In answer to our prayers, God is drawing people from all nations to Bethel. Two significant things that happened this week are evidence of this.
The first significant thing was the multicultural potluck held last Sunday. It was attended by over 70 people--several of them who have just recently joined the Bethel community. The dinner table featured dishes from at least 15 nations: Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Iran, Fiji, Guatemala, various African countries, Holland, Canada, and many more.
After the potluck, the group members gathered to describe interesting aspects of their various cultures. We learned that:
• Jamaica is not in Africa, as many people seem to think,
• and Kazakhstan is not part of Russia.
• People from some parts of Africa look downward to avoid eye contact with elders. While this is a sign of respect where they come from, it is sometimes interpreted as rudeness in Canada.
• In Iran, women look to one side when speaking with men in order to avoid eye contact with them. These women can find it difficult to change this habit when they come to the West.
• People in the Congo are known as good singers. When challenged to prove this, one of our Congolese participants sang beautifully in his native language.
There was a lot of chatting and laughing over the course of the potluck.
The other significant cross cultural event that took place this week was the first meeting of our church’s Truth and Reconciliation Team. Classis Alberta North has asked that all of the churches of the CRC denomination in our area form such a group. Our goal as a team, was to ask how Bethel Church could continue--in our church--the good work begun by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as it pertains in relationship between Canadians and First Nation’s peoples.
The seven people who met (including one Bethel member of Native Canadian descent) had a very constructive discussion. As a matter of fact, I found the unity of purpose we experienced surprising. I firmly believe it was a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence and help. The team is off to a great start, and we will report on progress as soon as we firm up our plans.
Bethel is a welcoming place that is becoming even more welcoming. In a very real sense, God is “giving us the world” (Not as that expression is sometimes meant—for our self-aggrandizement. Rather, He is giving us the world to love and to serve.) Your prayers and the love you are extending to others—even across racial lines—is making a difference
This past weekend, 44 Bethel leaders spent Friday night and Saturday together. The aim of the Elders, Deacons, Staff, and Ministry Directors who gathered for this year’s annual Leadership Retreat was to discern possible next steps for our church.
We kicked off Friday night with a potluck supper held in the church’s chapel. Halfway through the meal, retreat participants were surprised by some “party crashers”--a large number of our church’s young people were having an evening of fun. They had us recall the funniest moments from our teen years, and then shared the best of these memories with the whole group. They served us ice cream sundaes, and then left on another adventure.
In an interview on Friday night, Martin Contant described the experiences and personal reflection that have led him to change his views about how churches should plan for the future. In the past he thought churches should work out a plan and ask God to bless it. He now urges churches to give God control, being prayerful and attentive to His leading. Martin’s words set the tone for rest of the retreat. They launched us on a journey of prayer, discussion, and consideration of one another’s views with the ultimate goal of discerning how we could join God in His work.
Four main topics were discussed during the retreat. On Friday, members of our Multicultural Team talked about their experiences at Bethel and their hopes for the future, before we broke into groups for discussion. On Saturday, we considered ways all Bethel members could become personally engaged in the Great Commission, we investigated what is involved in planting a church, and we talked about the future of our Bannerman Ministries.
Many people commented on the positive spirit at the retreat. Everyone seemed comfortable in one another’s presence. People were quick to laugh, and there was a pervading sense of unity. All of this points to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
This retreat was sort of like taking a trip up the mountain to meet God, the way the prophets of old did. We think he was gracious to reveal Himself, even if not through a voice or visitation. Over the next weeks and months we plan to consider all the results from the retreat. Then we will present the results to the congregation for their consideration.
Our hope for our church is that all of our hearts will become united around a clear vision of the future. We want to gain the sense that God has, indeed, spoken, and that we are walking in His Will.
There is a new and exciting development in our Church’s neighbourhood. It could radically improve the lives of many who live there, and Bethel Church is playing a big part in it. Let me explain:
Several weeks ago, The United Way contacted me through someone from our church. They had learned that Bannerman community leaders had begun to meet regularly at Bethel, and they were eager to talk us. The reason they wanted to meet with our group is that they want to see 1000 families in Edmonton lifted permanently out of poverty starting with the neighbourhoods that surround Bethel Church. They need the cooperation of the community’s leaders.
Our group quickly agreed to meet with them. As a matter of fact, instead of the usual six attendees, our number ballooned to twelve for the occasion. At the meeting, there was a wonderful spirit of cooperation. The atmosphere was electric with a sense of hopefulness. It was clear that everyone present was committed to giving whatever help they could to see families lifted out of poverty.
Following the meeting, the United Way representative expressed that she was very encouraged by the positive reception she received. Many others expressed excitement about the meeting. Some even said they were surprised it all went so well. Some positive comments were also made about Bethel Church that showed that Bethel is regarded as a valuable partner in the community.
Looking back, I can’t help feeling a certain sense of awe. It was just months ago that we, as a church, sensing God’s leading, approached various Bannerman leaders asking that we partner together in order to see our neighbourhood flourish. The excitement of this most recent meeting was possible because of the relationships we had formed in those months. God’s timing is always perfect! Let’s continue to walk closely with God, pray for his guidance, and see where he will take us next in this journey.
— Pastor Tom
Next weekend, we will be having our annual Bethel leadership retreat. Elders, deacons, staff, and many ministry leaders will meet at the church on Friday night for a potluck supper followed by worship, a presentation, small group discussion, and prayer. We will engage in a similar pattern when we meet at the Star of the North Retreat Centre on Saturday. Retired Regional Home Missionary, Martin Contant will be our speaker.
Why do we hold these annual retreats? Because we want to get a panoramic view of what God is doing at Bethel Church, and to discern where he might want us to go in the future. In short, it is one way to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25)
We have an agenda for the meeting—our discussions will focus on four possible ministry directions—but, we are leaving ourselves open for God to surprise us. After all, Bethel is not our church. It is Jesus’ church, and Jesus has a habit of breaking in to lead His followers in new and surprising directions, as the book of Acts shows. So we will be listening for His direction.
I’m very excited about this retreat, because I know that “God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Please pray with us. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens. Thanks so much!
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