Do you need a little drama in your life? Believe it or not, that is the question we are asking ourselves at Bethel Church right now. That is because we may be about to get a drama program. The possibility of getting drama at Bethel has come up in a rather surprising way, and we are trying to discern if the Spirit is moving us in this direction. Let me explain what has developed, and how you can help determine if we get drama at Bethel.
Dr. Randy Ritz and his wife Dorothy have been attending our church for the better part of a year. You may have met Randy, or you may remember him from his presentation of “Barabbas” on Good Friday. He is the recently retired Drama Department-Head from Concordia University. As well as being a published author and film producer, Randy has directed over forty productions—many of them national in scope.
Several months ago I met Randy. I was the one who first encouraged him to come to Bethel. In the course of discussions with him, I learned that he was eager to use his gifts to help a church develop a drama program. Although he was prepared to “make a deal we couldn’t refuse,” by asking only a fraction of what he might reasonably have requested for an eight-month contract position, I knew we had no room in the budget for such a person.
But then I was floored. Maybe I underestimated God’s power. I brought up this out-of-the-box, seemingly-impossible proposal with our church’s leadership, and someone in the room, said, “I’ll donate the full amount.”
Encouraged by this offer, the Managing Elders have decided to test Bethel’s eagerness for such a program. On May 10, starting at 7:30 pm, we are convening a meeting of everyone interested in seeing drama flourish at Bethel.
If you want to see drama happen at Bethel, you should come to that meeting. You can talk with Randy, express your interest in the program, have some fun, and help shape the future of drama at Bethel. If the level of interest expressed at this meeting is sufficiently high, our Managing Elders will accept the gracious offer from the prospective donor, and bring Randy on board as our church’s drama coach.
This week, our Sunday message will be delivered by Aaron Au, pastor of Avenue Church located at 118 Ave here in Edmonton. In 2014, Aaron left his full time job as First Violinist of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and his teaching position at the U of A, and gave up his international travels as a chamber musician, to launch this church plant. It was a gutsy step on Aaron’s part, motivated by his desire to see people come to Christ and follow Christ into lives of love and service to their community and world. Through Aaron’s leadership, along with the partnership of his wife April, his small church is growing.
I personally invited and urged Aaron to come to Bethel this Sunday. I have to be away from Edmonton—preaching in Fairview, Alberta, on assignment from Classis Alberta North—so we needed someone to speak in my absence—but this is not the reason I invited Aaron. It is only the occasion for my doing so. I invited him so you can meet him and rub shoulders with someone passionate about Christ, who is living and sharing the Gospel as a pioneer in a church plant.
In our church’s Dream for Bethel document we have expressed our hope of planting a church someday, and at this year’s leadership retreat the Elders and Deacons gave this proposition serious attention. Eventually, we will involve the whole congregation in the discussion so we can consider the sacrifices and benefits involved. In the meantime, what better way to gain insight into church planting than to have someone come from the front lines to bring the Word and share firsthand experiences.
May the Gospel spread far and wide! Have a wonderful Sunday with Aaron.
3There has been an exciting development in the last weeks. Bethel Church has become one of Edmonton’s twenty-three WECAN food basket distribution depots. This is going to greatly help needy families in our area, and our participation in the program has had a surprising impact on the community partners with whom we serve in the Bannerman neighbourhood.
WECAN is an innovative program that makes food affordable for families in need. Here is how it works: Participating low-income families buy a food basket each month. The food can be affordably priced because participants pay in advance, allowing their money to be pooled. Food is purchased in bulk, thus lowering the cost. Our church’s role is to receive people’s payments, then, on the designated day of the month, bring the people’s food baskets to the church to be distributed.
Our involvement in this program has touched some hearts among our Bannerman partners. Grace Craig, one of our deacons, was at a local Clareview Community Builders Association meeting when the news of our participation was shared. The 30 or so delegates present broke into applause upon hearing the news, and one person, leaned over to Grace and said, “Your church is something else. I think it is just wonderful.” What an unexpected and welcome compliment!
When I heard this news I thought of a verse:
“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47).
We should never live for the favor of people, but people’s favor can be an indication that we are obeying Jesus’ command: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). May God use this “favor” to draw people to Himself through Jesus Christ!
Richard Vriend is coordinating the program on behalf of the deacons. He is being helped by several people in the church. The first distribution will take place May 20.
Mother Teresa once said, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him.” If Mother Teresa is correct that we encounter Jesus in the neediest of humans, then Jesus came to church the other day.
I did not witness the event, but a member of our staff and another Bethel member told me what happened that Sunday morning. They first saw the man sitting on the bench at the back of the church. He was wet, muddy, and disheveled. Homeless, he had slept in a snow bank next to the church the night before. When he heard the sound of worship music he made his way into the building.
The woman who first spoke with him said that his appearance was off-putting, and yet she experienced within her a welling up of Jesus’ love for him. She went over to talk to him. Someone prepared him a cup of coffee. Others scrounged to find leftover cheese and crackers in some fridge or other. Two bags of foodbank groceries were eventually gathered and given to him. One of our deacons arranged for him to stay at a shelter, then drove him to where he could find a bed for the night.
A very touching part of this story occurred when the man indicated that he was too weak to make it to the vehicle waiting to take him to the shelter. The elderly Bethel member who first spoke with him put an arm around him, and supported him on his way to the waiting van. He spoke to her of his fears—he saw demons, he said—and this Bethel member told him that he need not fear demons if He has Jesus. She took off the silver cross she habitually wore around her neck and gave it to him.
She returned to the church, with her Sunday clothing soiled from having supported the man as he walked. Her dress was dirty but her heart was full.
Jesus came to Bethel, and he found a welcome here.
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