Tag Archives: Free Reformed Church of Launceston

Trans-Tasman Ecumenical Exchange

It was back in 2013 and I was at a conference at Mid-America Reformed Seminary near Chicago.  Amongst the new faces I encountered was a pastor from the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ), Rev. David Waldron.  One of the reasons I remember him is that he was an Englishman serving in a Kiwi church — which I found rather curious.  Fast forward a couple of years and, curiously enough, I was a Canadian serving an Aussie church.  This Aussie church was now in a sister-church relationship with the RCNZ.  A couple of my colleagues from Western Australia had organized exchanges with colleagues from New Zealand to fortify this relationship — which I thought was a great idea, and so did my elders in the Free Reformed Church of Launceston.  But who could I approach in New Zealand?  Who did I know “across the ditch”?  I wrote to David and put the idea to him — and he and his elders in Christchurch agreed that it would be worthwhile too.  While it took a little while to organize, eventually in the end of September and beginning of October, we managed to make it happen.  What a blessing it was for everyone involved!

The exchange took place in two phases.  The church leadership on both sides agreed that it would be most beneficial if these two phases overlapped.  That would allow David to spend a few days with me in my home environment in Tasmania, and vice-versa in New Zealand.  We would each spend approximately ten days in each others’ church community, of which about 5-6 days would be spent together.

It began with David’s arrival in Launceston on the evening of September 27.  During his time in Tasmania, he gave a presentation for the Free Reformed church community introducing the RCNZ.  He spoke at a men’s breakfast on the topic of pornography.  He addressed our young people on a Sunday evening, speaking about his varied life experiences and journey to the Christian faith.  Of course, he also led four worship services at FRC Launceston over two Sundays.  His powerful speaking and preaching were much appreciated by one and all.  Additionally, since David is an enthusiastic outdoorsman, we treated him to several day hikes and even an overnight trip to Tasmania’s majestic Frenchman’s Cap.

For my part of the exchange, I made the jaunt across the Tasman Sea on October 3.  It’s a flight of just over three hours (depending on the winds) — in terms of distance, it’s not much different from a trip to Perth, WA.  I really enjoyed the hospitality of my Kiwi brothers and sisters in Christchurch.  I was also able to do some day hikes in the vicinity and spent some time with Rev. Dirk Van Garderen doing some trout fishing (but not catching!).  In terms of ministry, I led four worship services at the Reformed Church of Christchurch.  I gave the RCNZ community in Christchurch an introduction to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia.  I was also invited to be the speaker at the church’s family camp in Waipara, just to the north of Christchurch.  I spoke on the topic of being an outward looking church, as well as leading two devotions.

Christchurch is a beautiful city, but sadly it still bears the scars of the earthquakes that rocked the region in 2011.  Numerous abandoned commercial buildings and homes remain standing, still awaiting demolition.  In parts of the city, entire neighbourhoods stand devoid of homes which have already been demolished — only the streetlights and streets remain.  Nevertheless, the city is rebuilding.  New homes dot many streets.  For their part, the Reformed Church built a beautiful and functional new building on Cornwall Street.  And the city continues to maintain a spectacular system of English-style parks, the most stunning of which is Hagley Park near the city centre.  To the south of the city are the Port Hills, the remnant of an ancient volcano.  On a good day, to the west one can also spy the nearby Southern Alps in all their vertiginous splendour.

Like FRC Launceston, the Reformed Church of Christchurch was instituted in 1953.  Both churches were originally founded by Dutch immigrants.  Both hold to the Three Forms of Unity, but the RCNZ also maintain the Westminster Confession.  The Christchurch congregation is growing in terms of diversity, increasingly reflecting the ethnic makeup of the surrounding community.  While there I met a brother who’s a pastor originally from Egypt, and a couple from China who, with their young daughter, were just about to be baptized and received into membership.  While there are some small differences in practice (i.e. our singing is accompanied by a pipe organ, theirs by piano plus one other instrument), I was struck by how much I felt at home with these brothers and sisters.  Our true unity in Jesus Christ was beautiful to see and experience.  I was greatly encouraged by our mutual love for the gospel and a desire to share that good news with others.

There are a number of benefits flowing from these sorts of exchanges.  One is definitely learning to understand better one anothers’ unique backgrounds and history.  That helps us to be more charitable in our assessments of one another.  Another benefit is growing awareness of one another on both sides.  A brother or sister pondering a move to NZ would be encouraged by the knowledge that they will easily find a faithful church home amongst the RCNZ congregations — and I trust that the reverse would be true for someone pondering a move west across the Tasman.  Then there’s also the sharing of ideas back and forth.  For example, I was intrigued by the church camp idea.  Is that something we could/should implement in our church?  Finally, there’s the valuable aspect of building friendships.  Through such an exchange, believers on both sides forge new bonds.  The RCNZ and FRCA come to life for all involved, not just as initials or names of distant churches, but as bodies of believers made up of people we know, respect, and love.

As mentioned at the beginning, we didn’t pioneer this idea.  It’s been done before.  Nevertheless, for those churches which haven’t yet done it, whether in New Zealand and Australia, let me highly recommend it.  It’s a fantastic way to “put meat on the bones” of our sister church relationship.


FRC Launceston Livestreaming and Video Archive

The Free Reformed Church of Launceston (where I serve) has just recently started livestreaming our Sunday worship services (9:30 AM and 3:30 PM, Eastern Australia time).  You can also find an archive of recent services.  It’s all here at our YouTube channel.

Additionally, the notes for most of my sermons eventually end up at TheSeed.info


Reformation Commemoration Audio

On Saturday 28 October, the Evangelical Presbyterian and Free Reformed Churches of Launceston jointly held a Reformation Commemoration.  You can find the audio of the event with these links:

Rev. Chris Connors — The Two Great Gifts of the Reformation

Lecture

Q and A 

Rev. Wes Bredenhof — The Reformation and Evangelism

Lecture

Q and A


New FRC Launceston Website!

FRC Launceston Website

The church that I serve, the Free Reformed Church of Launceston, has just rolled out a new website.  You can check it out here.  In the near future, this website will include live-streaming video of our worship services as well.


Colloquium

Classis North of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, September 25, 2015.

Classis North of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, September 25, 2015.

Greetings from Tasmania, Australia!  Our family arrived here safely last Monday.  Since then, we’ve been getting settled in here quite well.  Tasmania is not a difficult place to love.  The natural beauty and the friendly people everywhere ensure that one soon feels quite at home.

One of the first orders of business for me as the pastor-elect of the Free Reformed Church of Launceston was to undergo a colloquium at a classis.  That happened this morning.  A Classis North was held here in Launceston.  Besides the elders from Launceston FRCA itself, delegates travelled from Legana (a short 15-20 minute drive) and from Western Australia (a long 4.5 hour flight).  We also had curious onlookers, including a sizeable contingent of students from the John Calvin School next door.

So what is a colloquium?  It’s something that the FRCA Church Order requires for ministers who are coming from a foreign sister church.  The Canadian Reformed Churches have exactly the same thing in their CO (see article 5.B.2).  The churches have agreed to hold a colloquium, or discussion, with ministers coming into the federation.  The discussion deals with doctrine and church government.  This doesn’t have the character of an examination, but it’s not exactly a mere formality either.  As I understand it, it can be summarized with two words:  due diligence.

Naturally, I’ve never been on the receiving end of a colloquium (not on the giving end either).  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  To prepare, I reviewed the differences between CanRC and FRCA church polity.  There are not many differences and none of them are momentous.  I also reviewed some doctrinal discussions in which I’ve recently participated, just on the hunch that I might be asked about one or more of them.

Rev. Eddy Rupke was up first as the minister leading the discussion on doctrine.  Was I surprised when he announced that he wanted to discuss creation and evolution?  Does the bright Tasmanian sun blind your eyes?  No, I could see that one coming.  It was a good discussion with the sorts of questions that usually crop up:  does Scripture allow for long days?  What do we lose if we allow for an evolutionary view of creation?  How can we help young people in the church who want to study science?  Those were the sorts of questions I faced.

Rev. John Kroeze was next on church polity.  This was mostly a discussion about the place of the local church in the federation, or “bond” as they tend to call it here.  He asked me about such things as the binding character of decisions made at broader assemblies.  After each minister was finished, other delegates were also given the opportunity to “discuss” with me.  One of my favourite questions was from an elder regarding the place of children in the church and whether Sunday School during the worship services was a good idea.  I wonder if he read my review of Daniel Hyde’s excellent little book The Nursery of the Holy Spirit.

At the end of it all, classis went in to closed session to discuss the discussion.  A few minutes later, we were ushered back in and I was informed that the way was clear for me to become a minister in the Free Reformed Churches.  That will happen, God willing, on Sunday morning.  I’m looking forward to serving Christ’s church here for the foreseeable future!