "As society becomes more high-tech, there will be a corresponding need for high-touch."

During the recent power outage of Christmas week, I had the opportunity to reflect on some of the things Rodger said, and I came to two conclusions.

First, our Nassagaweya Presbyterian Church (NPC) community in Campbellville, Ontario, does make a difference to our neighbours. Many volunteers joined staff at the church during the week of the ice storm crisis to provide water, heat, electricity, food, and friendship to anyone who came through our doors. Further, donations of leftover barbecue containers meant that dinners could be assembled for pick-up to deliver to hydro crews who couldn't come to the church. This may have gone unnoticed by many, but for those who did notice, our contribution was appreciated.

Second, we are a "high-touch" community. When one of the eleven hydro workers who ate at the church on Boxing Day saw the home-cooked meal in front of him, he said, "This is better than the Keg!"

Home-cooked food and good old-time hospitality are some of the gifts with which God has blessed our community. These gifts meet a real need in a world where people are becoming more isolated by technology. For me, it was a real blessing to see our church community leap into action during the power outage. Thanks for making my first Christmas at NPC so memorable!

Reuben St. Louis
Minister, Nassagaweya Presbyterian Church

Intentional Spiritual Community

Pictured at the November 2013 Conference for Presbyterian Church in Canada Ministers at Crieff Hills Community: Garfield Havemann, Barb Fotheringham, Mike Maroney, Fred Stewart, Katherine Burgess, Ian Shaw, Cherie Inksetter, David Sherbino.
Pictured at the November 2013 Conference for Presbyterian Church in Canada Ministers at Crieff Hills Community: Garfield Havemann, Barb Fotheringham, Mike Maroney, Fred Stewart, Katherine Burgess, Ian Shaw, Cherie Inksetter, David Sherbino.

Having just finished the three-day retreat for Presbyterian Church in Canada ministers – two full days bracketed by two half days – at Crieff Hills, I spent some time listening to the comments of the other participants, and was struck by how often certain words came up. With that in mind, I decided to expand on them a little.

COMMUNITY: Everyone needs community. The church itself is a community. Yet, how often are ministers themselves denied access to their own community, one where they feel free not to be perfect? One where they are able to share concerns with like-minded people? This is one thing which happened here in November. We came together – some of us not knowing each other, and before the first full day was over, we were a community. Tonight, I listened to a youth choir singing We Are Not Alone, and, as a result of the time in Crieff, it took on a whole other meaning.

BLESSED: I was reminded of the Beatitudes, as this word kept coming up in people's comments. And, because of what people said after the fact, I decided to write my own. Blessed are those who come together in a place away, for they shall discover things about themselves that they never knew before. I heard colleagues share their stories – all unique, and yet all oddly similar. I saw colleagues cry, and knew that these were healing tears.

DISCIPLINE: The spiritual disciplines talked about by David Sherbino gave each of us something to take away, something which we can work into our own lives. Many commented on the fact that most people would assume that spiritual disciplines are already a part of a minister's life, but the fact is that, like just about everyone else in this 21st century, ministers are busy people. Bringing spiritual disciplines to the forefront is one way for us to get back into relationship with God.

RELATIONSHIP: This was a key concept – the idea of building relationships with God and with each other. It is through relationships that we can grow in our faith, and hence in our ability to share it with others.

Thanks to Fred and to David for an amazing time apart. I could only wish that more of my colleagues, many of whom are struggling alone, could have been there. Then they would have known that they are NOT alone.

— Rev. Katherine Burgess,
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church,
Quebec City, QC <katherine.burgess.pcc@gmail.com>