URCNA candidate Jared Beaird exhorted at the initial worship service of the Missoula Reformed Fellowship in Montana on August 28, 2011. The consistory at Belgrade URC oversees the work, although separated from Missoula by about 200 miles of mountain driving.
“There is a steering committee in Missoula that reports to our elders,” says Rev. Mark J. Stromberg, Belgrade URC. “In addition to receiving regular communication from this committee, we are in communication with Jared on a weekly basis. Our oversight may be a little unconventional due to the distance between Missoula and Belgrade, but the Belgrade consistory is definitely providing oversight for Jared and the work in Missoula.”
Jared and his wife, Liz, were married in Missoula in 2003, but left the area when Jared answered God’s call to ministry and pursued a seminary education. He graduated from Westminster Seminary California in May and sustained his candidacy exam in Classis Southwest US in June of 2011. The couple’s son Caleb was born only a few days before Jared’s candidacy exam, timing he doesn’t recommend.
His June 29, 2001, Facebook status read, “FYI. Never have a baby four days before your classical exam. I think I’m going to need some time to recover.”
The Beairds had little recovery time, however, before packing and traveling to Missoula the first week in July. Jared had regularly visited Montana from January through April to lead Bible studies in Missoula and to exhort in Belgrade.
“We were approached about a year ago by Mr. Beaird regarding his interest in a possible church plant in Missoula,” explains Rev. Stromberg. “Since that time we have had Mr. Beaird provide pulpit supply on a regular basis so we could get to know him. In addition to providing monthly pulpit supply since January, Mr. Beaird has led a Reformed Bible study in Missoula in an attempt to identify a core group desiring to be part of a URC church plant there.”
The Belgrade elders felt the best way to move forward was for Jared to begin a year-long internship with Belgrade URC in July. Once he moved to Missoula, the Bible studies became weekly instead of monthly.
“At this point we view the work in Missoula as a preaching/exhorting station,” Rev. Stromberg says. “The elders have met with the members of the core group in Missoula and explained what will be required for this group to move forward before we call someone as a church planter to this work. During Jared’s internship we will be assessing both Jared and the viability of the Missoula work.”
Jared relates how an OPC congregation that had existed in Missoula for 34 years dissolved in January of 2009, leaving a Reformed void. That was part of the reason that eventually led him to approach the Belgrade consistory with the idea of planting a church in Missoula.
“I told my wife beforehand that we wouldn’t want to commit to such a hard work if our supervising church was not motivated,” Jared says. “Their excitement was over the top and it has not waned. I am very grateful and could not ask for a better mother church and leadership.”
“As a consistory we are pleased with Jared’s energy and passion for this work,” says Rev. Stromberg. “We are also very excited about the families who are committed to this work and their enthusiasm for Reformed worship and the preaching of the Word.”
According to Rev. Stromberg, seven families and two college students attended the first worship service on August 28.
“The report that I received from those who were present was very positive,” he adds. “One man said it was ‘fabulous.’”
“The service went well for the first time,” Jared says. “People still need to learn the songs and the liturgy. We have no URC or CRC families attending, so the Psalter Hymnal is foreign. Most of the people come from a broad evangelical background and are looking for a church that believes in the authority of Scripture and preaches the gospel. I received good feedback on the liturgy and songs; people were excited to sing Psalms.”
Since Missoula is a college town, Jared plans to study on campus at least once per week to have a more visible presence there. Although Jared works part-time to help support his family in addition to the support supplied by Belgrade URC, the Missoula group, and other donors, he notes that additional support is needed to help cover family expenses and church rent.
The group currently meets at 11:00 AM at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 2512 Sunset Lane, in Missoula, MT. The hope is to soon begin post-worship catechism classes and hospitality.
“The Lord has blessed us with a great location and the rent is very cheap,” Jared states. “We are hoping to be in this building for the long term. It is on the busiest street in Missoula and has all the amenities we need. It is a great location and shares a parking lot with the Christian school in town.”
“Our desire is to see a Confessional Reformed church with ‘acceptable worship, with reverence and awe’ according to the Word of God (Heb. 13:28),” states the group’s website. “It is our earnest prayer that it will be so obvious that God is in our midst, that when an unbeliever enters the assembly he will be convicted of his sin, fall down and worship God exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Cor. 14:25).
For more information, find “Missoula Reformed Fellowship” on Facebook or visit the Missoula Reformed Fellowship website: http://missoulaurc.wordpress.com.
The above is a slightly updated version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 10-11 of the October 5, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal.
Editorial Note: Jared informs me that he’s since been called by Belgrade and Missoula is now officially a church plant. He requests continued prayer for the work.