In June 2020, my wife Sharon and I made a monumental decision. We decided to leave The River, the church we planted in Edmonton, Alberta, some 20 years ago. Make no mistake, our years in Edmonton were incredibly blessed. By God’s grace, we had the opportunity to plant not only The River, but to be part of planting several other churches in Edmonton including MosaicHouse, Avenue, and Bridge Church. Above every other feeling, we are tremendously thankful.
But the years of church planting took a toll on us, and since all four of our children were moving to British Columbia, we decided to follow them for a change and to let our ministry responsibilities go. Not only was I the lead pastor of The River, but my wife Sharon was the executive director of a community-focused organization that reached out to immigrant Canadians.
Another thing that motivated us was to try something new. After 28 years of ministry, we wanted to reinvent ourselves and reimagine our future. One of our challenges was to explain this to colleagues and friends. Whenever an experienced pastor like me quits his role, various questions and rumours swirl. Time and again, we had to explain that there was no controversy; that this was our decision and that we are okay with letting go and moving forward into an uncertain future. We had done it once when we came to Edmonton to plant a church, so we understood the equation.
In June 2020, we left The River and what followed was an extended time of rest and recalibration. I continued my role on the Resonate’s Western Canada Regional Team and enjoyed keeping at least one hand in ministry. Recently, Sharon and I have taken on the role of directing and being house parents in one of Teddy’s Homes in Abbotsford, which is dedicated to keeping Indigenous family groups together as they go through trauma. I’ve also enjoyed getting back into real estate and selling into the emerging market of tiny homes.
All of this to say, in the same way that a move like this challenged Sharon and I to ask deep questions and to re-envision our future, some of the recent challenges that churches in Western Canada have faced have done the same. Ever since Covid-19, our pews are a little emptier, budgets are a little more stretched, motivated ministry leaders are little harder to find, and ministry momentum more difficult to capture.
Can I encourage you to remember that, as difficult as challenging circumstances and a murky future can be, in many ways they are a gift. They evoke the hard questions of identity and purpose. They challenge our motivations. They force us to reinvent and reimagine ourselves as churches. They reorganize our priorities.
What’s more, they bring us back to the basics of the gospel. Jesus never intended the gospel to be complicated. Love God and love your neighbour, he taught us. Share the good news of inclusive love with everyone you meet. Serve “the least of these” with generosity. Take our identity as stewards of this beautiful planet seriously. Above all, rest in the sure knowledge of God’s abiding provision and providence.
As soul searching as it has been sometimes, Sharon and I are really enjoying this new era of our lives and we are finding fresh energy and a renewed calling. My prayer is that the same would happen for every member and every church in our Christian Reformed Church family.
Bruce Gritter has served on Resonate Global Mission’s Western Canada Regional Mission Team since Resonate was formed in 2017. Presented with many other ministry and life opportunities, Bruce discerned in June that he would be stepping off our team. We're so grateful for Bruce's huge heart and passionate, faithful service.