The Good Shepherd OPC and Westside Reformed Church, a URCNA church plant, co-sponsored the “Reformed in America” conference in Cincinnati, OH, on February 6 & 7, 2015. The conference concept grew along with the friendship between the pastors of the two congregations.
About the same time Rev. Zac Wyse began planting Westside Reformed Church, Rev. Chris Malamisuro was installed as the pastor of Good Shepherd OPC, located on Cincinnati’s north side. Over the last year and a half, the two met regularly and discovered many similarities in their ministries.
“Our congregations are both small, so we are asking a lot of the same questions and engaging many of the same problems,” Rev. Wyse explains. “While we were discussing outreach and ideas for partnership last August, Chris suggested that we follow in the footsteps of our churches in Des Moines, Providence Reformed Church (URC) and Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church (OPC), and hold a conference that would sketch the development of American Presbyterianism and the Dutch Reformed in America.”
The men invited speakers Dr. Alan Strange, Professor of Church History at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Dr. Darryl Hart, Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College. Dr. Strange a teaching elder and Dr. Hart a ruling elder in the OPC, and both are experts in American church history.
Rev. Malamisuro elaborates, “Our speakers had done a conference of this nature in Iowa in 2013. Further, Pastor Zac and I were looking to partner in some fashion. Lastly, the OPC and URCNA are co-sponsoring the Psalter-Hymnal, so we thought this would be a good way to demonstrate our denominations’ cooperative spirit.”
Organizers scheduled time for singing a number of psalms from the proposed Psalter-Hymnal. Approximately 75-100 people attended the conference held at the Good Shepherd facility. Members of both congregations and people from the Cincinnati area attended, as well as persons from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, and West Virginia.
“All of the attendees interacted well, Westside and Good Shepherd hosted and served the churches well, and we were well instructed,” Rev. Malamisuro says.
On Friday evening, Dr. Strange spoke on “The Tumultuous Beginnings of American Presbyterianism, and Dr. Hart addressed “The Challenge of Americanism.” Saturday morning began with Dr. Strange speaking about “Politics and the Pulpit,” and went on to Dr. Hart’s discussion of “Kuyper and Machen: Models of Reformed Witness.” On Saturday afternoon, Dr. Strange talked about “Unity without Union: Beyond Acronyms.” Dr. Hart lectured on “Anti-Modernism.” The conference concluded with a Q & A session.
“Whether someone was seminary-trained or new to the Reformed tradition,” Rev. Wyse says, “there was plenty of thought-provoking content and some very helpful application to our present day.”
The two organizing pastors are analyzing this first joint conference attempt and discussing ideas for future efforts.
“Our churches had good fellowship together, we worked well together, and the broader Reformed community joined us,” Rev. Malamisuro says. “It’s good to know that our Reformed community is larger than our little church.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the March 18, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.