It smelled like sweet pancake batter, and savoury sausage in Bannerman Hall on Family Day. Continuing the tradition of the last few years, members of Bethel served their fellow neighbours of this community a wonderful breakfast. While noticing that there was a not an empty chair to be found, and listening to the happy breakfast banter, I found myself feeling fortunate to watch the Spirit at work in Bannerman.
In our “Dream for Bethel” we imagine the following realities:
In total, 225 people came out to eat and enjoy fellowship with one another. Many expressed thankfulness for a free breakfast and a chance to enjoy their neighbours. Almost half of the Bethelites who served on Family day, either live in Bannerman or are closely involved in its social fabric. All the while, the whole event was in partnership with our friends at the community league. I believe we are well on our way to seeing God’s dream a reality.
Glory to God for leading the way and for all the beautiful possibilities in the future!
The words above were spoken recently by someone who had been reading “A Dream for Bethel”. He learned of Bethel’s vision to see people from many different races and cultures enfolded into the church. As a new arrival to Bethel who originates from the Congo, he recognized that the dream spoke of him! He was touched by the love behind the words.
“Someone dreamed me” - what amazing words to speak, and what heartwarming words for us all to hear.
The meeting at which these words were spoken was called specifically to discuss Bethel’s multicultural dream. Participants in the discussion are people who originate from Liberia, Iran, Jamaica, the Congo, and North America (that’s me!). It was the second time we had met.
During the meeting, I asked each person present if they would be willing to be part of an ongoing Multicultural Team, and if they would be willing to invest themselves to see Bethel’s dream of reaching the nations come true. I said I knew it would involve personal sacrifice for them, since they are a very few in number, and it can be rather overwhelming to serve in a church where you are a small minority.
The group resoundingly affirmed that they believe Bethel’s dream is, first of all, Jesus’ dream, and that they wholeheartedly commit themselves to it. They will start by seeking out people from other cultures who visit Bethel on Sunday mornings. Eventually they hope to host events like potlucks featuring foods from various nations to which newcomers to Bethel Church from other cultures can be invited. Starting with these small steps they believe they will see people from many different races enfolded into the church beyond what we can currently imagine.
During our recent meeting, one of our group members compared Bethel’s multicultural dream to starting a family. When a couple first dreams of having children, they cannot fully know the sacrifice involved. While they have a worthy goal, and are embarking on a joyful journey, they will no doubt be surprised along the way by the cost required.
If we as a church truly want to welcome people of other cultures, there will be a cost. It will mean that we will have to stretch beyond familiar patterns. It will mean each of us will have to extend ourselves to people who love Jesus but whose culture is different from mine. It will mean opening up leadership roles to people from many different races and recognizing that the church will change as a result.
The person who said, “Someone dreamed me,” went on to pose a question. He asked: “Is Bethel ready for me?” That is a question we each need to ponder.
– Pastor Tom
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day - this being Valentine’s Day weekend and all? I’ve observed three distinct attitudes toward this holiday. Some really love it and seem to outdo themselves each year celebrating it. Some hate it, often because they see it as superficial and trivial. Most people, however, seem to be somewhere in between these two extremes - they regard the day as a reason to express their affection for loved ones or friends. Couples may use it as an occasion to celebrate their relationship by doing something special together.
Here are some facts about Valentine’s Day you might find interesting:
· There are at least three “St. Valentines” in the Catholic tradition. No one knows for sure which St. Valentine the day is named for.
· February 14 was likely declared St. Valentine’s Day to Christianize a pagan holiday that celebrated love and fertility.
· Valentines greetings were popular as far back as the middle ages. The oldest known written valentine was penned by Charles, Duke of Orleans in 1415 to his wife who was imprisoned in the tower of London.
· An estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second biggest card-sending holiday of the year next to Christmas (when approximately 2.6 billion cards are sent).
· Women purchase 85% of all Valentine’s Day cards. (Check out History.com for more interesting facts about the day.)
Biblically speaking we could say that Valentine’s Day celebrates “eros” or romantic love. Romantic love is not a bad thing. However, as followers of Christ, we know there is a different and deeper kind of love. It is called “agape,” and it is characterized by the self-sacrifice that Christ showed when he died on the cross for people who had no claim on His love.
This agape love reminds us not to follow our culture by idolizing feelings of romance. At the same time it tells us that a Christian’s “eros” can be all the sweeter because it is shot through with an “agapic” willingness to sacrifice ourselves for those we love. This being the case, Christians should be better lovers than anyone! Perhaps there is reason to celebrate this holiday, after all. Have a happy Valentine’s Day.
– Pastor Tom
Some ideas are so right for the time that, once they are born, they seem to be carried along by their own power. That is how I feel about the plans being made for a Men’s Retreat to take place at Frontier Lodge in Nordegg, June 3-5.
The men asked to organize this event readily volunteered. Their excitement is palpable. When they strategize for the weekend their ideas are fresh and creative. They want the men of Bethel to grab life by the tail and to live the adventure of an extreme faith.
When I have mentioned to other men in the church that plans are being made for a retreat I have often seen their eyes light up. They take note of the date. They talk about good experiences they’ve had at other men’s events.
In the past, efforts were made in the direction of men’s ministry, but it has been a while and there is nothing currently available to create the opportunity for men to connect and grow. I think the time has come to change that.
I am persuaded that this upcoming event is going to be enjoyable and memorable, but I think it is going to be much more than that. I believe it will have a profoundly shaping effect on the lives and friendships of those who attend, and I believe it has the potential to influence the life of the whole church in important ways.
Watch for details about the event in upcoming newsletters. If you have any questions about this special weekend, be sure to talk to one of the planners: Greg Boskers, Rene Cloutier, Mark Dubbeldam, Rene Hebers, Brian Hofstede, Paul Vandyk or either of the pastors.
— Pastor Tom
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