Category Archive: Updates

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August 5, 2003

Biblical Horizons and Beyond

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At long last, I’m home again. In fact, I’ve been home for almost a week now and I haven’t blogged, which means that I must be returning to my usual blogging schedule.

When I wrote my last entry, I was at my parents’ place in Red Deer. The next week, I flew to Florida, where I took part in the Biblical Horizons conference. Joel has posted a summary of the conference, so I won’t.

I roomed with Bishop Bill, who picked me up at the airport in a convertable (it was the only car the rental agency had available). The matins and vespers services were wonderful, and it was great to meet some old friends (some known only via e-mail and blogging before) and make some new ones.

After the conference ended, I spent the weekend at Jim Jordan’s house with Rich Bledsoe, about whom you can read more here. Rich and I watched The Apostle and Crimes and Misdemeanors and then, after dropping Rich off at the bus depot on Sunday evening, Jim and I watched The Truman Show.

I arrived back here in Grande Prairie on July 29, having been gone for about a month, which is way too long to be gone from a congregation. I’m glad to be home. I’d say I was feeling refreshed, but unfortunately I caught some kind of flu on Sunday night.

After our Sunday evening singing at his place, Jamie Soles came over for a while. He’s preparing to record a new CD and wants me to add some harmonica to one of the songs. After he left, I was suddenly exhausted and then thoroughly chilled and feverish. The fever lasted into the afternoon yesterday, but by late afternoon I was feeling a lot better. Today, the only reminder of the flu is a very stiff neck.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:42 pm | Discuss (0)
July 16, 2003

Vacation (Part 2)

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In spite of what I said a couple entries ago and in spite of the fact that I’ve had access to a computer only sporadically, it appears that I’m posting more regularly now that I’m on vacation than I do normally.

My last vacation entry ended with me sitting at the Linds’ computer, checking my e-mail (which is what I’m doing now, and if Telus is running at its usual speed, and it is, what I’ll be doing some hours from now) and unsure of what I would do that day. In the event, I stopped by The Book People (nothing of interest in my price range, though they do have some books of poetry that interest me) and then went to Bucers and drank Guinness and read a chunk of Mother Kirk.

For supper, I checked out the new Coeur D’Alene Brewing Company Alehouse, though I opted not to have any ale there, thereby defeating the purpose of such a visit. After supper, I dropped by Bucer’s again to listen to the jazz duo (bass and piano), later tranformed into a jazz trio by the addition of a trumpet. I ended up spending much of that evening chatting with Moriah, and then arrived home a few minutes after Chip & Janet returned from Seattle.

On Sunday, I managed to snag free copies, not only of A Son to Me and Against Christianity, but also of Wilson’s new A Serrated Edge and the third Leithart book Canon has published this summer, From Silence to Song.

After church, the Linds and I went to the Leitharts’ for lunch and I had a good, albeit brief, visit with Peter. Then I joined Roy Atwood and family (including Hannah and Jason, who were up from Dallas) for dessert. After Evensong, Doug Wilson invited me to his place for a glass of wine. Together with Doug’s brother Gordon, we consumed the bottle, had good conversation, and watched the sun set (it gets a lot darker in Moscow than it does in Grande Prairie!).

On Monday, I packed up and drove northwest to Abbotsford, British Columbia, to visit my grandmother. I got in in time for supper, but discovered that, through some miscommunication, she wasn’t expecting me until the next day. On Tuesday, I had lunch with a couple of my pastor-friends, and some of the members of Langley Evangelical Reformed Church. Over the next week, I had coffee with a few friends, including Jim Witteveen, whom I hadn’t met in person before. I also did a fair bit of book shopping, though I didn’t make it to Regent College’s bookstore.

While at my grandmother’s place, I finished Mother Kirk and Thomas Howard’s Evangelical Is Not Enough (some very good stuff, some more problematical). I also read Against Christianity (perhaps the best book I’ll read this year) and two thirds of Nigel Tranter‘s The Bruce Trilogy, a gripping trilogy of novels based on the life of Robert the Bruce.

And today, I left my grandmother’s house and drove for a little over ten hours to my parents’ place in Red Deer, Alberta, where I’ll be spending the rest of this week — not all of it, I hope, waiting for Telus to give me my e-mail!

And now that I’ve bored you to tears with this account, I’ll say “Good night!” I’m off to bed.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:40 am | Discuss (0)
July 5, 2003

Vacation, Part 1

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As I mentioned in my last entry, I’m on vacation, so don’t expect me to be blogging regularly every day. (Of course, if you read this blog regularly, you already know that not posting regularly is my regular way of posting….) But as I sat here trying to read my e-mail (and delete a lot of it) online — and recognizing once more that Telus, my internet service provider, has the slowest and most sluggish system for online mail I’ve ever encountered — I figured that I might just as well blog something while I wait.

I left Grande Prairie on Monday, June 30. I drove to Edmonton and browsed in a bookstore for a while before driving the rest of the way to Lethbridge, where, as you will recall, I was a pastor for the last four years or so. In Lethbridge, I visited several friends, though I didn’t get to see everyone I would have liked to have seen. I stayed with Keith and Jenn Griffioen. Thanks for the hospitality!

On Wednesday, I left Lethbridge and drove to Moscow, Idaho. I arrived in the evening. As I pulled up outside Chip and Janet Lind’s home, I discovered that a dinner party was just ending and I had missed it, alas. Rijel‘s parents were leaving. Rijel, however, assured me that a cornish game hen (if I recall what I ate correctly) was still awaiting me, entombed temporarily in tin foil and awaiting the reheating. Chip rented Cold Comfort Farm and Rijel and the newly-blogging Moriah Phillips (who was also part of the dinner party) stayed to watch it.

On Thursday, I had lunch at Canon Press, courtesy of Lucy Zoe, where I enjoyed great food (thanks, Lucy!) and heard a funny and senseless fable read by Doug Jones. Later, I raided the shelves of Brused Books and came away with a very good haul.

Yesterday was, of course, the Fourth of July. Chip and I took two young boys to the waterpark, where I snorted a fair bit of chlorinated water at the bottom of the water slide and where we both got rather burnt by what Flora Poste from Cold Comfort Farm, a wannabe writer, would call “the golden orb” (though I have to note that the areas which I did slather with sunscreen were adequately screened, so that, for instance, my forehead, nose, and cheeks are white, but my temples are red).

Later, after I had a shower, Chip and Janet and I went down to Bucer’s Coffeehouse Pub, where I quaffed some Guinness, bought three books, and spent some time chatting with Moriah, before heading back to the Lind’s for a barbeque feast.

This morning, Chip and Janet left for Spokane for the day. My plans for today are still somewhat inchoate, but I intend to make them more choate as the day goes by. I’ll be here in Moscow until Monday, and then I’m heading for Abbotsford, British Columbia, to visit my grandmother. That means I’ll be here for Sunday when Canon Press will be distributing free copies of Peter Leithart’s latest books, A Son to Me and Against Christianity (a provocative title if there ever was one, and a very interesting book by the look of it!).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:33 pm | Discuss (0)
June 24, 2003

Back Home … Last Week

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As Barb said in the comments on the last post, I am indeed back from my trip to the States.

I left Grande Prairie on the morning of June 16 and flew to Portland, Oregon, where one of Reformation Covenant Church‘s deacons picked me up and drove me out to Twin Rocks Friends Camp on the Oregon coast, just south of Rockaway Beach and a little bit north of Tillamook (with its famous Cheese Factory). I arrived at the camp in time to grab a quick supper and then catch James Jordan‘s lecture on the so-called “New Perspective on Paul.”

That evening, Jim showed Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with some commentary and discussion. The next two nights, he showed (and discussed) Tarkovsky’s Solaris, not to be confused with the Soderberg version starring George Clooney which came out last year.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I spoke three times. In between sessions, I visited with several people.

I wish I could have stayed for the rest of the camp. It was a beautiful spot and I would have liked to have been able to relax a bit once my lectures were done. (Jim offered me one of the Jack Vance volumes he had brought along, but I was reading P. G. Wodehouse’s A Damsel in Distress already.) Besides, Jim was giving four lectures on the Minor Prophets and there was a ball and a talent show. But I had to attend Classis Western Canada in Salem, so I caught a ride with Chori Seraiah, the pastor of Trinity Reformation Church in Salem, and left the camp behind.

I’m not going to review the classis here. Some of the decisions made have a significant impact on this congregation, and we need to think carefully about how we respond to them. It was nice, however, to see some old friends there and to meet some new ones.

After the classis, I rode with Rich Hamlin and Roland Robinson, the delegates from the Evangelical Reformed Church, to Tacoma where I preached and administered the Lord’s Supper on Sunday.

Then, last Monday, I flew back to Grande Prairie … after waiting an hour and a quarter to get to security and consequently missing my flight to Vancouver and my connection to Calgary. I finally managed to get back on schedule in Calgary and arrived home on time.

This week, I have to write two sermons and prepare a talk on liturgical preaching for the Biblical Horizons conference in July. And then I’m off on a vacation for a while!

Posted by John Barach @ 12:42 pm | Discuss (0)
June 4, 2003

Family Camp and Other Things

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Next Monday, I’m flying down to Portland, Oregon, for Reformation Covenant Church’s family camp, where Jim Jordan and I will be speaking.

So this week, I’m scrambling to get my talks together. My three lectures are entitled “The Covenant, Families, and Children,” “The Covenant and Evangelism,” and “The Covenant: What’s All the Fuss?” I’ve prepared outlines for all of them, though I’m not entirely satisfied with them yet.

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss Jim’s lectures on the minor prophets. After the Wednesday evening panel discussion, I’m heading for Salem to take part in Classis Western Canada 2003. Yes, the region whose delegates assemble as Classis Western Canada includes churches in the States (Lynden and Tacoma in Washington, and Salem, Oregon). For that matter, it also includes Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Ontario is hardly western Canada.

In other news, I’ve read a few books lately, including Klaas Schilder’s Extra-Scriptural Binding (helpful in places, but rather jumbled and disorganized and sometimes frustrating) and Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete, both of which I enjoyed greatly. I hear that Wolfe is working (or thinking of working) on the third in the series (Soldier of Sidon), though it won’t be out for quite a while, since Wolfe has three other books (two novels and a short story collection) due out first. I hope he lives long enough to finish the Soldier series.

Yesterday, I started Charles Williams’s War in Heaven. After our monthly council meeting (a good time was had by all) and a bit of a birthday party at Alex‘s place (happy birthday, Alex), I stood outside on my deck at 11:45 and read a line or so of the book by the light of the setting sun. Granted, it wasn’t easy to read outside, but I wasn’t in the best location for light and we still have a few weeks left before the longest day of the year. Yessir, I live in the land of the midnight sun.

And this morning the guys (technically known as The Concrete Specialist) showed up to pour and stamp my driveway. This may be the most theologically literate concrete crew in the history of the world. Four of them are members of Covenant Reformed: Leo, the owner, is our deacon, George has two years of seminary under his belt, Tim is Tim, of course, and has a seminary degree, Jamie is our chief musician. And then there are the Lutherans, Nathan and Josh. Makes for all kinds of interesting discussions on the jobsite!

Posted by John Barach @ 1:09 pm | Discuss (0)
May 2, 2003


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A few weeks ago, I bought a new computer. I had planned to add an extra 256 RAM, but it turned out that the RAM they had in stock didn’t work on my computer. No problem. They ordered some more that would work, and on Tuesday they installed it.

Yesterday evening, my computer kept freezing. I had to shut the thing down and start it again, and then it would work fine … for a while. (By the way, with the new computers which have a software-generated shutdown, you can’t turn off your computer by simply pressing the on switch. But if you hold that switch for ten seconds it will shut off your computer.)

Early this afternoon, I ran my Norton Disk Doctor program to see if it could find and solve the problem. All of a sudden, I had a blank screen with a message at the top: “Operating System Not Found.” Yike!

I tried this and that, but there wasn’t a whole lot of this-ing and that-ing I could really try. I had no operating system, and you can’t do much without one. And “You can’t do much” includes “You can’t edit or print or access the sermons you just wrote.”

I called the store and the tech guy told me he wasn’t busy, so I brought him the computer. Less than an hour ago and about two and half hours after drop-off, he called me. My computer is up and running. In fact, he’s even been able to solve another glitch I had which he hadn’t been able to solve the other day when they installed my RAM.

What caused the computer to tell me my operating system had taken a stroll? Um … the new 256 RAM that was supposed to have worked on this computer. It’s a funny thing about RAM: Sometimes it’ll work for a while (say, from Tuesday till Friday) and then … kablooey. So now I have my computer back and running, and the tech guy is on a quest for the perfect RAM for me.

In other news (completely unrelated, except that I had to have my computer back and running in order to find it), check out Jeff Meyers‘s latest blog-entry on Augustine’s style of preaching. I’ve managed to get a chuckle out of my congregation at times and last Sunday I got an “Amen” in the afternoon, but Reformed congregations are a lot quieter than Augustine’s, it seems!

Posted by John Barach @ 6:46 pm | Discuss (0)
April 29, 2003


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Tonight, after Tim and I went out for supper, I headed off to the Grande Prairie Regional College, where, after an hour or so of hanging around and one quick rehearsal, we sang at the Encana Grande Prairie Music Festival. “We” here is Jubilate, the six-member group I’ve been singing with since about the middle of March. We sang two madrigals (words by Michelangelo, music by Jacob Arcadelt) and John Rutter’s “A Gaelic Blessing.”

I was pretty nervous about the concert (my gut is still in a knot), especially since (as I mentioned in my previous post) the concert was being adjudicated and the adjudicator had given out very few gold stars earlier in the week. In the middle of the first song, I heard and felt my voice break slightly, but no one else noticed, and, in spite of the fact that I was trembling a bit with nerves and adreniline, people said we all looked quite comfortable.

The adjudicator told us that hearing us made her homesick, since she sings with a small ensemble herself and loves renaissance and baroque music. All week, she’d been hammering groups on their dynamics: their louds weren’t loud enough and their softs weren’t soft enough. But mirable dictu, she didn’t say anything about that to us, which means we must have remembered not to bellow through the pianissimo parts. She had us work on a couple of things, but complemented us on our phrasing and blend, and (though I should blush to relate it) she also complemented “Mr. Bass” on his low E.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:53 pm | Discuss (0)
April 26, 2003


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Believe it or not, it’s snowing. It was wonderful spring weather for most of the week, but this evening the light rain has turned into light snow. I gather that farther south, around Calgary, they’ve had a few inches of it. Here it’s not coming down that heavily (yet).

I was thinking of going for a walk tonight, but that’s off. Instead, I’ll practice my madrigals for the upcoming Music Festival on Tuesday, where we’re going to be adjudicated, which means I have to learn to sing forward in the next couple of days or we’re in trouble. And then I’m going to return to the fun of James Blaylock‘s The Disappearing Dwarf, early Blaylock to be sure, but still enjoyable.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:27 pm | Discuss (0)
April 8, 2003

“Reading the Bible”

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Barb points out that my article entitled “Reading the Bible” has been published in U-Turn online. I received the hardcopy in the mail last week, but hadn’t checked yet to see if it was up on the webpage.

While you’re surfing U-Turn, check out Peter Leithart’s “The Christian and Literature” (which is part of the intro to his Brightest Heaven of Invention) and Jeff Meyers‘ “Drinking with Thanksgiving.”

Posted by John Barach @ 5:51 pm | Discuss (0)
March 28, 2003

Recent Stuff

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Ever since I read Bruce Mawhinney’s Preaching with Freshness at the start of my ministry, I’ve been following his recommendation and taking (or trying to take) Fridays off. So today I read a bit, did some errands around town, drove out to Sexsmith, fifteen minutes north of here, to peruse the magazines in the Peace River Bible Institute library, drove home and checked out one of the Christian book stores in town (I almost needed a magnifying glass to find the book section!), and then had supper.

Here are a few scattered (but chronological) observations:

* Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong‘s voices blend beautifully and their duets are great music to get the day started.

* It strikes me as interesting (not to say rather strange) that the latest issue of Bibliotheca Sacra, the journal published by Dallas Theological Seminary, contains an article by David F. Wright entitled “The Baptismal Community,” in which Wright talks about how the early church viewed baptism as the entrance into the church, turning pagans into Christians. He also talks about infant baptism in this connection. Yes, this is in a Dallas Theological Seminary journal and it’s based on a lecture Wright gave there. Strange but encouraging. What’s up with today’s dispensationalism?

* Having read Peter Leithart’s Westminster Theological Journal review of John Milbank’s The Word Made Strange, I realize that I do need to make the effort to read more of Milbank. I have Theology and Social Theory, but it’s a pretty intimidating tome and I wrestled greatly with his “An Essay Against Secular Order.”

* For that matter, I need to make a point of reading Leithart’s other articles and reviews in WTJ.

* For the last several Sundays, we’ve had groups of PRBI students showing up in our afternoon services. John Bell, who teaches Corporate Worship, has been recommending that they check us out as an example of a more liturgical church (which might be hard for an Anglican or a Lutheran to believe). It’s great when students spot me later and come up to talk, as one did in the restaurant last night and another did in the library today. I’ll have to see whether it’s possible for me to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, Bishop Bill, and do some teaching there.

* It’s also nice when, out of the blue, you run into a friend and end up having a good talk. Nice to see you in the library, Jamie!

* Joe Henry’s Shuffletown is one of my favourite albums. It’s a combination of folk (?) and jazz and a bit of quirkiness. There’s some wonderful instrumentation, and Joe has his trademark voice and offbeat sense of timing. Many times I can’t really make head or tail of the lyrics — I often have a sense that I’m grasping fragments of a story — but there isn’t a song on the album I don’t like. I wish I had it in CD format.

* It is a pity that there don’t seem to be any good bookstores or music stores in Grande Prairie. Which is to say, there’s no Chapters or A & B Sound — or even anything close.

And now I’m off to read some more of N. T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus and Anthony Trollope’s delightful Barchester Towers. Good night, all!

Posted by John Barach @ 10:28 pm | Discuss (0)
March 24, 2003

Family Camp

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This summer, I’m booked to speak at Reformation Covenant Church‘s annual Family Camp, along with Jim Jordan. The camp runs from June 9-14. It’s located on the Oregon coast, which is very convenient, since I have to leave early in order to attend Classis Western Canada 2003 in Salem at the end of the week.

So far, none of the topics have been finalized, though one suggestion was that I would speak about covenant and evangelism. I’m expecting to hear some more in the near future.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:26 pm | Discuss (0)
March 13, 2003


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My mother tells me that my previous blog entry is getting old, and she’s right. So here’s an update.

I wasn’t able to move into my new home on the Saturday as I’d hoped and so I stayed the weekend at my deacon’s house. On that Monday, March 3, while I still had access to the computer, I finished proofreading Ralph Smith‘s book on the covenant and the Trinity (forthcoming from Canon Press). I highly recommend the book, by the way. It contains a very helpful critique of Meredith Kline’s understanding of the covenant.

As soon as I’d fired off the list of typos to Doug Jones, I started packing all the stuff I had at Leo’s place. I arrived here in the early evening, went out for supper, and then spent my first night in my own home.

For most of the next week, a large part of my time was spent taking books out of boxes and putting them on the shelves which line the walls of my basement study. It’s the first time I’ve seen all my fiction and all my non-fiction together in one place. Most of my fiction stayed in boxes (or was still at my parents’ place) during my four years in Lethbridge.

As for my own reading now, I’ve just finished Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer, which is a collection of all of his short stories starring John, who travels the Appalachians with his silver-stringed guitar, encountering and overcoming evil of all sorts (recommended by Jim Jordan), as well as Gene Wolfe’s wonderfully titled The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (no, that’s not a typo: the first story in the book is entitled “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”). I’m also two-thirds of the way through Jim’s The Sociology of the Church and loving it.

This past Monday, I also joined a singing group. It’s a small group — about eight people — and they sing what, I suppose, gets roughly categorized as “classical music,” though it ranges from Renaissance madrigals (two of which I need to learn this week) to John Rutter’s “A Gaelic Blessing.” In case you’re wondering, I’m one of the two basses.

This week I also taught a catechism class, attended the Grande Prairie Regional College’s InterVarsity meeting (to which I’ve unofficially been appointed a “resource person”), and led a men’s Bible study, and tonight we’ll be having a meeting of the church council. On Monday, my phone lines were installed and shortly thereafter I had about 300 e-mails in my Inbox; now, however, there are only thirty. So I’ve been fairly busy. Nevertheless, I do hope to do some more blogging in the future.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:22 am | Discuss (0)

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