Rimbey – the Early Years

We left Fort Saskatchewan and began a ministry in Rimbey, Alberta in September of 1988. It began with such promise! In Fort Saskatchewan I learned a lot about expository preaching. Over the course of 42 sermons, I preached verse by verse through the book of Ephesians. When we arrived in Rimbey I began to explore other styles of preaching and discovered I had a knack for storytelling. I became somewhat fascinated with Jesus’ parables. Why did He tell that specific story with those characters? Why did He use the language that He used? I began to believe that Jesus told His stories with an eye to creating discomfort and even some anger in His target audience. Their emotional reactions were part of His storytelling. Twentieth century hearers wouldn’t react emotionally in the same way their first century counterparts had. I began to realize that when Jesus told His stories, the people’s emotional reactions made them more attentive. I asked how I could retell the parables in 20th century language to elicit similar emotions.

I then decided to take on the task of writing programs that our church could present at Easter. There was a great deal of musical talent in the church. I wrote dramas that would be modified and enriched with music. I borrowed existing music and married it to the drama. We advertised and made multiple presentations. The community responded by coming to see what we were doing in large numbers. These were the halcyon days of our ministry.

I encouraged our ministerial to greater levels of cooperation. We joined forces for Good Friday and Christmas Eve services. Instead of multiple Daily Vacation Bible Schools, a number of churches joined forces and worked together to present one DVBS.

I was growing. I enjoyed becoming sort of a chaplain to the town of Rimbey. My friend and colleague Reg Darnel said to me “There is only one church in Rimbey, but we meet in different sheep sheds.” Thank you, Reg, for that insightful comment.

During our tenure the church celebrated its 75th anniversary. We planned a huge celebration and invited back as many of the former pastors as we could as well as the people who had once worshiped with us. We invited the only surviving founding member of the congregation. We published a brief history of the church and purchased commemorative plates. We had a banquet and asked people to contribute to our mortgage retirement fund. It didn’t take long for us to pay it off and in a special service with our District Superintendent, we burned the mortgage. I’ll never forget that service. We had a metal bowl into which our District Superintendent would drop the mortgage document once he had lit it. He didn’t know that a sheet of flash paper was at the bottom of the bowl. As soon as the flame hit the paper it flashed, sending tongues of fire into the air. I am grateful that our Superintendent didn’t have much hair as it would no doubt have been singed.

I began to branch out into other areas of service in the community. I was asked if I would recite the Cremation of Sam McGee at a public performance in the community centre. I enjoyed the challenge of memorizing the poem and of delivering it with a couple different voices.

I began to believe that I could spend the rest of ministerial career in this church. I began to explore getting more involved in community life. Maybe I should run for the school or hospital board or maybe even town council. We had been living in a church owned parsonage and I thought about buying our own home.

In the midst of all this, a cloud began to arise just over the horizon. I received a phone call from the superintendent of another district asking if I would consider accepting a call to a church in his district. What was this about? Iona began to have some feelings of discomfort and I went on retreat at King’s Fold Retreat Centre just outside of Cochrane, Alberta. I spent a few days there walking through the trees with a golden retriever accompanying me. And I prayed. Was it time to leave? After much prayer I came to the conclusion that the church needed a different pastor, but I was also convinced that God could change me and reshape me into the different pastor the church needed. But that that small cloud that had formed on the horizon began to grow and soon began to look like a thunderhead. At the end of May in 1995 the storm broke. And as the winds rose and the rain fell would I still be able to keep the Son in my eyes?

3 thoughts on “Rimbey – the Early Years

  1. Karen

    Len, can’t wait to hear what happens next. You certainly do have the gift of story telling. I love that you are sharing your life experiences so openly and honestly-always with the reminder that God is in control.


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