Monday, 29 August 2016

Smoky Lake Saturday Night


Okay, so I know it sounds like the title of a honkytonk country song, and you may wonder what these old high school yearbook pictures have to do with anything, but I'll get to that.

I was invited to speak on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Smoky Lake Alberta. I have posted before on this church, and we did indeed meet in their new facility, even though it is still a work in progress and there was no heat. It was a bit cool but that did not dampen the worship within.

Smoky Lake Baptist has been a strong Alpha church for many years, ever since a couple of key Alpha people arrived there from Fort McMurray - Ross and Val Whitelaw.

My message was the text of a breakout I hope to present at next year's Break Forth; "Communicating the Relevance of the Gospel in a Changing Culture." The talk went well and was well received. The only glitch was the uni-directional mic I used. As I turned my head to various sides of the room the sound would become louder or softer. Eva said it reminded her of the scene from, "Singing in the Rain"  where they were first experimenting with sound movies. (Check it out from about the 1:40 mark)

But... now the pictures. We have known Ross and Val for several years; ever since I first started with Alpha Canada, but this time Eva and I were staying at their home over night, so there was more time for conversation. Saturday evening we got to talking about our respective pasts. It turned out that Val grew up very near where I did, in southern Ontario, and even went to the same high school - Salfleet High in Stoney Creek. Even more coincidentally, we were there at the same time - she in grade 10 while I was in grade 9. Hence these pictures. Val dug out an old yearbook (the year was 1959) and there we were. Val is in the top picture; 10a, fourth girl from the left in the second row, in the dark outfit. I'm in the bottom picture, 9b, on the right end of the first row.

As an added bonus, there was even a picture of my dad, who taught there at the time. (One thing I notice is that his handwriting was a lot neater than mine is.)

We were all amazed, and still are I dare say, at this amazing crossing of paths.

I suppose I could just as easily have called this post, "A Blast From the Past."

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Timely Visits

This was my trip today; from home to Morinville, to Gibbons, to Fort Saskatchewan and back to home again. I know the map says an hour and forty five minutes but it actually took me longer than that because, you see, I stopped at a few churches on the way.

My day started when I arrived on the dot of ten, their opening time, at The Father's House in Morinville. Whenever I walk through a church door and people don't know who I am, I have a sense they might feel like I might upon seeing some kind of salesperson approaching my own front door. Not exactly a trusting look - somewhat skeptical perhaps. I don't want to single out The Father's House because it happens many times. In any case, I was greeted cordially, and introduced myself as being with Alpha Canada.

Genuine smiles broke out instantly. "This is a very timely visit," said the Associate Pastor who greeted me. He went on to say they were just discussing what to do with some of their small groups this fall, and Alpha fit the bill perfectly. Father's House has three, "campuses," he told me so they might run multiple Alphas. He was especially happy to hear that all our resources are free, "Available," I like to say, "for the low, low, cost of nothing."

From there it was on to Gibbons, where Sturgeon Alliance has been a pretty steady Alpha church. Once again, they were glad to see me. Once again they used the same term, "What a timely visit!" They were planning their fall, were aware of the upcoming Global Alpha Campaign with Bear Grylls and hope to run both it and the Youth Film Series.

On then to Fort Saskatchewan, visiting three churches there, including dropping information off at the Catholic Parish, Our Lady of the Angels. The receptionist knew about Alpha and said she would leave the information for Father. I was surprised, when I got home and went to enter a record of my daily calls, to see that they actually ran a Youth Film Series earlier this year.

My final stop was at Community Baptist Church, the energizer bunny of Alpha churches in Fort Saskatchewan - they just keep running and running and running... Here is a picture.
 
There was no one there, so I just left my card in the door, but look above their sign and the shrub that's behind it. It's an old Alpha sign. I'm not sure how old, but if Alpha ever opens a museum, I'm sure it could find a place there.
 
Alpha HQ might shake their heads, but there's something I love about these small town and rural churches. That banner has been up there for years and, "Why change it...?" They're just so faithful in serving their communities, and if something ain't broke, why fix it? In any case, I will have to talk to them about an upgrade.
 
So there you go. Another fun day in Alberta.
 
Blessings,
 
John



Monday, 15 August 2016

Misssionary du Jour

I posted this picture on my facebook page yesterday, along with this commentary;
With Sam Nikkel and Eva (who took the pic) at McKernan Baptist at 'Meet our Missionary.' Yes I am counted as one of their missionaries and today I was, 'Missionary du Jour. '
McKernan has a wonderful brand new facility, in an established neighbourhood in Edmonton, and I think many might attribute at least some of their growth to their relationship with Alpha for over a decade. Sam has been a long-time Alpha enthusiast and supporter.

Thanks Sam and McKernan. I really value our relationship.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Outta The Blue (From Time to Time)

From time to time I get discouraged. Doesn't everybody - from time to time that is?

Often I get frustrated at how many people don't return my calls or respond to my e-mails. Sometimes I think it might be better not to try to make appointments, but just to drop in unexpectedly. I've actually had success using this tactic, and one of my favourite things to do is to go to a particular community and just walk in through church doors. In 5 years I've only had one what I would consider negative response. I even forget where, exactly, but it was a rather fundamentalist church who wanted nothing to do with Alpha because Catholics used it too. I resisted the temptation to come back with the snappy rejoinder, "Catholics also use the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation. Do you reject it as well?"

But I digress. A couple of weeks ago I telephoned a church in Edmonton hoping to speak with the Pastor. He was on holidays; could I call back the following week? No problem. I called back the next Tuesday, thinking I would give him his Monday to get back into the swing of things. He was in a meeting; would I like to leave a voicemail? So I did. No reply. So I emailed a friendly message saying I hoped we could get together. No reply. I was feeling quite rejected.

Yesterday another pastor, Senior Pastor of a pretty large church called me. I asked how things were going with him. He shared how it might be a sign of summer, but he was getting frustrated at how people didn't return his calls and emails. I said, "And here I thought I was the only one with that problem." It didn't necessarily make me feel any better, but at least I was not alone in my misery.

This morning I got a call from the church mentioned two paragraphs above. Not from the pastor, but from someone else on staff who had no idea I had been trying to reach them, but asking for help and advice on running Alpha this fall. Coincidence, eh? We spoke for a while, and I made an appointment to visit the Pastor next week. Mission accomplished in a roundabout way.

God seems to do this  - from time to time - come up with little ways to encourage us in our times of frustration or discouragement.

Outta the blue.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 4 August 2016

What's Going On?

"What's going on?" you ask (as also did Marvin Gaye). "What's coming up? What's in the works?"
Well I thought it was time I wrote another post, so let me tell you about a couple of things.

I've been working on a few things. A couple of churches have been really encouraging to me. Yesterday I met with St Albert Alliance. They are planning a pretty major fall Alpha campaign, as a church as a whole, in small groups and in Seniors' homes.

South Calgary Chinese Evangelical Free Church (SCCEFC - Chinese Churches seem to like initials; see Westside Calgary Chinese Alliance Church [WCCAC], SEAC [South Edmonton Alliance Church], ECCC [Edmonton Christian Community Church] etc., but enough of that - they are all good Alpha churches) are planning 2 Alpha's this fall.

Christcity, my favourite Sunday evening church, (I tell people I'm an Anglican Sunday mornings and a Pentecostal Sunday nights) is planning to give Alpha a higher profile this fall. I've been after them for quite a while about that because they are quite a rockin' church and I have long felt they could be a very major Alpha church.

And I've reserved a spot at Break Forth for next year, along with a breakout session.  My session will be entitled, "Communicating the Relevance of the Gospel in a Changing Culture," (I hope the title will fit in the program.) My description for the program is:
 this
 "Evangelicalism has never chased relevance more determinedly than it does right now. And yet, we've never been more irrelevant." (a quote from Os Guiness)
As soon as we feel we have to try to make the Gospel message relevant, we are admitting that we think it is not, so how do we communicate the eternally relevant message in today's world?
 Hopefully, it will receive the same response at the conference as last year's presentation.
Please continue to pray for Alpha's ministry in Alberta, across Canada and around the world. As we are embarking on a fall fundraising initiative, you might also consider clicking on my picture on the right and helping us out a bit.

Blessings,

John