Category Archive: Updates

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March 1, 2003

New House

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At long last, my new house is finished. For the last several weeks, while my house was being built, I have been living in the basement of my deacon’s house (and I deeply appreciate his generosity in allowing me to do so). But on Friday, I took possession of my new house. Alex, Calvin, James, Steve, Tim, Jamie, and Leo all helped move my stuff from my garage into the house. Thanks!

I should be moved in by tonight (or at least by Monday). But the phone company tells me that they won’t be able to install my phone lines until … March 10. So I will be incommunicado for the next few days, I’m afraid.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:46 am | Discuss (0)
February 8, 2003

GP Update

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As Jessie pointed out to me recently, I haven’t blogged since my installation. That Friday night was pretty rough, but the flu seemed to abate by the next Saturday, only to recur again Monday night. It seems to be gone now. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!

I felt pretty good on Sunday. I preached my inaugural sermon in the morning: Philippians 1:1-2, which is not only a reminder of the role of ministers (“slaves of Christ Jesus”) and the status of all the members of the church (“saints in Christ”) but also the kick-off to a series on Philippians.

The Bishop preached in the afternoon. His sermon on Joshua 4 was entitled “My Trip to the Holy Land.” All kinds of people travel to Israel to be baptized in the Jordan. But we have been baptized in the Jordan. Just as Israel did, we too have left Egypt through the Red Sea and entered the Promised Land by passing through the Jordan because Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and we have been baptized into Him.

For now, I’m still living in the basement of the deacon’s house. On Monday they should start laying the carpet in my new house (upstairs and down, I hope). So it’s possible that I’ll be in there in a couple of weeks … or so.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:24 pm | Discuss (0)
January 31, 2003


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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.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:39 pm | Discuss (0)
January 19, 2003

Grande Prairie Bound!

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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.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:10 pm | Discuss (0)
January 15, 2003

AAPC 2003

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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.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:28 am | Discuss (0)
December 24, 2002

Christmas at Home

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For the first time since 1997 (and probably for the last time in many years), I’m spending Christmas with my parents. And for the first time in twelve years, my sister, Charlene, is here, too.

So far, I’ve done a fair bit of reading. I’m part of the way through P. G. Wodehouse’s The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories and 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.”

Today, Charlene and I went out to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding at the matinee this afternoon. It was the second time I’ve seen it, and I still love it.

After supper, we opened our presents. That’s been a Christmas Eve tradition in our home since we were kids. Later, we watched The Christmas Carol (starring Alastair Sims: is there really any other version?). And now my parents are upstairs, listening to new CDs (so far, we’ve heard Dr. John’s Afterglow, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang’s A Wonderful World and most of Diana Krall‘s Love Scenes, all three gifts to my mother). My father is probably looking through his new book on cars of the ’40s.

Tomorrow, more relaxing, snacking, and reading — for me, at least. My father and sister are going out for a long bicycle ride. And on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas for you Americans!), I’m heading up to Edmonton to join my friends Keith and Jenn. We’re gonna see The Two Towers at the IMAX theatre in the West Edmonton Mall.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:53 pm | Discuss (0)
December 6, 2002

Leave of Absence

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I’m nearing the end of the first week of my leave of absence, my first week as the former pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (URCNA) in Lethbridge, Alberta, and as the pastor-elect of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Grande Prairie, Alberta. For the last week, I’ve been finishing up some odds and ends. For instance, I’ve sorted through some of my books so that I can get rid of a pile of unwanted or duplicate volumes. I’ve also visited a lot of people here in Lethbridge. And I’ve waited for my house to sell.

Today, I had lunch with a member of the congregation, after which I bought some groceries and went to the post office to ship away some of those unwanted books to friends who did want them. Then I dropped off several years worth of unwanted back issues of magazines at the Mennonite Central Committee store, did some Christmas shopping, checked out some furniture someone bought me at Capital Furniture, and ended up at Chapters, where I read Neil Gaiman’s nicely done short story, “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale.” In the evening, I met a family from the church at The Attic for supper, followed by tea at their place.

And now, when I finish blogging, I’ll head to the living room, where I’ll read a bit more of James P. Blaylock‘s The Elfin Ship, his first novel, from which this line (which Duane Garner could have written):

“‘Time flies like an arrow,’ Grandpa used to say, ‘but fruit flies like bananas'” (p. 210).

Posted by John Barach @ 11:39 pm | Discuss (0)
November 20, 2002


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Yesterday morning, John Bekkering (friend, elder, and realtor) came over. We signed some papers and then he put a lock-box on my door and a sign on the front lawn. I’m selling my house and moving to Grande Prairie, where I’ve taken a call to pastor Covenant Reformed Church, following in the footsteps of the eminent Bishop Bill DeJong, who has taken a call to Kansas City and who, incidentally, has published his first blog post in months!

The sign on my front lawn, though, is a sad reminder that I’m going to be leaving Lethbridge. I’ll preach my last sermon here on Sunday. I’ve been here for four years and I’m going to miss a lot of the people.

This afternoon, a couple came by to see the house. The comments I overheard seemed positive. I’m hoping that this place will sell quickly so that I can turn around and snag a place in Grande Prairie. Your prayers are appreciated.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:44 am | Discuss (0)
October 31, 2002


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It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged, and most of that time I’ve been away. On Friday the 18th (well, actually, in the wee hours of the 19th), Tim Gallant, Jamie Soles, and Alex Barendregt descended on my house like a herd of locusts (okay, a rather small herd). On Saturday, we drove down to Moscow, Idaho, for the 2002 Christ Church Ministerial Conference.

I greatly enjoyed all of the lectures. Peter Leithart‘s talks continued to whet my appetite for his doctoral dissertation (forthcoming sometime soon, right, Jon?). On the Tuesday evening we were there, Duck Schuler‘s choir sang Bach’s “Jesu, Meine Freude.”

But perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the conference was the chance to visit with a lot of friends, old and new — which happened in all the breaks and lunches, at the few times I was able to stop by Bucer’s Coffeehouse Pub, in the evenings (mainly spent watching movies or hanging out with my friend Chip), and especially during the glorious long Sunday afternoon and evening spent with a crowd of people at the Leithart’s.

On the 24th, we drove back to Lethbridge. Tim, Jamie, and Alex left for Grande Prairie early the next morning. That afternoon, I drove up to Red Deer, where I stayed overnight at my parents’ place. On Saturday, I travelled to Edmonton, shopped a while at The Book Outlet in the West Edmonton Mall (discount books!), and then headed over to a friend’s house for the night.

On Sunday, I preached in the morning and evening at the Orthodox Reformed Church. In between, I visited with Rev. Jakob Kits, one of the retired ministers in that congregation, who mentioned that there’s a Cornelis VanderWaal webpage (which must be this one, though alas it’s all in Dutch).

On Monday, I went to The King’s University College to visit my friend, Arlette Zinck, who teaches English there. Arlette wasn’t there when I arrived, so I stopped by Douglas Harink‘s office and had a chat about his concerns with N. T. Wright’s “supersessionism.” Arlette showed up later and we had a good (albeit brief) visit.

The drive home, however, wasn’t so pleasant. The snow started around Olds, an hour or so north of Calgary. I hit Calgary at rush hour and crawled slowly through the city on wet and soon-to-be-icy streets. I finally stopped for supper to give the traffic a chance to thin out before I headed south into the night. The highway between Calgary and Fort Macleod (150 km), as the road report people like to say, was in poor winter driving condition. To make matters worse, I was pretty tired and had a pounding headache. The last half-hour or so to Lethbridge was much better, but I was exceedingly glad to be home again.

And now I’m getting back to my regular routine — part of which includes the customary noticing that it’s past midnight and that Colin Dexter’s delightful The Way Through the Woods is still awaiting me. (Well, maybe a couple of chapters anyway before I head to bed.)

Posted by John Barach @ 12:05 am | Discuss (0)
October 11, 2002


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Well, I just finished shovelling snow for the first time this year. It wasn’t snowing when I woke up this morning, though it had rained some the night before. But by noon, the wind had picked up, the snow was falling as fast as rain, and I could barely see the houses across the street. Within half an hour we had our first centimetre (or even half an inch, for you Americans). It let up a while ago and the snow started to melt, so I went out to shovel my driveway and sidewalk. Now I’m back inside (obviously), drinking a cup of Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea. The sun just came through the clouds and Lethbridge’s first blizzard is officially over.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:46 pm | Discuss (0)
September 23, 2002

Bishop Bill

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At last! There’s a new post on Bishop Bill’s blog. Actually, he wrote it ages ago, but due to some glitch with Blogger (a blogoglitch?) he lost his template and wasn’t able to post anything. Yesterday afternoon, I stole (um … borrowed) his identity for a while, reworked his template, and hit “Publish.” He still gets a 503 Error (don’t we all? when will that be fixed?), but at least his post showed up. And now I look forward to more from him. Yes, Bill, that’s a hint.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:54 pm | Discuss (0)
September 9, 2002


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Good news! I’d been a bit concerned about my weight recently. I’d been hoping to lose a few pounds and last week my wish was granted. I lost ten pounds on Friday. Yes, just like that. All of a sudden.

Here’s what happened. I’d had my scale in the basement, where I sometimes exercise, but last week I brought it upstairs. On Friday, Keith and Jenn Griffioen were over. In the course of the evening, Keith departed to another room for a few minutes and returned with the report that my scale was off by at least ten pounds. Jenn then verified it, so I have the confirmation of two witnesses. I’m not particularly glad to discover that I have a defective scale, but it does mean that I’m ten pounds lighter than I thought, so…. Break out the ice cream and let’s celebrate!

Posted by John Barach @ 11:58 pm | Discuss (0)

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