This evening, I was installed as the pastor of Covenant Reformed Church in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Bill led the service and preached on Isaiah 62:1-7 (“The Lord Enlists Restless Preachers for Zion’s Glory”). The congregation sang exuberantly, I gave the benediction, and several other churches passed on greetings and wished the congregation and me the Lord’s blessing.
While the congregation was still enjoying fellowship (and yes, sometimes fellowship does mean food and there’s nothing wrong with that), I went home early. It appears that I’ve come down with the flu — not so pleasant for this weekend in particular. I hope I’m feeling well enough to preach my inaugural sermon on Sunday morning. But I trust that this affliction, too, will be for my profit. At the very least, it’s a helpful reminder at the outset of my ministry here that God’s grace is sufficient for me and that my help is in the name of YHWH who made heaven and earth.
A hearty welcome to the world of blogging to B. J. Kennedy, the Angliterian from Ruston, Louisiana.
The Lord has been gracious to me. On Saturday, when I checked the weather report, they were predicting snow all week for the whole of Alberta. On Monday, as we prepared to load up the truck and set out, the report had changed: flurries for southern Alberta, snow in central Alberta — and, by Tuesday, just in time for the move, clear and sunny from Edmonton north to Grande Prairie.
The roads were good most of the way, except for some blowing snow and a few snow-covered patches north of Edmonton. The transmission on the moving truck was going — no reverse and difficulty getting into third and fourth gear — but the truck arrived safely in Grande Prairie yesterday afternoon, and now all my stuff is stored in the garage and laundry room of my (future) house. I was able to spend a night with my parents in Red Deer, and I’ve now arrived safely here in Grande Prairie as well.
He sends out His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes;
He casts out His hail like morsels;
Who can stand before His cold?
After a week of packing which left my bedroom, my living room, and especially my study piled with boxes, I’m now ready to move. I’m very grateful for all who helped by supplying boxes, taping the boxes together, and even loading the boxes.
Four young men from Grande Prairie — Alex, Calvin, Steve, and Darren (who alone doesn’t have a blog) — arrived on Friday evening. They helped me finish packing on Saturday and on Monday — tomorrow! — they’ll load up the U-Haul and head for Grande Prairie, nine and a half hours northwest.
The weather, however, doesn’t look particularly good. Grande Prairie got about eight inches of snow already this weekend, and they predict another two to four inches on Monday and periods of snow the rest of the week. (Here’s a link to the Alberta weather forecast so you can follow my treacherous route from Lethbridge through Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton to Grande Prairie.) I deeply appreciate your prayers for this trip.
After I arrive in Grande Prairie, I’ll leave my stuff in storage until my house is finished, which may be anywhere from two weeks to a month, during which time I’ll live with Leo and Yolanda Wattel (Leo is the deacon at Covenant Reformed).
My installation as the pastor of Covenant Reformed Church will be on January 31. The former pastor, Bishop Bill, will lead the service and preach. I’ll preach my inaugural sermon on February 2.
It’s hard to leave Lethbridge, but I’m looking forward to getting settled in Grande Prairie and taking up my work there.
At long last, I’m home again.
On January 2, I left Lethbridge and drove to Calgary, accompanied by my colleague and friend, Theo Lodder, pastor of the Canadian Reformed Church in Taber. He was catching a 6:30 AM flight to St. Louis and I a 6:40 flight to Texarkana, Arkansas.
I arrived in Texarkana on Friday afternoon and was picked up by Steve Ramsey, one of the elders of the CRE church there, who took me to the home of Tom and Dixie Lincoln (Tom is another elder). On Saturday, I went for a walk by the lake with Dixie and the Lincoln’s daughter Lydia, and then Steve took me on a tour of Texarkana. For lunch, we ate Texarkana’s best barbeque (Big Jake’s). Eventually we ended up at the home of another elder, Ben House, where we had catfish for supper and a good talk afterwards. Ben gave me a copy of his book of poems, Dirt Roads and Confederates.
On Sunday, I gave a talk on the social implications of the Trinity during the adult Sunday School hour, borrowing extensively from Ralph Allan Smith and Jeff Meyers (“I’m speaking, not as an expert, but as an enthusiast,” I said). I preached on Philippians 2:1-4. In the afternoon, there was a meeting at the Lincoln’s house for people who wanted to understand more about the Auburn Avenue controversy. Tom tells me that I started talking at about 9:30 that Sunday morning and finished at 11:30 that night. No wonder I had a bit of a sore throat!
On Monday, Jan. 6, Tom drove me down to Monroe, Louisiana, and dropped me off at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, where I was booked to speak on Tuesday. But plans change. Steve Schlissel was supposed to speak first, with a response by R. C. Sproul, Jr., but R. C. had been delayed due to bad weather.
So, after the four presenters (Schlissel, Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and I) and the three respondents who were present (Joey Pipa, Morton Smith, and Carl Robbins) had prayed together for the grace to be able to discuss our differences in a brotherly way and for unity in the truth, I gave the first talk (on “Covenant and Election”) and then Carl Robbins responded. Carl was very gracious and his critique of my talks (last year and this year) was helpful. After Carl’s talk, all seven of us assembled on the platform. I responded first, and then Carl spoke briefly, and eventually the discussion expanded to include the other men. That was the format for the rest of the conference: presenter, respondent, discussion, along with two question and answer periods.
Doug Wilson opened the second day of the conference with a talk on the distinction between the visible and invisible church, and Morton Smith responded. In the afternoon, Steve Schlissel spoke, largely about the dangers of imposing our theology on Scripture and missing what Scripture itself says, and then R. C. Sproul responded, largely about the need for brotherly love. In the evening, Steve Wilkins spoke about the efficacy of baptism, and Joey Pipa responded. On Wednesday morning, the eight of us had another chance to discuss our differences and a chance to summarize some of what we had been saying in the course of the conference.
The conference itself had several enjoyable moments and several which were highly disappointing. I encourage you to buy the tapes.
The talks, of course, are but a small part of the attraction of any conference. I go to conferences as much for the chance to visit people as to hear lectures. This year I made a lot of new friends and met some old friends, including people with whom I’ve exchanged e-mail or whose blogs I read. It was great to be able to visit (however briefly) with Robbie McBroom, B. J. Kennedy, Jim Jordan (who introduced me to single malt Glenlivet on Wednesday night: definitely something to sip slowly in small amounts), Duane and Sarah Garner (I hope you’re all feeling better soon!), Jon Amos, Jeff Meyers, Tommy Lee, Matt and Sora Colvin, Jessie Bates, Matt Harper (who doesn’t want to be drawn into the Reformed blogging world), John Owen Butler, and Barb.
After the conference was over I had a long nap, which, with the help of a couple Tylenols, managed to quell my headache. That evening I spent at the Wilkins’ house with Jim Jordan, Jeff Meyers, Doug Wilson, and a few others, where the conversation wasn’t limited to the recent conference but spread out to include such things as John Buchan, the Scottish Covenanters, and our evaluation of history (“If I’d been back there, I wouldn’t have sided with…. Or would I?”).
On Thursday, Robbie drove me out to Ruston, LA. As Jon Amos pointed out, Jeff Black commented recently that if you want to see where the Auburn Avenue stuff is heading, you should check out the website of John Knox PCA. Well, I was a living example of the truth of that statement this last week: I went from a URC in Canada to a CRE in Texarkana to Auburn Avenue, only to end up at John Knox, where I visited with the pastor, Jeff Steel, a friend for whom I’m very grateful.
My hosts, Volney and Betty Pierce, were very gracious. Volney makes a pretty good breakfast, though I can’t say that I’m a fan of grits yet. The waffles and bacon and eggs were good, though!
On Sunday I attended a glorious service at John Knox (the liturgical flagship of the PCA). That evening I preached at Auburn Avenue, wearing a robe to do so for the first time in my life. (The robe was borrowed from Rich Lusk: Thanks, Rich!)
On Monday, B. J. — who has a servant’s heart — drove me to the Shreveport airport, and I arrived back in Calgary that evening. I drove home to Lethbridge on Tuesday morning. It was snowing lightly, but it was also quite cold, so the snow was very light and powdery. The roads were in decent shape (one lane open, the other snow-covered), but the trucks swirl up so much snow that at times visibility was very poor.
Nevertheless, I’m home again, ready to start packing for my move to Grande Prairie. If you want my new snail-mail address, feel free to write to me and ask. I should be moving on Monday or Tuesday, depending in part on the weather.