Clean Hearts, Loyal Spirits

by Rebekah Mitchell, published April 1, 2013 in The Presbyterian Record

Renewal, like commitment, is not something that happens once and is done with. Sometimes we forget that. We think that having had the experience once, we are good. We think that we have checked it off the list. One more thing accomplished. One more experience off the bucket list.

But renewal isn’t like that. Renewal is like the commitment one makes on their wedding day. A commitment that must be reaffirmed the next day, the day after that, the next week and so on, for all the moments of temptation or boredom or frustration one faces in all the days to come.

Renewal must be experienced again and again and again because our spirits are so easily exhausted. It doesn’t take much for the life of faith to go off the rails. A time of elevated stress can lead to the neglect of spiritual practices and a feeling of being far from God … or God being far from us. A sudden loss or even a sudden gain … Read More

Trusting and Trying – Weighing What Works at Westminster

by Matthew Ruttan, published April 1, 2013 in The Presbyterian Record.

Westminster is in Barrie, Ont. — a growing city. We’ve had people pass away and move. There is some changeaphobia. We don’t have any money in the bank. And lo and behold, there are a few people who don’t always get along. Sound familiar? Six years ago a question wafted in the air: Will we survive?
If you’re reading this it’s because hope is arising.

In the past five years we’ve been faithful. The number of worshippers has gone from 65 to over 90. Although some folks are no longer with us, we have 50 new members and many adherents (with more on the way). Numbers aren’t that important. Disciples are. Over half of those in worship were not here four years ago. We’re a slightly older group but are getting younger. Diversity is good when it reflects your community.

Can we make any generalizations to explain why things are going in the right direction? Does some of the good have to do with introducing a strategic plan, or some praise songs, or different programs, or something else? Church isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. If we don’t make the right generalizations this exercise can mess up our thinking. … Read More

Reflecting God’s Love For the Whole Community

Valleyview Presbyterian Church
Valleyview Presbyterian Church

Twenty years ago, the congregation of Valleyview Presbyterian Church constructed a new building at a new location on the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta, surrounded only by fields and aspen groves. Twenty years later, this church now stands in the west suburbs of the city of Calgary.

Recognizing that Christ has provided a unique opportunity for us to connect with the community that has grown up around us and to reach out with the Gospel, Valleyview has been very intentional about making the transition from a small country church to becoming a moderate-sized community church.

Making this transition required a number of difficult changes, which everyone realized were necessary.

So we changed worship styles from traditional to contemporary, and we created an inviting, relaxed and informal atmosphere in our facilities. We leveraged the community connection potential of our facilities through renting to church-friendly pre-schools and before- and after-school care programs, just to give few examples. We even changed our name to Valleyview Community Church Calgary.

And slowly over the past five years, these efforts – covered by our weekly prayer ministry – have received Christ's blessing and He has added many new members to His Body.

We are now a healthy, vibrant, multi-cultural, inter-generational, growing church, and we are looking forward to continuing to discover new and innovative ways to be the presence of Christ out in our neighborhood.        

Children and Worship Team Leaders
Children and Worship Team Leaders

Editor's Note – I would add "friendly and welcoming" to this description of Valleyview. I was a visitor on the first Sunday in February after a Saturday of leading a Children and Worship Training at Valleyview – see photo to the left of the Children and Worship Team Leaders.

Beside me in worship were parents with a baby on the left, and a younger man who recently moved to Canada from Korea on the right. In front, were two young girls dancing and also an elderly woman tapping her cane to the beat of the worship songs.

The worship team that day included a 12-year-old boy on drums, an energetic aging rocker on bass and others of diverse ages and ethnicity – a wonderful reflection of the congregation. May God be praised for blessing Valleyview and making them a blessing.

Linda Shaw

Share a Good News story of your congregation with Renewal Fellowship Board member Linda Shaw <> or call 519-428-5396

Minding the Minister – Clergy Burnout

(from the March 2013 Presbyterian Record)

Easter comes in April more than 80 per cent of the time this century. This year it comes at the end of March. For me it means Lent comes quickly after Advent and the Christmas season. It seems that one is barely over and planning for the next begins. It didn’t take me too long in ministry to realize the importance of planning my vacation and study leave carefully to ensure that my breaks were well timed.

Here is my concern. I have heard too many ministers say they have neglected to take off the time to which they are entitled. They always give reasons. Some are good; but most are insufficient. It’s not the only reason for burnout but I am willing to venture that it is a major contributing factor.

Minister burnout is a major concern. Congregations that dream and pray for turnaround and renewal will be thwarted and disappointed if this happens to their ministers. Then finger pointing and blame laying aren’t far behind. The frustration of all this can lead to the kind of conflict that can damage ministries and relationships for the long term. … Read More

Long-time leader wrestles with faithful response in a secular age

We live in a culture that is “illiterate to Christian ideas, often hostile to them,” says John Vissers. “Clearly communicating the heart of the Christian faith presents a very significant challenge, especially in the midst of hostility.”

Vissers is moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. He has also been ordained minister for more than 30 years and was the former principal of Presbyterian College in Montreal.

As a Christian leader, he wrestles with how to respond faithfully and effectively in a secular age.

“I am encouraged by the Church’s openness to explore new forms of worship and models of leadership. The Church has made a concerted effort to understand the culture, but we need to engage the culture more outside the Church’s four walls.”

This summer, Vissers spent three weeks in Ghana and Malawi visiting churches, seminaries and relief projects. He describes their evangelism, discipleship, and social justice work all flowing as one effort, “focused on following Jesus, and bearing witness to Him in word and deed… It makes you wish that Canadian Christians had more passion.”

He believes the Church is witnessing a dramatic shift in the global Christian movement where the next century will be propelled forward by leaders from developing countries.

“We need to listen to, and learn from, our cross-cultural brothers and sisters. This is a partnership and their society is in a different place … Read More

The Path of Renewal – Process Not Destination

(from the February 2013 Presbyterian Record)

Renewal is God’s intent for us and the world.

When we start talking about renewal lots of ideas (and even some old prejudices) come to mind. But at its core, renewal is God’s life-giving, restorative work. It transforms us little by little into Christ’s image and brings the world under Christ’s reign.

This transformation can seem miraculous, idealistic, maybe even impossible. We’re only humans after all. Humility isn’t bad, but neither is a longing to experience the abundant, eternal life Christ came to offer. It’s a life that flows out of us like living water (John 7:38). Our moments of feeling dry, weary, needing a change, or like butter spread on too much bread (to quote a hobbit) can be good. In those moments, if we’ll listen, we’ll hear God’s Spirit wooing us, calling us to walk again the path to renewal.

Our first step on this path is to return. It might sound strange, but didn’t Jesus begin his ministry by saying “repent, for the kingdom of God is among, within, near you?” Despite the connotation “repent” has today, Jesus was simply saying, stop doing what doesn’t work and return to the life of God already present with you. As we let go of the behaviours, perspectives and perceptions that have only brought death, we are … Read More

Dependence on God

(from the January 2013 Presbyterian Record)

If you are reading this column, I guess the Mayans, or those who would interpret their artifacts, got it wrong. The world did not end on Dec. 21, 2012. That leaves me with the same challenges I faced last year. Some of you may identify with me.

In our case, I believe that the Renewal Fellowship is at a major crossroads. Like many Presbyterian congregations, our members and other supporters are largely grey-haired and are either retired or soon to be. Almost every month we experience one of our donors reducing their support or even stopping completely. Unless we can cast a vision for younger Presbyterians, it is only a matter of time for our ministry to end.

Over the last year we have attempted to bring focus to the Fellowship so that we have a clear message and a strong understanding of what we are called to do and to be:

Our vision, passion and hope is to experience God’s renewal of our lives, our congregations, our courts, our theological schools and every place where Presbyterians gather.

Our mission is to bring Presbyterians together for prayer, learning, discussion and mutual support in groups small and large and to create environments where God’s people can hear the call for renewal and respond together. … Read More

Renewal Has A Name

(from the December 2012 Presbyterian Record)

This is my favourite time of year.

I suspect I am not alone. The time leading up to Christmas is full of planning and activity in every area of my life. Family plans are huge. Plans to get together with friends are also important. Shopping becomes a bigger focus and stores are full of seasonal goods and excited people. There is an increased pace in life.

Churches are planning and presenting special services and programs. I always look forward to seeing the loosely connected people of the congregation who show up, including students returning home from colleges and universities.

At some point I will hear the major prophecies of Jesus read and I will read them again myself. A part of Advent for me is trying to gain the perspective of the Hebrews as they waited in hope for their coming Messiah. I think we can learn a lot about “waiting in hope” from them.

Then Christmas celebrates the birth of our Saviour. It is the world-changing event when God showed up as a baby. The hopes and dreams of the centuries were fulfilled in him that night.

In a little book called On the Incarnation, written 1,600 years ago … Read More

Good News Journey – We’re Getting The How

I have attended Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church (Montreal) for eight years, and I've had the pleasure of being a part of the regular Wednesday gatherings for prayer. The leaders, Roberto and Jessica, have a strong burden for the well-being of our church. Through their humble, friendly, and warm leadership, Roberto and Jessica have set everyone at ease; from the very first meeting, they have set the tone for sincere, heartfelt prayers. Roberta has guided us in the art of prayer, which has not only encouraged us to articulate prayers at church, but has also renewed our zeal for at-home prayers. Sharing snippets of Bunyan, Goodwin, and Shepard – we're getting the how.

Although many of our entreaties have been for a new pastor, the requests are never wearisome but a delight. The prayer group members are committed to each other and have a burden for the whole church family. God hears our petitions, blesses the group, and makes the group a blessing to the whole church.

Each member of the group brings something special to our time together. Daniel brings not only his confidence in the Lord, but also his sparkling wit and zany humour. Lovina wears many hats in our little church, and her face shines commitment. Her earnest prayers reflect an expression of familiarity and an appreciation of the role of church. Enrique enriches us with the insight of his years and the unceasing flame of his love for Jesus. Rosemary's gift to our group is her experience as a missionary, and as chief cookie lady, we're also getting the sweets! Her very presence is a testimony to the way God matures us in the faith during our whole life-time. As for me, when I sit amongst this little group of bowed heads, uttering the holy name of our Creator – petitioning Him with the needs of our little church – seeing His sheep cry out to Him – praising Him – loving Him – I feel powerful, for I am reminded of a promise from the Lord: "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results." – James 5:16.

Oh, what a delight to gather in prayer. The Lord is in our midst, and our hearts are full of sweet expectations from Him.

Update: The Rev. Joel Coppeters was inducted at our church in September. We have the new pastor we have been praying for! Pray for Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church, where God is doing wonderful things! Amen!

Share your Good News story with Renewal Fellowship Board member, Linda Shaw <> or call 519-428-5396.

Renewal Isn’t Easy

(from the October 2012 Presbyterian Record)

What a blessing it is to be positioned in life and in this denomination of ours to focus on renewal. I am not the only Canadian Presbyterian who is emphasizing renewal these days, but as the full-time leader of the Renewal Fellowship within the Presbyterian Church, I get to fill my days praying for, imagining, working towards and trusting God for renewal.

What do I mean by renewal? There is so much that we could talk about if we were sitting over a coffee with some meaningful one-on-one time. (I am grateful for all those opportunities I have enjoyed so far.)

In an attempt at brevity, I'll look at our passion as a dimension of renewal. We know it is desperately needed when our passion for important areas has waned and is perhaps even on life support.

As Christ’s followers and aspiring disciples we need passion for God’s word and God’s Son. For us to have communities of Christ that are alive and well, we need to renew our passion for the things of God. When passion is missing, I believe we lose our primary reason to be people and communities after the heart of God.

Jesus taught us about God’s heart for lost people. He continued to teach, in the tradition of the law and the prophets … Read More