I had made the decision to follow Jesus, but unlike many I did it without the benefit of being part of a church. I was pretty sure that I should be part of a church but how would I find one. My first choice was to begin attending the church where we had been married, so off we went to St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Regina. I attended confirmation classes so that I could be received into the official membership of the church. I was confirmed by the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and received my first communion. I will always remember receiving the elements and feeling that I really was eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus. Immediately following the confirmation service, a business meeting of the church was held, and I was elected to the church vestry. It’s probably not a good idea to elect a new Christian to a position of responsibility and authority in a church. It was less than a positive experience for me. The magic of my early days in the congregation began to fade and I found myself at odds with the teaching of the vicar of St. Alban’s. I couldn’t stay, so I took my wife and my two young sons out of the church. Now what?
I was a Christian without a church. I didn’t like that at all. My uncle Arnold was the pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Alberta Beach. I had a job that often took me to northern Alberta and instead of staying in a hotel, I stayed in Onoway with my uncle Arnold and my aunt Vicki. This became my church. This was where I began to be taught the scripture. I would occasionally attend midweek prayer meeting where I would study the Word of God and then pray with the people of my uncle’s congregation. This was the first place that I ever prayed out loud. I remember one night particularly. After we had eaten, we began to discuss what I was learning as a very new Christian. Before I knew it, the clock told me that it was approaching 3:00 AM. I had a 9:00 AM appointment two and a half hours away in Red Deer, Alberta. As tired as I was the next day, I didn’t regret losing this sleep for a second – I needed the food I was receiving from God’s Word through my aunt and my uncle. I knew this couldn’t continue. I needed to be part of a local church in Regina.
I decided to take my son Jeff to an Alliance church one Sunday morning. I reasoned that since my uncle also pastored an Alliance Church, it had to be a great place to attend. I was disappointed. I don’t know what happened, but no one seemed to take any interest in us. We sat down, sang the hymns, listened to a sermon, and then left. My expectations had been so high. I needed to be part of a church, but I had struck out twice with churches in Regina.
At that time Iona was working and we took our boys to a lady in the neighbourhood who babysat them while we were at work. In conversation she told us that every Sunday a school bus would come by and pick her boys up and take them to Sunday school. “What was the church,” I wanted to know. “Church of the Nazarene” our babysitter told us. Well, I’d never heard of them and to me that name sounded rather suspicious. What was Nazarene? Why wasn’t it named after a saint like Peter or Paul or the Holy Ghost like the name of the Orthodox Church we had attended in Assiniboia? The internet had not been invented and I couldn’t just Google the Church of the Nazarene to find out who they were, so I asked my uncle Arnold. “Oh, they’re a good, solid, evangelical denomination.” I trusted him, so the next Sunday, Iona, our sons Jeff and Steve accompanied me to Parkdale Church of the Nazarene. I doubted whether the name “Parkdale” was anywhere in the Bible. We sat near the back, the spot that seemed to have been reserved for people like us, who were testing the ecclesiastical waters. We’d barely sat down, before a young couple, Terry and Brenda, turned around, introduced themselves, shook hands with us and welcomed us to church. That was different. Mark Caldwell was the pastor and I have always felt like he was my pastor, even though we rarely saw each other after he had accepted a call to pastor a Nazarene church in Abbotsford, BC. After church a number of people came over to introduce themselves and welcome us to their church. I had found a church home. I didn’t know what kind of door was being opened for us. Spoiler alert – I would later spend twenty years pastoring Nazarene congregations in Alberta and Manitoba, but enough for today.
God was impressing on me the need to be part of a local congregation, to worship and to be fed from His word. In the meantime, remember to Keep the Son in Your Eyes.