Reflections and writing by a scribe who blogs and ascribes glory to God.
Click on this link for how to pre-order multiple copies of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, the joint songbook project of the URCNA and the OPC. You can save shipping by picking it up at the concurrent meetings of the OPC General Assembly and the URCNA Synod scheduled for June of 2018 at Wheaton College.
Rev. Bradd L. Nymeyer was installed as the new Senior Pastor at First United Reformed Church in Chino, CA, on May 14, 2017. Following the 23-year ministry of Rev. Ronald Scheuers to the congregation, Rev. Nymeyer has some huge ministerial shoes to fill. But his 22 years of experience in pastoral ministry will help.
A 1992 graduate of Westminster Seminary California, Rev. Nymeyer attended Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids for one year before he was ordained in 1994 at the Phoenix Christian Reformed Church. In 1996, he was called to pastor the newly-formed Phoenix Independent Reformed Church, which affiliated with the URCNA within a year. He served that congregation for 12 years prior to accepting a call as the first pastor of the Sioux Center URC. After more than eight years in northwest Iowa, Rev. Nymeyer accepted the call to First Chino.
“I have loved each congregation that I have served, and each has been used by God to prepare me for continued service,” Rev. Nymeyer said. “I am excited about this next chapter in my life as well as in the life of the First URC of Chino. Mary and I are very thankful to God for the privilege of serving His people here in southern California.”
Four other ministers participated in Rev. Nymeyer’s installation service on May 14. Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary California, led Rev. Nymeyer’s prayer group and taught him Church History during his seminary career. He has remained a long-time friend of the family, taking part in every installation service of Rev. Nymeyer. Rev. Andrew A. Cammenga, Minister Emeritus of Lynden URC in Washington, is Rev. Nymeyer’s father-in-law. Rev. Scheuers, Minister Emeritus of First URC in Chino since January, has been Rev. Nymeyer’s mentor for over 20 years. And Dr. Quention B. Falkena, Youth Pastor of First URC is a longtime friend of Rev. Nymeyer.
As Dr. Falkena read the instruction section of the installation form, Rev. Nymeyer looked at the three ministers sitting in front: Rev. Cammenga, Dr. Godfrey, and Rev. Scheuers. “It was very humbling to have them take part in the service, considering that they represent over 100 years of wisdom and service in Christ’s church,” Rev. Nymeyer said.
Rev. Cammenga read the vows of the minister, Rev. Scheuers read the vows of the congregation, and Dr. Godfrey gave the charges to the minister and congregation. Dr. Godfrey led the service, preaching on “God’s Word, Our Life” from portions of Deuteronomy 32 & 33. Rev. Nymeyer pronounced the benediction.
At the evening worship service on May 14, Rev. Nymeyer began a series on Joshua, preaching from Joshua 1:1-9 on “Be Strong and Courageous.” He noted that the book “records God’s faithfulness to His people” and the “continuation of what He has been doing for them.” It also “points us forward to the greater Joshua” (which means “God saves”), who is Jesus Christ.
The Nymeyers have been married for 32 years and have three daughters and one son.
It would be difficult for anyone to follow the long ministry of a man who was not only a popular pastor, but also a competent churchman: Rev. Scheuers served a total of 39 years in full-time ministry, providing servant leadership within both congregations and federations. But Rev. Nymeyer has served twice as chairman of Synod and functioned as Stated Clerk for the URCNA from 2010 until 2016, when his service ended due to the limit of three consecutive terms. He viewed the performance of these “opportunities” as “a huge honor and a privilege to serve God and the churches.”
Rev. Nymeyer admitted he found it “daunting” to consider taking up the position of Rev. Scheuers. When he spoke to Rev. Scheuers about it, he found him “as typical…very encouraging to me. My prayer is that I might obtain a double portion of his spirit, to serve God and His church with the same devotion to truth and love that Rev. Scheuers has demonstrated so faithfully in the past. I am honored to have him remaining in the congregation, and will continue to rely upon his knowledge and wisdom as I have in the past.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13 & 22 of the June 14, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.
The URCNA Pastors and Missions Conference, held on May 15-18, 2017, focused on the theme: Reformed and Relevant—Reaching Our Generation with the Gospel. The facilities at Guelph Bible Conference Centre in Ontario provided a relaxing atmosphere and enjoyable activities for more than 30 pastors, many accompanied by their wives, who attended. Elders, lay persons, and students also benefitted from various presentations. Attendees could register for all or parts of the conference, while lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were open to anyone at no cost.
“We were glad to see many come out and join us in some great singing and worship and hearing a message from our main speakers, Dr. Eric Watkins and Rev. Paul Murphy. Numerous young people came to those evenings and came away very excited,” said Rev. Richard Bout, URCNA Mission Director and a conference organizer. “This year’s conference was a great time of learning and fellowship. Our speakers and workshop leaders were from the OPC, Can Ref, PCA and the URCNA and did an excellent job in explaining the calling we have been given to be an evangelistic, outward-facing church.”
Two other pastors assisted Rev. Bout with planning the conference: Rev. Brian Cochran, Redeemer Reformation Church (URC) in Regina, SK, and Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman, who formerly served at Adoration United Reformed Churches in Ontario and is now pastor of Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church (APC). The Vancouver church is the single Canadian congregation of the APC, a small Scottish federation of about twenty congregations that came into existence in 1989 by seceding from the Free Presbyterian Church.
“Our planning for this conference started in February of 2016,” explains Rev. Van Eeden Petersman, “when we agreed to work together to organize the 2017 conference.”
The conference consisted of two components: a pre-conference from Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon geared toward pastors, and a general missions conference open to lay people as well as ministers from Tuesday evening through Thursday morning.
The pre-conference sought to generate fellowship and reflection among attending ministers and missionaries and their wives. After Monday’s evening meal, Rev. Paul T. Murphy, Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship (URCNA) spoke on “A Church for God’s Mission: Not a Mission for His Church—Understanding the Great Commission.”
“I was advocating a change in perspective so that instead of missions/evangelism being a line item on the church’s agenda/budget, that it is the raison d’etre of the church second only to worship,” he said. “This calls for a radical rethinking of how we do church and evangelism.”
Using several texts, he showed that God is a missionary God and that covenant is for the sake of the nations. He made several points of application. We should have a “go” rather than a “come” mentality about evangelism. We should view election missiologically, not just soteriologically. We ought not discuss covenant without mission. We shouldn’t distinguish between established churches and mission churches because every church is a mission church. We need to recover the office of believer as described in Q&A 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism to realize that every Christian is a witness. And many of our congregations need to ‘outgrow the ingrown church’ (as per C. John Miller). Rev. Murphy concluded by demonstrating from Luke 15 that God rejoices when we join Him “on mission.”
Reaching Generation Y
On Tuesday morning, Dr. Eric B. Watkins, Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in St. Augustine, FL, spoke about “Preaching to Generation Y: Reaching the Lost Without Losing the Reached.” He examined the challenges of preaching to a generation that has lost direction in many ways and seeks identity in the wrong places. He addressed questions such as: How do we engage a media-driven culture? What language will reach Generation Y without abandoning previous generations? How can we remain faithful to our time-tested creeds and confessions and yet reach a generation that is losing interest in history?
Rev. Harry Bout, emeritus minister of Immanuel URC in Jordon, ON, addressed a crucial topic in the second lecture of the morning. He urged pastors to “Take Heed to Yourself—Your Public Ministry and Your Private Walk.” Rev. Bout serves in the Niagara Migrant Ministry, is involved with Hispanic outreach in southern Ontario, and for several months each year works in Tepic, Mexico.
Participants could choose from three afternoon breakout sessions, one designed especially for pastors’ wives. Rev. Cochran spoke about “Training our Youth to Stand Strong in a Digital Age.” Rev. Neil Stewart, Grace OPC in Sheffield, ON, spoke on “Avoiding Burnout in the Ministry.” Mrs. Julie Murphy addressed other wives of ministers regarding their roles as “Women in the Trenches.”
About twenty pastors’ wives attended the entire conference, according to Rev. Richard Bout. He said, “We really wanted to build them up in the important role they have in their husbands’ ministries.”
The Tuesday afternoon sessions were followed by a prayer time, free time for fellowship, and the evening meal.
The missions conference began with Tuesday evening’s lecture, as Dr. Watkins spoke on “Reformed and Evangelistic: Cultivating Outward-Facing Church Plants.” He noted that Reformed churches face the challenge of cultivating a culture of evangelism. He explored ways self-consciously Reformed churches and church plants can effectively do evangelism by faithfully, yet creatively, bringing the gospel to those outside the church. A Question & Answer panel discussion followed.
Wednesday’s first session featured Dr. Brian Lee, Christ URC in Washington, DC, discussing “The Challenges and Joys of Urban Church Planting.” He began work as a church planter in DC in 2008, and the church organized at the beginning of 2016. The second morning session was on “Discipleship through Home Bible Studies” with Rev. Connan A.V. Kublik, New City Church (PCA) in Hamilton, ON. He spoke about the power of the gospel to accomplish true transformation as it is heard and believed.
The afternoon breakout sessions offered three choices. Rev. Mitch Persaud, New Horizons Church (URC) in Scarborough, ON, enlightened attendees on “Learning Cross-Cultural Etiquette.” Rev. Tony Zekveld, Hope Centre in Toronto, ON, addressed “Witnessing to Sikhs and Muslims.” Rev. Cochran spoke again about “Training our Youth to Stand Strong in a Digital Age.” Rev. Persaud and Rev. Zekveld repeated their presentations later in the day.
On Wednesday evening, Rev. Murphy spoke on “Reformed and Missional: The Challenge of Being an Evangelistic, Community-Centered Church.” Using Philippians 2:15 as an illustration of being the light of the world, he encouraged churches to do evangelism “in an organic and covenantal” way. Organic in the sense of seeing and meeting needs with the gospel as we “integrate and ingratiate ourselves into the community.” Covenantal as in taking advantage of family ties to follow up with evangelistic contacts. He challenged churches to “develop a culture of evangelism, which needs to be personal and loving.”
He said, “My application here was whether or not we would really love the unlovely and welcome them into our midst because that it what God did with you and me. I tried to promote the love of God for sinners so that we would be channels of that love to others.”
Another panel discussion and a time of refreshments finished the day’s events.
On Thursday morning, Rev. Bill DeJong of Blessings Christian Church (CanRC) in Hamilton, spoke on “Reaching Your Community with the Gospel: Practical Ways to Reach Out Locally.”
The conference concluded with Dr. Watkins speaking on “From Geneva to Disney World: Reformed Worship in a Postmodern Context.” In his description of the lecture, he noted, “The consumeristic narcissism or our postmodern context has created a serious challenge” for Reformed churches. It can be difficult to explain why they continue to worship as they do when many evangelicals are exploring other options. His talk suggested that Reformed worship is not only “distinct and beautiful,” but that it also has “a lot more to offer our postmodern friends than either they or we may have imagined.”
This was the second URCNA conference focusing on pastoral ministry and missions, although similar conferences have been held every other year since 2009. Pastors met for that initial conference on ministry at Puritan Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI. A missions conference in 2011 took place in Denver, CO. In 2013, the first combined conference was held at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN. Two committees planned that event, when the final pastoral ministry session also functioned as the first session on missions. A 2015 pastors conference took place in Escondido, CA.
Rev. Van Eeden Petersman describes participation in the 2017 conference as “a real joy.” He said, “Having speakers from the URC, OPC, PCA, and Canadian Reformed churches was a good way to have us reflect more broadly on our work and what it means to be, as Paul Murphy made plain, a church that exists for the sake of mission. After every session and during every mealtime, that was a lot of intense and focused discussion of what we are to be doing and how we can do better in our current contexts.”
Rev. Cochran described the messages by the main speakers as “very insightful and convicting,” causing many pastors to “repent of our lack of an outward focus on sharing the gospel with others” and encouraging them to “strive by God’s grace to cultivate a culture of evangelism in our churches.”
But the setting and schedule permitted plenty of less interaction and reflection as well. Attendees took part in basketball, volleyball, ping-pong, and horseshoes. Rev. Cochran described the conference as “a great time of refreshment and fellowship” and noted that “the singing of Psalms and hymns to God was wonderful.”
Pastor Rich Bout reflected, “We live in challenging times for the church, and we have a lot to learn in how to faithfully share our faith in the gospel with those around us. One of the special blessings of this time together was the posture of humility and prayer that the pastors and elders demonstrated as they took in biblical exhortation from a variety of angles.”
“Trumpet Call: 500 Years of Gospel Freedom” served as the theme for the spring conference of Grenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS). About 375 people (including people from Nigeria, South Africa, and Canada) attended all or part of the lectures presented at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, SC, from March 14-16, 2017.
A chapel service on Tuesday morning concluded the Seminary’s annual open house for prospective students and initiated conference activities. Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., President of GPTS, preached from Romans 3:1-4 on “Whose Fault?”
Lectures began on Tuesday afternoon with Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, speaking on Sola Scriptura. Using Psalm 19:7ff and 2 Timothy 2:14ff as his texts, he first delineated doctrines that flow from Sola Scriptura. He then defined and clarified the sufficiency of Scripture, before bringing practical applications. He stated, “The heart of Sola Scriptura is that the Bible is sufficient for the faith and practice of the church.”
Dr. Robert Kolb, Professor Emeritus at Concordia Seminary and a widely-recognized expert on Luther, presented a lecture on “Luther’s Providential God.” He noted that while most people think of Luther’s primary emphasis as being on Christ, he also had a robust theology of God’s providence.
Following a Question & Answer session, Dr. Pipa drew from Ephesians 2:1-10 to speak on Sola Gratia. His three points were the function of grace, the purpose of grace, and the fruit of grace. He said, “Salvation, from beginning to end, is of Jehovah, the triune God, that He might be glorified in His people.”
Dr. Kolb then enlightened listeners on “Luther’s Preaching on the Parables.” The key to understanding this biblical genre, he said, is to “recognize the Person telling the parable as the main point of it,” and that Christ provides the proper interpretation for each one.
On Wednesday, Pastor Cliff Blair, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Charlotte, NC, preached from John 6:26-71 on Solus Christus. He spoke movingly of Christ as the focus of the entire Scriptures, the holy One of God, who is the center of it all. He urged listeners, “Set your feet on this rock, eat this bread, drink this blood, taste eternal life now, and know that you will have it forever and ever.”
Pastor Carl Robbins, Woodruff Presbyterian Church, used James 2:14ff to address the topic of Sola Fide. He noted that Protestants tend to warn against legalism, but fail to recognize the danger of antinomianism. In a memorable introduction, he compared the two threats to ditches on the sides of a narrow country road.
After another panel discussion, Dr. L. Michael Morales, Professor of Biblical Studies at GPTS, spoke on Soli Deo Gloria. Based on Matthew 4:1-11, he encouraged hearers to look to Jesus, who lived completely to the glory of God and glorified the Father through obedience to His Word.
Dr. Michael Whiting, author of Luther in English, led off Thursday’s lectures by exploring “Law as Friend and Foe in Luther’s Theology.” He noted that Luther’s famous paradox about believers being simul justus et peccator (both righteous and sinners) can guide our understanding of his paradoxical language regarding the law.
The last presentation by Dr. James E. McGoldrick, GPTS Professor of Church History, was about “Luther on Life without Dichotomy.” Based on 1 Peter 2:1-12, he spoke about Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which was in stark contrast to the prevailing dichotomy between clergy and laity. He stressed that a life of service is indispensible to the Christian life, saying, “True faith is always active in love.”
The conference concluded with a final Question & Answer session.
The above article by Glenda Mathes was one in the Reformation Conference Series and appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.
Classis Central US (URCNA) and Classis Manitoba (CanRC) met in Sioux Falls, SD, on April 3 & 4, 2017, marking the first time the two federations held classis meetings concurrently. Delegates from both classes had the privilege of the floor during joint sessions, but did not vote on items of the other classis. Federational-specific matters were presided over by the appropriate chair.
Plans for the meeting began last fall, when Rev. Todd De Rooy (pastor of Redeemer URC in Orange City, IA, and a member of the URCNA’s Committee for Ecclesiastical Relations and Church Unity) contacted Classis Manitoba personnel to determine interest. Then he contacted Rev. Spencer Aalsburg, whose Christ Reformed consistory was slated to convene and host the April 2017 meeting of Classis Central US.
Rev. De Rooy said, “Classis Manitoba agreed to postpone their scheduled March meeting and hold it in April in Sioux Falls, at Christ Reformed Church’s invitation, to be concurrent with our Classis.”
He explained the rationale behind the idea as “excitement” for the anticipated concurrent URCNA Synod and OPC General Assembly in 2018, the “success” of concurrent meetings between Classis Eastern US and the OPC, and a desire “to find the best way for our elders and ministers to have contact with elders and ministers in the Canadian Reformed Churches.”
The close proximity of URC and CanRC congregations in Canada promotes pulpit exchanges and other events that foster fellowship; however, the small number of CanRC congregations within the US makes such ecumenical efforts less viable.
Ministers and clerks of the two convening consistories, Rev. Aalsburg and Clerk Mark Hoogwerf (Christ Reformed Church-URC) as well as Rev. Steve Vandevelde and Clerk Jon DeWitt (Carmen East-CanRC), did much preliminary work to facilitate the event.
Men from both federations worked together to craft a schedule that allowed similar amounts of time for separate administrative sessions and incorporated joint sessions to discuss items of mutual interest on each agenda.
Classis Manitoba not only had to be willing to postpone its meeting, but delegates also had to be willing to dedicate more time to it.
“We were humbled by the willingness of our Canadian Reformed brothers to take the extra time to travel down to meet concurrently with us in Sioux Falls,” Mark Hoogwerf said. “They could have completed their business in a normal meeting that would allow most of their delegates to return home the same day. However, they were very open to making the sacrifice of spending up to seven hours on the road each way to meet in ecumenical fellowship with us.”
Nine Can RC participants traveled in two vehicles the seven hours from Manitoba. But Classis Central US covers such a large area that some of its delegates drove farther. For instance, those from DeMotte drove twelve hours.
Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC, Beecher, IL) chaired, while Rev. Talman Wagenmaker served as Clerk for Classis Central US. Rev. Rick Vanderhorst (Grace CanRC, Winnipeg) was President, and Dr. Andrew Pol (Carmen West) functioned as Clerk for Classis Manitoba. Rev. Joe Poppe (Redeemer, Winnipeg) served as Vice-President.
Classis convened on Monday evening with delegates from both federations gathering for devotions. Delegates then met separately to deal with administrative matters and reports. This period was followed by a joint session at which representative from the OPC and PCA extended fraternal greetings and a representative from the CanRC reported on mission work in Brazil.
Tuesday morning began with delegates meeting jointly to hear more fraternal greetings and reports. After updates on URC church planting efforts in Chicago Heights, IL, and Quito, Ecuador, delegates approved continued support for those works. They also heard an update on URC Chaplain Rev. Andrew Spriensma.
URC delegates then dealt with three overtures. The first, submitted by Grace URC of Waupun, WI, requested several changes to Classis Central’s Rules of Procedure. Most of these were “housekeeping” changes, but one suggested that all examinees be required to submit a sermon manuscript for evaluation. All parts of this overture were adopted.
The second overture, from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, suggested that Synod 2018 revise Article 64 of the Church Order to be in line with Synod 2016’s pastoral advice regarding membership departure. The overture would add language about transferring, releasing, or erasing memberships in situations not included in existing Church Order categories. This overture was approved and will be forwarded to Synod 2018.
The third overture, also from Immanuel in DeMotte, asked Synod to adopt a “Marriage Affirmation & Gospel Testimony,” which affirms biblical teaching and addresses concerns raised at Synod 2016. Classis Central US voted to send this overture on to Synod 2018.
Following a lunch break, the concurrent meeting entered Executive Session, and Classis Manitoba reported on recent church visits.
Classis Central US then dealt with an appeal from an individual. The consistory had denied his request to pursue revision of the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession to bring those documents into agreement with statements about the ‘soul’ not being a “thing, but a characteristic/condition of a living body…and that…time in the Bible…is not literal.”
Delegates recognized seven of the appellant’s eleven grounds as valid, but three as invalid, and one as out of order. The decision to deny the appeal as a whole was adopted without dissent. Scriptural grounds were provided at several points of the response and the consistory was affirmed in its position that the confessions accurately reflect biblical teaching regarding the soul.
Although discussion on this matter lasted past the afternoon break, Classis Manitoba met separately after that time. Classis Central went on to appointments and offered pastoral advice regarding discipline matters.
Delegates met concurrently again for closing matters and prayer. Appreciation was expressed to Christ Reformed Church for hosting the meeting.
“We considered it a great joy to be able to host the spring meetings,” Mr. Hoogwerf said. “By God’s grace, numerous members of our small congregation were willing to joyfully serve. We were very grateful for the opportunity.”
Rev. Vandevelde thought he might find Classis Central US “less homogeneous” than Classis Western Canada, which he said “most of us know as ‘the URC.’” While he anticipated more diversity, his impression had been “that Classis US would not be hostile to some potential further organic unity, but more likely indifferent or hesitant, maybe reluctant.” For this reason, he was “keen” to meet URC brothers “face to face.”
Rev. Poppe described the concurrent meeting as “hugely beneficial.” He said, “There was a mutual recognition that we share a common faith, and that we truly are brothers in the Lord.”
He recommends that other classes consider such meetings and seek opportunities for them. Rev. De Rooy offered these thoughts: “All the delegates saw first-hand that the office bearers and churches of our two federations are doing the work of the Great Commission under the same Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, by the same power of the Holy Spirit. Our churches face the same challenges from the inside and the outside of the church. What we discover is that we differ in how we go about doing that work. There was a spirit of brotherly unity in the assembly of the concurrent Classis, and also in the many fellowship times over the two days.”
The subsequent meeting of Classis Central US was scheduled for September 11, 2017, in Waupun, WI, with Grace URC as the convening consistory. Carman West CanRC was slated to convene the next meeting of Classis Manitoba on June 23 or September 22, 2017.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.
Classis Western Canada met in a special session on April 7, 2017, in order to conduct colloquium doctums for two ministers. The consistory of Trinity Reformed Church of Lethbridge, AB, desired to call the two men to serve its congregation.
“This classis meeting was truly a joy to witness,” reported Stated Clerk Rev. James Roosma (Grace Reformed Church, Kelowna). “We thankfully moved quickly through the ordinary mandatory classis business in order to devote the vast majority of our time having a very good doctrinal conversation with the two brothers.”
The two examinees were Rev. John van Eyk, who has been serving the Tain/Fearn Associated Presbyterian Church (APC) in Scotland since September of 2008, and Rev. Thomas Albaugh, who recently retired after serving five years at the Redeemer OPC mission work in Pittsburgh, PA. Since September of 2016, Rev. Albaugh has been ministering to the Trinity congregation in Lethbridge.
Rev. Keith Davis (Bethel URC, Calgary) conducted the first half of the exam, questioning the ministers in the areas of practica, church polity, and ethics. Rev. Bill Pols (Orthodox Reformed Church, Edmonton) presided over the second half, examining the men regarding Reformed Doctrine and Confessional Knowledge.
“It was absolutely clear during the course of the these examinations,” wrote Rev. Roosma, ‘Rev. van Eyk and Rev. Albaugh’s commitment to the Christian faith and the 3 Forms of Unity was unwavering and their desire to serve Christ’s church in Lethbridge was for His glory alone.”
Each man successfully sustained his examination and will now serve Trinity as a Minister of the Word and Sacraments; however, according to Council Chairman, Lloyd Van Eeden Petersma, their roles will be different. Rev. van Eyk will function as the Senior Pastor and Rev. Albaugh will serve part-time as the Pastor of Congregational Life.
“As we are a large congregation with many older members, widows and widowers,” he explains, “Rev. Albaugh will focus much of his time visiting with these members as well as an active group of families and young people. This was something he did a great deal of as he served as an interim pastor and something that was very much appreciated.”
Rev. Albaugh and his wife, Martha, anticipated moving their household goods from Pittsburg to Lethbridge early in May. Rev. Albaugh, who was in the Christian Reformed Church for 12 years, believes the transition back to the continental confessions complements his ministry of the last few years and propels him into future service in the Lord’s kingdom.
“As an OPC minister, I have found the Dutch Reformed tradition to be a wonderful expression of the biblical faith,” he said. “The OPC and the URCNA have a fine working relationship together and a commitment to the preaching of a ‘Christ-centered Gospel’.” He described the move from the OPC’s Presbytery of Ohio to the URCNA’s Classis Western Canada as “smooth” and noted that “the leadership of both denominations has been a great encouragement to me and my family.”
Rev. van Eyk taught in Turkey at the beginning of May and planned to move in mid-June with his wife, Lucy, and six of their seven children. A married son, whose wife is expecting their first child, will remain with his family in Scotland for at least another year to finish his university education.
“I leave dear Christians in the Associated Presbyterian Church in Scotland, but I am excited to be ministering in the URCNA,” Rev. van Eyk said. “I was welcomed so warmly by the brothers at Classis Western Canada and the colloquium doctum demonstrated their commitment to the Word of God and their love for the Confessions. I am especially humbled and thrilled to be serving Trinity and have a real desire to proclaim Christ from his Word so that God might be glorified and enjoyed.”
Both pastors anticipated preaching for their first official Sunday at Trinity on June 25. Rev. Albaugh is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California, and Rev. van Eyk graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Prior to serving in Scotland, Rev. van Eyk pastored the Riverside Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, ON.
Classis Chairman Rev. Rich Anjema (Providence Reformed Church, Winnipeg), who now serves Providence Reformed Church in Winnipeg, became acquainted with Rev. van Eyk during the decade Rev. Anjema pastored Hope Reformed Church in Brampton.
“During those years, Rev. van Eyk was pastor of Riverside ARP in Cambridge. I don’t know the exact dates of his time there, but it overlapped my time in Ontario,” he said. “We had some natural connections since members of Hope Reformed and Riverside ARP were involved with what formerly was known as Cornerstone Bible Institute, which is now Redemption Prison Ministries.”
Trinity Reformed Church has been vacant since September of 2015. During that time, a variety of pastors provided pulpit supply. Mr. Van Eeden Petersma said, “In 2016 alone, we had 16 different ministers and four seminarians on our pulpit. We look back and quickly can see how the Lord has blessed us.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.
The retirement of Rev. Ronald Scheuers may be his and his family’s gain, but it is certainly a loss within the URCNA. In decades of denominational conflict and as the new federation felt its way forward, Rev. Scheuers provided humble, servant leadership.
“During the early, growing years of the URCNA as a fledgling federation, Rev. Scheuers proved again and again to be a special gift of the Lord to the churches,” says Dr. Cornel P. Venema, President of Mid-America Reformed Seminary. “In a period of history marked by conflict and distress, immaturity and growing pains, Rev. Scheuers was steady at the helm—gentle in manner, solid in conviction, wise through experience, fair with others, and firm in his leadership. Lest you think I exaggerate, I am confident that delegates to assemblies at which Rev. Scheuers was elected chairman will agree with me.”
Rev. Bradd Nymeyer, who served many years as the URCNA’s Stated Clerk, concurs with that assessment. He says about Rev. Scheuers, “His service to the federation cannot be over-stated. His gentle, pastoral approach to difficult issues gave many great reassurance in times of uncertainty.” He adds, “His calm demeanor served him well in the three times that he served as chairman of synod. He is a churchman, a pastor, and a preacher, and excels at all three. His retirement will be felt by the entire federation, as well as his local congregation.”
The congregation of First URC in Chino, CA, marked the retirement of its senior pastor with a special celebration on Friday, January 6. The retirement committee decorated the fellowship hall, where attendees enjoyed a catered meal of tri-tip sirloin, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. About 200 people gathered for the meal, and many more arrived later for a program in the sanctuary, which seats 600 and seemed nearly full. Guests went beyond members of the congregation to include friends, former staff members, fellow ministers, and surprise appearances by relatives from Wisconsin.
The program featured a slideshow and video clips, a skit, and singing. The church presented Rev. Scheuers and his wife, Faye, with a gift of appreciation for his years of faithful service. Rev. Scheuers spent 39 years in full-time ministry, more than 23 of them in Chino.
“Our church family has been so good to us through the years,” says Rev. Scheuers. “We are grateful that we can retire in this area and continue to live among the people of the congregation of First Chino.”
On January 8, Rev. Scheuers preached his farewell sermon on the theme, “Let No One Take Your Crown,” based on Revelation 3:11. He noted three points: The Lord’s Coming, The Church’s Calling, and The Believer’s Crown.
First Chino has called Rev. Bradd Nymeyer, scheduled to be installed on May 14. He has considered Rev. Scheuers his friend and mentor for over 20 years. “He personally stood up for me when I was being dismissed from the ministry in the CRC, even though it was costly to his name and reputation in that denomination,” says Rev. Nymeyer.
While the congregation awaits its new senior minister, Pastor of Youth Quentin Falkena is doing what he can to help make the transition smooth. And he’s thankful for the excellent working relationship he enjoyed with Rev. Scheuers.
“I have had the unique and unparalleled privilege of working with Pastor Scheuers for over eight years,” he says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity that I have had to work beside him and learn from him what it means to be a faithful servant of God’s people and a dedicated churchman. His diligence, dedication, carefulness and compassion have made a significant mark on my own approach to pastoral ministry.”
He notes, “For most of eight years, Pastor Scheuers and I would meet every Tuesday. We addressed the particular needs of the week, and talked about who needed to be visited, or other matters that needed to be addressed. But it was also a time during which I could pick his brain. Our meetings concluded by reading Scripture and praying. I’ll miss the opportunity those meetings provided to spend time with Pastor Scheuers.”
The Scheuers family, however, anticipates spending more time with a husband and father whose health is gradually decreasing due to Parkinson’s disease.
“Right now, Faye and I are enjoying more time together, more opportunities to enjoy our family, which also includes our first precious granddaughter, as well as life with less stress,” Rev. Scheuers says. “If my health permits, I would like to do some writing and, perhaps, some traveling.”
Rev. Scheuers and Faye are originally from Waupun, WI, and both attended Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA. Faye taught for six years in the Philadelphia area, while Rev. Scheuers attended Westminster Theological Seminary and fulfilled the CRC’s extra year requirement at Calvin Seminary. The two were married in Waupun on August 19, 1977.
The Scheuers have three adult children. Bethany is married to George Hoekstra and they have a toddler daughter, Kenna. Andrea, who has multiple handicaps, lives at home with her parents. Tim graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary and is pursuing his Ph.D. at Fuller Theological Seminary with a goal of teaching at the college or seminary level.
“We are so blessed to have all our children living near us,” Rev. Scheuers says.
A minister’s interest kindled the internal call Rev. Scheuers felt as a young man. He says, “In my teenage years, my pastor, Rev. Clarence Werkema, deeply influenced and encouraged me to consider entering the ministry.”
In 1977, Rev. Scheuers was ordained in the CRC at Baldwin, WI. He went on to serve churches in Luverne, MN, and Kalamazoo, MI, prior to accepting the call to First Chino in 1993.
Reflecting on the highlights of his ministry, he says, “I was especially blessed to see a good number of adults come to faith in Christ through the years. We are greatly encouraged by the usage of the series of instructional material for young people, Life in Christ, which we edited and partially wrote. Some volumes have been translated into several foreign languages. I am also grateful to have been used of the Lord to give leadership on the classical and synodical level to our young federation.”
He concludes, “It has given me much joy and fulfillment to be used by the Lord to preach His Word and minister to His people.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the April 12, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal. Rev. Bradd Nymeyer has since been installed as the Senior Pastor at First URC in Chino, CA.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded last Thursday to Kazuo Ishiguro, which is good news. Ishiguro writes literary novels that defy genre boundaries and garner popular appeal.
Here’s the New York Times online story about the award. And here’s a Times 2015 interview with Ishiguro that explores his reading opinions and related reflections. A former editor, Robert McCrum, muses about his friendship with Ishiguro in this piece. And James Wood, of the New Yorker, gives his take here.
If you want to dip into the award-winning literature of Kazuo Ishiguro, be prepared for the unexpected. You may want to start with The Remains of the Day, his portrayal of a dignified butler on an introspective journey at the fading of his days.
An OPC mission work in San Antonio organized in a special service held February 10, 2017. Rev. Andrew Moody, who has served as the group’s church planter, was installed as its pastor. Elders Amit Kholsa and Thomas Roe and deacon Kyle Huizenga were ordained and installed.
About 100 people attended the service, including several Presbytery of the Southwest pastors, who participated in various ways.
Rev. Dr. Glen Clary (Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX) preached from 1 Timothy 3:14-15 on “How to Behave in Church.” Referring to this and other texts in Paul’s letters to Timothy, he focused on three areas: worship, government, and discipline. He noted the priority of prayer in worship and how a minister must devote himself to preaching and teaching God’s Word. Worship must be done decently and in good order to reflect the character of God, whom we worship and who is with us when we worship. Church government should also be well-ordered because Christ governs the church by His word and Spirit. He does so through ordinary men who’ve been ordained to their offices and carry out their ministry under His dominion and direction. Finally, the church ought to be well disciplined because discipline is the means by which the Good Shepherd brings wandering sheep back into the fold.
Rev. Mark Sumpter (Regional Home Missionary for the Presbytery of the Southwest) exhorted the congregation to rely on God for discipleship strength in seven ways: 1) Be spiritually fervent in serving the Lord. 2) Be patient in enduring hardships. 3) Anticipate a variety of gifts in the body of Christ. 4) Remember to treat one another as gifts purchased by Christ’s blood. 5) Be eager to receive the preached Word with meekness. 6) Take up prayer and your post, eager to live out a witness for Christ. 7) Children and young people should realize they are being trained to make up the church of today as well as of tomorrow. 8) Make much of sin, but make more of Christ.
In the administering of vows, Rev. Todd Wagenmaker (Covenant OPC in Ft. Worth, TX) addressed Pastor Moody, Rev. Bob Cannode (Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX) spoke to the congregation, and Rev. Dr. Alan Story questioned the new elders and deacon. Rev. Andrew Moody prayed during the laying on of hands for the three officers.
Rev. Dr. Jim Cassidy (South Austin OPC) then gave the charge to the new office-bearers. Focusing on 1 Corinthians 4:1&2, he said, “Regard yourselves as servants and stewards.” He noted that being ordained is not a promotion, but a demotion as one goes from those being served to someone who serves. He acknowledged the authority of office-bearers, but reminded them it was not a license to lord it over others. He concluded by urging the men, “Be faithful servants.”
Out-of-town Presbytery visitors enjoyed a meal in the Moody home prior to the service, and all attendees were invited to a reception following it.
“Many people stayed for up to two hours after the service to fellowship,” Rev. Moody said.
Charter members of the congregation signed a special document prepared by local artist Maggie Gillikin.
“It is a 16 x 20” calligraphy that features Psalm 127:1 and Ephesians 2:19-22,” explains Rev. Moody. “It will be signed by our current members and framed to commemorate the Lord’s faithfulness in building His church.”
San Antonio Reformed Church began as a home Bible study in March of 2011. Its first worship service was held on October of 2011, and Pastor Moody was installed as an evangelist to continue his church planting work in May of 2012.
The group recently began renting a storefront space on the north side of San Antonio’s inner circle of freeways (8705 Botts Lane). Up to this point, the congregation has functioned under the oversight of elders from Grace OPC, which is about 20 minutes away. Grace has also provided financial support for the fledgling group.
“We have been blessed to have the session of Grace OPC oversee the life and ministry of the church for several years,” said Rev. Moody. “Now, the Presbytery has ordained and installed our own church officers.”
He adds, “This is a huge milestone for San Antonio Reformed Church. We are excited to see how the Lord will continue to grow His church and use us to glorify His name!”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the March 22, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.
After a recent speaking engagement, I was asked for some book recommendations. Having expended a great deal of mental energy into the talks I’d just given, I felt a little brain dead and came up with only a few favorites. I did recall and mention, however, this earlier post that includes a variety of nonfiction related to literature as well as some fiction (both CBA and literary). That earlier post also talks about starting a book club.
Because I wrote that post several years ago, it’s definitely time for an update. I also need to clarify something I said in front of the group. I spoke about finding one of Lynn Austin‘s books particularly meaningful when it described the struggle of Dutch settlers, and I’m pretty sure I gave an incorrect title. The book I was referring to is Waves of Mercy. But if you picked up Wings of Refuge, you’re also enjoy reading about how a woman’s archaeological adventure leads to a new understanding of the Middle East and her marriage. Lynn is a humble, godly woman who reminds me of Elisabeth Elliot.
Another favorite author in the Christian fiction genre is Ann Tatlock. In Every Secret Thing, a teacher learns how to cope with the present when she learns how to deal with the past. I’ll Watch the Moon is about a girl’s growing maturity while her brother is hospitalized with polio.
Jeanette Windle grew up as a missionary kid and spent many adult years in missionary contexts in foreign countries. This real life experience lends verisimilitude to her suspenseful books, and her painstaking research results in such remarkably accurate descriptions that she has been questioned by drug enforcement agencies about how she knew so much about their work.
I haven’t read any of the Amish novels written by Dale Cramer, but I enjoy the blue-collar male protagonists in some of his other books. One of my favorites is his Bad Ground, which is a coming of age novel with a young man who learns about work and relationships. His Summer of Light is a delightful novel about an unemployed husband and father who discovers a lot about himself and his family.
When it comes to literary fiction, the first name that comes to mind is Larry Woiwode. I had the privilege of participating in a week-long fiction workshop under his direction a few years ago (you can find my posts about that here, here, here, here, and here). Larry’s published works include novels, a memoir, and helpful books on writing.
Bret Lott has written many literary novels as well as an excellent book on writing, Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian.
Charles Martin is a fresh voice who skillfully constructs his plots in a way that keeps the reader guessing. I love When Crickets Cry, and I’m pretty excited to see the movie based on his The Mountain Between Us.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is one of my favorite novels. I love its imagery and mystery. I’m not a huge fan of her other fiction, but this one shines with luminous writing.
Island of the World by Michael O’Brien is a beautiful and tragic book about great loss with healing through faith. This is a difficult book to read, but one that shows redemption through Christ.
To Kill a Mickingbird by Harper Lee may be my favorite American novel. I also enjoy several Victorian authors, especially Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope.
I hope you find these reading recommendations helpful. Feel free to leave a comment. If you’re interested in my work, hop over to my new author page on Facebook and comment there.