How often do two pastors, serving the same denomination in the same country, accept calls to churches in a different denomination and country (but the same for both men) within days of each other? That scenario seems even more unlikely if the two pastors are first cousins—with the same last name.
In God’s providence, that’s the unlikely situation for Rev. Wes Bredenhof and Rev. Reuben Bredenhof. On September 19, Pastor Wes (currently the minister of Providence Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, ON) accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Launceston in Tasmania. And in mid-September, Pastor Reuben (currently the minister of Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church in London, ON) accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Mount Nasura in Western Australia.
When asked if these calls had been arranged or were a surprising turn of events, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof responded, “This was completely arranged and orchestrated—by our faithful Father, who upholds and governs all things in his providence. But no, we were surprised to both receive calls from churches in the Southern Hemisphere at roughly the same time, and probably both a bit surprised to feel the need to accept these calls. But while we had some contact during the calling process, there was no secret pact or anything to initiate a Bredenhof invasion of the FRCA.”
The island of Tasmania is part of the commonwealth of Australia. And the Free Reformed Churches in Tasmania are affiliated with the Free Reformed Churches in Western Australia. Rev. Wes Bredenhof explains more about their relationship and history.
“The Free Reformed Churches of Australia have approximately 4,500 members spread over 16 congregations,” he says. “Most of the churches are located in Western Australia, grouped around the Perth metro area and, further to the south in the Albany area. In Tasmania, there are two Free Reformed Churches. Launceston is the original congregation, instituted in 1953. Legana is 14 km to the north and was instituted as a daughter church of Launceston in 1988.”
As if sufficient similarities don’t already exist in the two calls, both men have served their current churches for five years. And both will find it difficult to leave their present church families.
Pastor Wes calls it “quite painful” and describes the last five years as “fantastic.” He adds, “I didn’t accept this call because of any dissatisfaction about my current ministry in Providence. Far from it.”
Pastor Reuben says his family’s time in London has been “richly blessed,” that God has been “gracious,” and the congregation’s future looks “bright.” His family, too, is sad to part from the people they’ve come “to know and love.” He adds, “And yet, we are also excited about the possibilities of life and ministry in Mt. Nasura.”
Both ministers are uncertain when they’ll be able to take up the work in their new charges. Rev. Wes Bredenhof won’t be able to leave until July or August of 2015 due to obligations in Hamilton, including a teaching contract at the Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College, where he teaches North American church history.
Rev. Reuben Bredenhof reflects, “It’s hard to say when my work can begin there: the critical question is the matter of visas and immigration. It could be a patience-trying number of months, but we entrust all this to the Lord and his perfect timing.”
At some point, presumably soon after the men arrive in their new locations, each will undergo a colloquium doctum under the auspices of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, with whom the Canadian Reformed Churches have ecclesiastic fellowship.
“The FRCA are the sister churches most like the CanRC,” says Pastor Wes. “Nevertheless, we do have some small differences in terms of church government. The colloquium is not really an exam, but a discussion ensuring that the minister understands the new context he’s going to be in.”
Both colloquiums will take place in the same classis. Pastor Reuben explains why: “Actually, the two churches on Tasmania are part of the same classis as the church of Mt. Nasura, together with a few other churches in the Perth area, despite the great geographical distance between them (nearly 4,000 kms).”
Rev. Wes Bredenhof relates that the FRC in Launceston, Tasmania, has about 230 members and is located in the heart of this city of 100,000 people.
“Most of the members live right in the city,” he says. “You could say that it is an urban church, but since the city is not that big and nature is never very far away, it doesn’t really have an urban ‘flavour.’ Many of the members enjoy outdoor pursuits like fishing and hunting.”
According to Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, the church in Mt. Nasura, Western Australia, is about 250 members strong.
“It is a suburban congregation, part of the city of Armadale, and a suburb of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia,” he adds. “It’s about half an hour from the sparkling warm waters and golden beaches of the coast of the Indian Ocean.”
A final similarity the cousin ministers share is a desire to faithfully proclaim God’s word.
“My number one goal in Launceston is going to be to keep doing what I’ve been doing here in Providence: preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Pastor Wes. “I aim to faithfully teach and preach the Scriptures from the pulpit, in the catechism classroom, in homes, and wherever else I can. The church there wants to be an outward-looking church, a church with a heart for the lost. I want to encourage that desire and see it bear fruit.”
“It was a hard decision to make, in fact, the most difficult call I’ve ever had,” he adds. “But through the entire process, we prayed for the Lord’s guidance and it became clear. My family and I are at peace with it. We’re convinced that it is the right thing to do and we pray that God will bless it for the good of his people, for the advance of the gospel, and the glory of his Name.”
Pastor Reuben describes his “simple” goal. “I pray that I may be faithful in my task of preaching and teaching the Word of Christ, and pastoring his blood-bought people.” Almost as an afterthought, he adds, “And I hope to learn how to surf!”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6-8 of the November 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.