The other day I was digging in my study for something when I came across a binder of material related to the institution of the church that I serve, the Providence Canadian Reformed Church. The whole history leading up to our institution is in this binder and it makes for fascinating reading. Why is there a Providence CanRC? Let me quote a document that was addressed to the consistories of the Ancaster and Cornerstone CanRCs. The document comes from the New Parish Committee and it was dated July 26, 2006:
It may be well to reflect briefly on the prevailing circumstances, both in Ancaster and in Hamilton, that led to a number of attempts to address the fairly rapid growth in church membership. Recently, some members in Ancaster investigated the possibility of a new congregation on the west side of Ancaster, but their plans did not come to fruition. In the past, an unsuccessful attempt had also been made in the west Hamilton mountain area, which had always been seen by many as the more logical target area. The attempt then failed for want of sufficient support.
Meanwhile, the churches continued to grow. Often, the vibrancy of church life as it relates to the communion of saints begins to wane somewhat when a church membership grows beyond the point where all members know one another. Fairly rapid turnover of members, not an unusual phenomenon in a city blessed with several post-secondary educational institutions, including our own Theological College, makes that even more difficult. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this makes members who ordinarily would make it a point to greet visitors to make them feel welcome, become reticent in so doing in order to avoid the embarrassment of being informed the “new face” actually belongs to someone who has been a member for quite some time. There is also a hanging back from active participation, letting others (often the same persons) do most of the work. Consistories, by this time, have also found the caring and supervision of the members to have become more difficult. Increasing the number of office bearers usually results in longer, or more, meetings. The minister no longer knows his sheep as well as he feels he should. It has been observed that these situations exist in both Ancaster and Hamilton congregations. It should be noted here that in the most recent Yearbook these two churches are listed as the second and third largest, respectively, in the federation.
It was against this backdrop that the New Parish Committee was formed.
Basically, Providence was instituted because it was held by a good number of people that congregational life functions better within a smaller congregation. Not everyone agreed and, as it happened, Cornerstone officially went in a different direction at that time. Most of the members who made up Providence at the beginning came from Ancaster where these sentiments found more traction. There is far more to be said about this, but it will have to wait for some other time.