After a vacancy of 20 months, Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA, welcomed its new pastor when Rev. Doug Barnes was installed on August 19, 2012.
Dr. Cornel Venema, under whom Rev. Barnes studied at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Rev. Spencer Aalsburg, a close colleague of Rev. Barnes, led most of the morning worship, while the newly installed Rev. Barnes concluded the service.
From 1 Peter 5:1-11 with a focus on verses 1-4, Dr. Venema spoke on “Shepherding God’s Flock.” He described the shepherd’s role, readiness, and reward. He first urged members of the congregation to pray for their pastor: “Out of your own bitter experience as a congregation, you go down upon your knees, and you beg God the Father that he would supply you, by means of this your undershepherd, with the care and keeping that this dear flock of the Lord Jesus so desperately needs.”
He encouraged the pastor in his role to feed and guard the flock as a shepherd who leads the sheep in green pastures and “guards them against predators, against whom they are defenseless.”
“If I am to be a representative of the Good Shepherd who went all the way down, deep down to the bitter death, the painful death of the cross, out of the love where with he loved us,” he said, “God forbid that I should treat one of his little lambs in any manner incompatible with the Shepherd whom I represent.”
Dr. Venema spoke of the readiness of Christ, who took the form of a servant: “We too are called, all of us, to humble ourselves…. You pray the God of all grace that he perfect, establish, strengthen you and all of us. Don’t point the finger. But pray God that we too in the flock would care deeply for each other as members of this holy flock, cherished and loved of God in Christ.”
The reward for undershepherds and all of us will be when the Chief Shepherd appears and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Here is the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
“We all will stand in the presence of our king to whom we must render an account of our stewardship,” Dr. Venema concluded. “Isn’t that wondrous to imagine? That when our work is finished…there stands the Great Shepherd ready to acknowledge the work that we have done in his name.”
Dr. Venema also presided over the first section of the installation portion of the service, reading the Form of Subscription followed by the vows of the minister and the congregation. Rev. Aalsburg gave the charge to the minister, based on 1 Timothy 4:6-16, and the charge to the congregation from Romans 10:14-17. A double mixed quartet sang, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” as an offertory. Rev. Barnes concluded the installation service by pronouncing the benediction.
Rev. Doug and Grace Barnes have six children. Grace grew up in Florida and northwest Iowa as the daughter of Rev. Ralph Pontier. Having been raised in the UnitedMethodistChurch in western Pennsylvania, Rev. Barnes was introduced to Reformed theology at GenevaCollege, where he and Grace met and both joined the RPCNA. Rev. Barnes graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary in 2004 and subsequently served in the Hills URC (MN) for eight years.
“Moving to Pella was an adventure in trusting God’s guidance,” he says. “Grace and I had owned two homes prior to taking up residence at the parsonage in Hills, so we knew how long it generally takes to buy a house.” He explains that they made a “whirlwind trip to Pella, praying fervently that God would lead us to the place He had prepared for us.” After a long day of looking, they had narrowed the possibilities down to two. The next day they purchased a home that he says “has proven time and again to be perfectly suited to the needs of our family.”
“Of course, God’s timing and provision were evident at every turn—from the house to which He led us, to the kind welcome we’ve received from the church family, to the warm welcome our children have received at their new school,” he adds.
“Moving from Hills was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do as a family—ever. We truly felt that we were leaving our family, and we shed many tears on our final Sunday evening. But we’ve been shown time and again that we’re where God wants us to be, and we pray that He will continue to use us—despite our weaknesses—to bless the church here in Pella. Meanwhile, we’re tremendously eager to see whom God has in store to serve our wonderful brothers and sisters in Hills.”
“As a community, Pella has enjoyed many blessings from God, for which we are thankful,” says Rev. Barnes. “It also presents some unique challenges that should drive us to our knees in prayer.”
“The Covenant church family has been through some exceptionally hard times in the last year and a half. And whenever the church suffers, Satan is quick to dive in and do whatever additional damage he can. I have no illusions about my ability to heal the church. I’m just a man, filled with weaknesses and limitations and blind spots. But God…is abundantlyable to provide all that the church needs and more! That’s where our hope lies. Nothing that the church here has experienced is too great for God to use for our good. But we have the calling to trust Him completely, even when that seems like the path of weakness.”
“Pray for wisdom and humility for me and for the saints here in Pella. Pray that God would use us to magnify His power, His grace, and His glory. Pray that God would replace pain with Christian joy, division with unity in Christ, and despair with the certain hope of the gospel.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 9-10 of the October 24, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.
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