Faith Today is Canada’s Christian magazine. A publication of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada since 1983 which exists to "unite Evangelicals to bless Canada in the name of Jesus". Connecting, Equipping, Inspiring.
The EFC’s recent webinar on “Mentoring and Why it Matters” generated lively discussion and lots of helpful tips, especially about the “mechanics” of a typical mentoring session. Our expert guests, Margaret Gibb of Women Together, Pierre Bergeron of SIS Leadership and Doug Ward of Arrow Leadership, also made several book suggestions for those wanting to grow in their mentorship skills. If you missed it you can watch the mentoring webinar. Here is their list of recommended reading.
The Making of a Leader by Robert Clinton
Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan
To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future by Dan B. Allender
Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud
Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro
Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton
Life with God by Richard J. Foster
Connecting: the Mentoring Relationship you need to succeed in life by Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton
A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald
Mentoring: How to Find a Mentor and How to Become One by Bob Biehl
As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in A Mentoring Relationship by Howard and William Hendricks
Winning with People by John C. Maxwell
The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C Maxwell
Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn by John C Maxwell
Intentional Living by John C Maxwell
Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams
Spiritual Mentoring by Keith Anderson and Randy Reese
Great Questions for Leading Well by Steve Brown (Arrow)
There is nothing quite like a room full of young writers. That’s what I encountered yesterday at a seminar on The Beautiful Intersection of Faith and Writing at Urbana18. It was so much fun, for me, the fretting presenter at the front of the room. Fretting because what if the thingy I had to buy to connect my mac to the other thing that was just laying there on the podium didn’t actually work? But a guy in the second row said he solves computer problems for his mother all the time and so I felt better. I was in good tech hands and we could learn from each other.
Faith Today and LIM magazines were stacked at the back of the room ready to give away. My handouts were distributed, containing my long list of suggested writing books sourced from my Facebook writing community. And so I launched into my presentation on what it means to be a Christian writer, and how to do that even better. I offered some writing tips…
We dug briefly into each one, dwelling for a few minutes especially on the topic of platform — the audience you both bring and build for your writing. It is your online presence and social media reach, yes, but that’s not all it is. It is your whole sphere of influence and it is who knows your name and pays attention to what you say; and publishers want to know these things about who and what you bring to that table when they are considering your book proposal. There were lots of questions about technique and how to find your way to shore when you are swimming in an ocean of ideas.
Maybe every craft is like this, but writers really like to talk about writing. We learn from each other. We can save each other big gobs of time by sharing what we know, even as what we know evolves. Gathering together gets us excited about writing and the beautiful art we get to practice and it was wonderful to meet some of the young voices who will write to, from and of the Church in the years to come.
It’s day two of #Urbana18 and there have been many fine moments already, but singing in a huge space with approximately 9,999 other people? That has to be one of the best parts of this student missions conference.
I remember that feeling from Urbana ’93, the first and last time I was at this tri-annual gathering that brings students and leaders together from across North America and around the world. Back then, the music was a revelation. I had never before been immersed in contemporary Christian praise music like that, made especially beautiful with a global flavour, and all that richness while surrounded by so many others, singing the very same song. That feeling has not changed.
The music is as beautiful as the spirit of repentance that has defined the teaching from the main podium so far. This is a humble Urbana, aware of the mistakes earnest Christians have made in the world. Aware of the sin of caring for the need in other countries, and ignoring the problems in our own, but not apologetic for wanting to share God’s love. “The mission is God’s, not ours,” said Urbana director Ruth Hubbard. “God is a missionary God and he compels us to join him,” she said, before saying we must all repent for “the ungodly ways we have served God.” And then the music started up again.
Thank you to all our faithful readers! We are always glad to hear from you about the things we publish here in our online space and also in print.
One way we get to hear from readers is by counting the number of times people view different blog posts. It helps us to know what’s popular, although that’s not the only criteria we use when planning future articles and posts.
Sometimes what’s popular is a pleasant surprise (two articles in our top ten are about disability issues) and sometimes it’s no surprise (our most-read post is still an article on pornography from 2016).
Without further ado, here are the posts from 2018 that were read by the most people. (For those who geek out on methods, these stats aren’t super-scientific because they don’t include visits to the blog homepage, which make up most of our traffic.)
3. Does everybody belong in church? Chantal Huinink of Christian Horizons shared the Everybody Belongs materials that Christian Horizons offers to churches that want to organize a special worship service to celebrate the contribution of people with disabilities
1. A Christian tackles direct marketing house parties. Freelance journalist Julia Cheung reflected on the queasy feelings she’s had when someone invites her to a sales party, and the three conditions she has decided on that must be met before she attends.
What would you like to see on our website or in our print magazine in 2019? Please let us know anytime at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.
What’s an Evangelical to think when 200 world religions meet in Toronto?
A sneak peek at an article to be published in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue. By James A. Beverley. Photos: Courtney DeCaire/TPOTWR.
When it comes to religion, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” This phrase from the English satirist Alexander Pope came to mind during my recent visit to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto in early November.
The parliament was a time to learn about different religions. Photo: Courtney DeCaire/TPOTWR
The religious marketplace of that conference – a kaleidoscope of plenary speakers, hundreds of exhibitions, an enormous quantity of online discussion – is a perfect snapshot of the bewildering, confusing and overwhelming religious world that surrounds us all.
Imagine 200 religious groups showing up for the eight-day marathon of spirituality. Most Faith Today readers know about Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and New Age, not to mention Christianity. But that’s only seven groups. What are the rest?
The 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto had an Indigenous Peoples’ program with the theme “The spiritual evolution of humanity and healing our Mother Earth.” Photo: Courtney DeCaire/TPOTWR
Okay, there were also atheists (including Gretta Vosper, the controversial United Church pastor), witches, plus members of the Bahai faith, Zoroastrianism and African tribal religion. We’re now at 12 groups, but still a long way from 200.
Delegates of all faiths attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto in November 2018. Photo: Courtney DeCaire/TPOTWR
Part of the reason for the big number is all the factions within each larger religious tradition. For example, variations on Hinduism included Brahma Kumaris, Meher Baba, Sathya Sai and others. Buddhist groups included Soka Gakkai, Tzu Chi, Mahamevnawa Meditation Center, etc. Islam included Sunni, Shia and Sufi groups and their subgroups. For Christianity think Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant (on Protestant think Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Church, etc.).
You also reach 200 by factoring in many new religions distinct from the larger and well-known traditions. So this parliament brought followers of Daesoon Jinrihoe (Taiwan), Cao Dai (Vietnam), His Divine Eminence Ra Gohar Shahi (Pakistan), Joseph Communications (USA) and Shinji Shumeikai (Japan), to mention a few.
Even when we wrap our minds around the 200 groups, it’s still daunting to think about all the different views of truth and goodness.
And how do we respond to the endless refrains at the parliament that “All religions are one” and “We all follow the same God”? This view was popularized by Swami Vivekananda, a famous Hindu teacher, at the first parliament in Chicago in 1893. It has been a constant message at every parliament (Chicago 1993, Cape Town 1999, Barcelona 2004, Melbourne 2009, Salt Lake City 2015 and Toronto 2018).
But if all religions are ultimately the same, why continue to evangelize? If all humans follow the same God, why be concerned about people knowing Jesus as Saviour?
Apart from some Hindu and Sikh disagreements in the first couple of days, an incredible harmony existed at the parliament. Despite over 7,500 registrants from the hundreds of groups – it was basically a mood of peace. Isn’t this proof that the pluralist, inclusivist understanding of religions is the right path to take?
John Longhurst of The Winnipeg Free Press reported on his “sense of wonder and amazement so many people from so many places and so many religions could all gather peacefully in the same place – and no arguments about who was right or wrong broke out.”
Wow, if religions get along so well, there’s no need for John Lennon’s famous musical appeal to “imagine … no religion.” Should we then “imagine one religion” or at least “imagine all religions on equal standing?
To help us respond, let’s consider ten principles I have developed over more than four decades of study and teaching about the world’s religions and philosophies.
Contrary to the popular message of pluralism at the parliament and elsewhere, all religions and philosophies are to be measured by the final revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The binding Christian confession of Jesus as the only Son of God and as God’s final and ultimate Word (Acts 4:12) is the foundation for all assessment of religions. The Bible does not teach that all roads lead to God. The Apostle Paul did not adopt a pluralist stance when he shared the gospel, whether with pagans in Athens or Jews in Corinth. The Christian tradition has always taught the uniqueness and supremacy of Jesus. To use the words of the Protestant theologian Karl Barth, Jesus is the one distinction between truth and error.
We should be glad a loving spirit prevailed at the parliament. After all, commitment to Jesus demands love be paramount in all humans do, Christian or not. That is the message of 1 Corinthians 13 and the two great commandments. It is no small thing that there was harmony at the parliament. That is better than acrimony, hatred, bigotry and ignorance. (And see the sidebar in this story about the need for a loving, gentle witness about the gospel.)
Christian response to religions involves a commitment to truth. The love for truth means not only dedication to Christ as the Truth (John 14:6), but also a devotion to accuracy in understanding all worldviews and religions. The commandment not to bear false witness against your neighbour includes avoiding lies, half-truths and distortions about all religions and philosophies. No, not all Buddhists are nihilistic. (When I interviewed the Dalai Lama in India in 2000, I was impressed by his zest for life.) No, Baptists are not all close-minded. (Robert Sellers and Larry Greenfield, two of the top leaders at the parliament, are Baptist.) No, not all Sikhs are militant. (Canadian Sikhs at the parliament engaged in langar, the practice of providing a free meal to anyone who showed up – in this case 20,000 meals.) No, witches are not always fighting with each other. (There was a real spirit of unity among the witchcraft leaders I heard in one of the sessions.) No, Christianity is not the only religion that teaches salvation by grace alone. (Some forms of Buddhism teach that enlightenment is given the same way.)
Christians must recognize the contradictions that exist among the religions of the world. The Abrahamic faiths confess one God whereas Hinduism is often polytheistic, as are many African tribal religions. Jews and Muslims do not accept Jesus as the Son of God. Christians do. Some New Age groups deny evil is real, a view not accepted by almost every other religion. Many religious groups support the necessity of war while Jainists won’t even harm a fly, literally. Christians look to Calvary as the way of salvation whereas Muslims deny Jesus even died on the cross. Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions to the point of death – all other religions accept the medical procedure. Many Muslims support terrorism, most do not. Most religions believe in God while many Buddhist groups do not. These huge differences and opposites prove, not that the parliament’s harmony is not real, but that it is partial and incomplete.
Disciples of Jesus can celebrate every true, good, and beautiful part of a religious group and in people of little or no faith. The artistic element at the Parliament (dance, painting, crafts, music, dress) was often inspiring, for example. In terms of the common good, many of the groups at the parliament work effectively to fight poverty, injustice against Indigenous peoples, discrimination, misogyny, damage to the climate and other ills of our world. The parliament’s Global Ethic declaration is powerful, even if it leaves out major divisive issues like abortion. Since 1979 Human Concern International, the oldest Canadian Muslim charity, has given $100 million in aid to 30 countries. The Boroujerdi group works at defending civil liberties, particularly in relation to Iran. The parliament also issued a statement (written with consultation from Kim Campbell and Romeo Dallaire, two of the most famous Canadian attendees) urging the world to commit to eliminating nuclear weapons.
Those who trust the gospel of Jesus must recognize the power of the dominant pluralistic and inclusivist perspective on religion and religious study. Since the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, the acceptance of all religions as equal paths to God has grown. Mainline denominations often downplay the missionary enterprise, as has the World Council of Churches. Some liberal theologians have gone extreme and argued Jesus is not the only Saviour and Lord. Diana Eck, a Harvard professor, claims her Methodist faith is consistent with worship of deities at Hindu temples. John Wesley, her spiritual forefather, would weep at such practice.
The Christian Church must affirm the mercy and love of God shown in Jesus is more than enough to answer concerns about God’s fairness in relationship to God’s judgment on our world’s philosophies and religions. The Christian must resist attempts to downplay the supremacy of Jesus or to overstate the unity of religions as a means of making Christian faith more acceptable in the contemporary climate of relativism. The wideness of God’s mercy is shown best by the immense grace given at Calvary. This grace should lead us to be wary of judgmentalism, as Jesus commanded in the Sermon on the Mount.
Those who trust in the Christian gospel must not forget the wrath of God that stands against the wickedness of a fallen world. The message of God’s justice is a necessary balance to overstatements of God’s mercy and grace. This applies to both secular and religious worlds since the Lord’s name is taken in vain in both. The good news in Jesus is a word of judgment about the folly and sin of lost humanity. Paradoxically, trust in God’s judgment can be an anchor of hope for those who have experienced evil and injustice.
Christians must recognize the ways in which the Church has not allowed the gospel to critique the Church through the ages. Karl Barth has argued prophetically that the message of Christ must be heard by all religions. Barth was correct to recognize that religion can be unbelief, even among those who claim to follow Christ. The story of Christianity stands under the judgment of the gospel, sometimes more than other paths, as when German Christian groups endorsed Hitler, American Christian churches practised slavery and Canadian Christians committed heinous injustices against Indigenous peoples.
A Christian response to religion must include respect for human liberty. Christians must defend the right of all humans to exercise their free choice on religious matters (apart from undisputed criminal actions). A decision for the gospel is real only if made in freedom. The Christian should respect the freedom of humans to reject any religion, including the Christian gospel. Conversely, non-Christians should fight for the religious liberty of Christians, especially now that Christians are under enormous attack, as clearly explained in Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea (Thomas Nelson, 2013).
Should Christians be upset about other religions and non-Christian philosophies? Yes, if that is about concern for the lost, anger over evil, sadness over error, grief over the power of false religions and spiritualities, and disappointment that any human rejects the gospel of Jesus.
Should Christians be uncertain about the truth of the gospel in the world of religions and philosophies? No, especially about our conviction that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), and that “every knee will bow . . . and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10–11, NASB). We should be utterly confident and celebrate that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, NASB).
James A. Beverley is professor of Christian thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, and the longtime “Religion Watch” columnist for Faith Today.
Read a more complete version of this article in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of Faith Today, where you will also find three related items by James Beverley:
Toronto City Mission (TCM) is the oldest and longest-running mission in the City of Toronto. While our ministry has evolved from inner city relief work to preventive and proactive programs for children and families impacted by poverty, summer camp has always been a core part of our ministry.
Dave Addison is executive director of Toronto City Mission. He writes here about his faith-building experience during the Canada Summer Jobs funding difficulties.
Sonshine Day Camp provides a rich experience of daily programs including crafts, sports, singing, drama, Bible-based stories and day trips. Children are kept engaged and off the streets or away from anti-social behaviours while parents are working. Children who attend Sonshine Day Camp receive the gifts of belonging, confidence, and faith.
Currently, TCM hosts 7 weeks of summer camp for 125 children in 4 communities across the city that are impacted by poverty. To assure accessibility to those in need, camp is provided at no cost to the families. In order to run the camps, TCM hires 16 summer interns to work alongside nine (9) of our Outreach Workers as well as a large number of volunteers.
For the last 20+ years, TCM has received funding from the federal government to help subsidize the cost of hiring summer students (interns). In 2017, Canada Summer Jobs provided approximately $70,000 of grant funding to help cover the majority of this salary expense.
In December of 2017, the federal government released new guidelines for the Canada Summer Jobs program stating that employers would be ineligible for the grant unless they agreed that their core mandate and hiring do not discriminate on the basis of religion, and that they affirm the government’s views on abortion, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. This clause became known as the “Attestation.”
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada argued that the attestation requirement was an infringement of Charter Rights for freedom of religion, expression, beliefs, and opinion. This issue was well fought, but the government only made minor amendments to the wording. While this very fact was an admission that the attestation was flawed, the government stood their ground and required organizations to “tick the box” or they would not receive funding.
After a time of discernment, TCM’s board and leadership team concluded that we could not sign the attestation. Making this choice would put at risk TCM’s grant application. Given the new minimum wage, hiring 16 interns would be at a cost of $100,000. Plans for summer camp were well underway and we knew that it is a vital part of our ministry.
With little hesitation, we responded to God’s call to step out in faith and proceed with camp as planned. We would put our trust in God’s provision.
I soon found myself being asked by the EFC, CCCC, MP’s, and the media to speak out against the attestation requirement. For me, the issue was first and foremost about religious freedom and secondarily about funding. I participated in an interfaith press conference organized by the EFC as well as three national news interviews.
Before we launched any official fundraising appeal, donations started to come in from people who saw the TV interviews. A foundation who donated to TCM in the past made a significant donation to support the position TCM had taken. At my church, St. Paul’s Bloor Street, I was approached by a friend who had also seen one of my interviews. On the spot, he committed $5,000, then asked what more he could do. He wrote a compelling letter that he sent to a number of friends and associates appealing for their support and even more money was donated.
I vividly remember the day when I was sending an email thanking a donor who gave $2,000.
I typed “I continue to pray and put my trust in God.” It was at that moment that my faith wavered. This donation brought the total to $40,000, but I questioned if we could actually raise the remaining $60,000. I looked at the latter part of my sentence and wondered if I should end it after “I continue to pray.” I decided to leave it as it was written because only God was going to make this possible.
Less than 1 minute after I hit “Send,” my phone rang.
It was the pastor from a church that had long been supporters of TCM. He told me that it was on his heart that they should support TCM’s camp because of the position we took against attestation. He told me that he and the church elders decided to have a month-long appeal for TCM. Their ambitious goal for members of the church was to raise $30,000. He then told me that the church would commit to match dollar-for-dollar up to $30,000 donated.
If they achieved their goal, they would raise $60,000…the exact amount we needed to reach our $100,000 goal!
I started to cry, struggling to speak, I explained the email I had just sent and the faith battle that I was facing. I told him that his call was truly the answer to prayer!
One month later, the pastor called to tell me that the appeal was a success and they had raised $60,330!
God proved to us his faithfulness, abundance, and sovereignty.
As we look ahead to next summer, we pray that the government won’t have a values test associated with accessing CSJ funding, but we also know where we must put our trust…in God and His people!
Dave Addison is executive director of Toronto City Mission. Find out the latest about the Canada Summer Jobs situation.
Faith Today columnist James Beverley was in Toronto for a week-long gathering of 6,000 religious leaders called The Parliament of the World’s Religions. In his initial report, he considers how a tone of harmony prevailed even as participants considered the problems of religious bigotry and genocide.
By James A. Beverley
Toronto, arguably the most diverse city in the world, was recently host to the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions. The first such parliament dates to Chicago in 1893. After a century delay, parliaments were held again in Chicago in 1993, Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004), Melbourne (2009), Salt Lake City (2015) and recently in the largest city in Canada.
Faith Today columnist James A. Beverley
The Toronto gathering, Nov. 1-7, 2018, drew more than six thousand registrants from all corners of the globe. Media reports said attendees came from more than two hundred different religious or spiritual traditions. As one would expect, there were devotees from the largest religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism). But other smaller traditions were also represented, including African Traditional, Baha’i, Indigenous, Pagan and Zoroastrian. The Toronto Parliament also hosted relatively new religions including Aumism (France), Band of Light (UK), CaoDai (Vietnam), Eckankar (USA) and Scientology (USA).
The Parliament illustrated its pluralist ethos by giving space to atheist humanists, including most notably Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada pastor who regained her ministerial license recently despite her atheism. Evangelical Christians had a minimal presence at the week-long gathering, although Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, was a featured plenary speaker.
Despite the wide diversity in spiritualities a tone of harmony prevailed, as one would hope given the theme was “The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change.” John Longhurst of The Winnipeg Free Press reported on his “sense of wonder and amazement so many people from so many places and so many religions could all gather peacefully in the same place — and no arguments about who was right or wrong broke out?”
The pervasive tranquility did not mean participants were naïve about the dark side of religion. In fact, there were frequent references to the killings at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that happened just days earlier. One of the sessions dealt with religious extremism in northeastern Nigeria, two others exposed white supremacy, and both anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism were addressed. Even the threat of nuclear war was examined. Beyond this, participants probed the genocide against the Yazidi people of Iraq and neighbouring countries as well as the systemic brutalization of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. The World Sikh Organization held a vigil at the Parliament on the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India.
Earlier Parliaments often got noticed because of various religious superstars. At the first Chicago assembly the hero was Hindu leader Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). At his Parliament speech his opening words “Sisters and brothers of America” earned him a two-minute standing ovation. A century later (Chicago 1993) His Holiness the Dalai Lama was idolized – and again when he made an appearance at the Barcelona assembly in 2004 and in Melbourne in 2009 (where President Jimmy Carter was also a major presence). Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela were the featured speakers at Cape Town in 1999.
Both at the Salt Lake City (2015) and Toronto parliaments there were no similar spiritual luminaries who would be known to everyone. The highest profiles in Toronto belonged to Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada, and retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, most famously known for his work as commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1993 and 1994. Both Campbell and Dallaire said that religion provides a foundation for the future but lamented the pervasiveness of secularism.
Ironically, there was little secular press on the Toronto parliament with no coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail or on CNN.
“What are the advantages of being a pastor’s kid ?” I ask. “There are none,” he says. That is the response when I ask my friend, pastor of my faith community, and father of two grown children.
I decide to ask another pastor, a retired Pentecostal minister with four adult children. I am particularly curious about his thoughts for a very personal reason: I am married to his youngest daughter. My father-in-law avoids the question. He directs the question to his wife. Perhaps the question makes him uncomfortable. Perhaps he, like my friend, doesn’t think there are any upsides to being a pastor’s kid (PK), but unlike my friend, my father-in-law is afraid to admit it.
My wife Beth, in contrast, often talks about the consequences of being a PK. “Growing up as a PK, I felt that the needs of the church were a priority over the needs of our family. There was also an intense pressure to do the right thing. As a PK, I felt like I couldn’t make any mistakes because it would be a poor reflection of my parents and the church.”
Studies verify my wife’s sentiments. Research by Barna Group finds that the number one reason why pastors think pastors’ children struggle with the development of their own faith is due to the unrealistic expectations others place on them. The research also finds 42 percent of pastors wish they had spent more time with their children.
My mother-in-law admits that being a PK is difficult, but she also sees how it can develop faith and resilience. “Beth was wonderful as a PK. She may have some scars, but she made us proud. We are so grateful that God has brought her through her life experiences with a confidence in Him that carries her through not only the good times, but the tough times.”
I met Beth years ago. She was a principled, generous, and compassionate woman. Yet there was another intangible feature about her that I could not describe at the time. It was this mysterious quality that pulled me in. Over time, I came to discover that it stemmed from her relationship with God, a relationship that I wanted to experience myself. I embarked on a spiritual journey that continues to this day. At times, Beth guides me in the right direction. At other times, she challenges my rigid thinking. At all times, she sees movement. She sees movement and growth and love in a direction that views the world and people differently. Falling in love with Beth helped me fall in love with God. And for that, I am forever grateful.
These qualities were nourished in Beth, not in spite of her upbringing, but because of it.
Years ago, my husband Brent and I moved to Vancouver so he could do a Master of Divinity at Regent College. I think I can say, although others might disagree, that it was a heyday for Regent. No other Canadian school fully lived out the idea yet of graduate theological education for the lay person in quite the same way. The student body was exciting and diverse, from all over the world. But it was the faculty line up that was truly all-star. J.I.Packer was there, Bruce Waltke, Gordon Fee and then in 1993 Eugene Peterson joined the faculty.
Back then, there were SOS groups, which stood for Spouses of Students, and back then, that meant mainly wives. And it also meant faculty wives who would visit a group to speak or offer support and encouragement. The night Jan Peterson, Eugene’s wife visited the group I attended, was the night I burst into tears from weariness and frustration at yet another forced move from one cheap, flooded Vancouver basement into another. I can tell you that Vancouver had a student housing crisis way back then too. We moved. A lot.
We were always on the search for an affordable, dry and eventually, thank goodness, above-ground place to live. That night I had reached my peak of tolerance, and when we got to that sharing time where you sit in a circle on the floor and share how you are, how you really are, I flooded that room with my tears. I will always remember how kind Jan Peterson was. She patted my back and said kind, comforting words. She hugged me and I felt the group’s love and compassion wash over me in a beautiful way, even as I felt a little bit silly.
I worked at the college then, so I would cross paths with Jan pretty often after that, and Eugene as well of course. They were so kind. Jan would always ask how I was and if we were living on dry ground. I could feel her warmth and concern. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” I’d say, a little embarrassed, but also touched that she remembered. Eugene Peterson always had time for everyone, and never forgot the name of the staff who worked behind the scenes in the office. Some did, and it wasn’t really a big deal. But he never did, and that kind-of was.
Out of all the assignments my husband completed at his time at Regent, I remember only the one that Eugene Peterson assigned to him. I remember it because it was so moving for Brent to complete. The assignment was to write about the “soil” out of which your prayer life grows — an assignment a poet-pastor might give.
A lot of pastors have said they would not be the minister they are today without Eugene’s example. I believe that is true. I think my husband would say the same. And I’m also certain there are a lot of minister’s wives who learned from the example of Jan Peterson. I know I did.
May Eugene Peterson rest in peace and rise in glory, and may Jan be comforted with the comfort and warmth I am certain she offered to so many over the years.
Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today, and a minister’s wife.
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