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Cover: Victoria, British Columbia

Inside this issue:

The challenges of church planting in Canada are great, but so are the opportunities. The PCA now has 20 PCA churches and missions, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. Reports on two of the newest are in this issue.

MNA:  Reaching North America with the Gospel...
to Reach the World

Summer 2000

The Holy Spirit is Moving in Victoria, British Columbia

God has definitely called us here and gone before us to make a way," says church planter Scott Rich. In fact, since he and his wife, Lynn, began acting upon God’s call to plant the first PCA church in Victoria, British Columbia, they’ve experienced so many remarkable moves of the Holy Spirit that Lynn is thinking of writing a book. "When things get tough," she says, "we fall back on these memories."

Planting a church in Canada is usually more challenging than planting churches in the US since the culture is quite different. A recent survey among Canadians revealed that one in three people believe God is important in their lives; about 38 percent never or almost never attend religious services; and Scott estimates that only five percent of the 300,000 people living in Victoria are church goers.

Although longtime residents are familiar with the Christian faith because the Anglican and United churches have held a firm position in the community for many years, most have little knowledge of Scripture and equate being a Christian with being a good person. And since new churches are not often started in Victoria, it can take time to gain the trust and participation of the community.

New Age religions – including witchcraft and neo-paganism – are the strongest competitors to the gospel in Victoria. Lynn is uniquely qualified to influence people who embrace such beliefs, since she was involved in New Age before she received Christ.

When Scott and Lynn arrived in Victoria, they chose a house in Oak Bay, an upscale, well-established residential community in the oldest part of the city.

Their key church planting strategy was to build credibility among residents and develop relationships by serving in the community. To get things started, they invited neighbors (about 30 families) to an open house. To their delight, 60 people came, and instead of merely stopping by to exchange pleasantries, they arrived early and stayed late. Most were not involved with a church on a regular basis. "A lot of prayers went up for that gathering." Lynn says, "We give God full credit for the excellent turnout."

Next, Lynn got involved with the elementary school, joined the PTA, volunteered to be a room mother, and signed up to lead a Girl Guide unit (Canada’s version of Girl Scouts). At the same time, Scott focused on making individual contacts in the community and managing the administrative responsibilities of planting a church. A couple of nights each week, they invited people over – to build friendships and ultimately share the Gospel.

In December, they organized a major social event, a Celtic Christmas. "We wanted to give a gift to the community," Lynn explains. "We hired Celtic fiddlers (Celtic music is a favorite here), rented a community center, where the church now meets, and walked the streets around Oak Bay, handing out invitations." When 200 people showed up for this very festive event, they were astounded and thankful. Scott and Lynn gave brief presentations about their plans for the church; it was the first time they had gone public with an evangelistic message.

In January, they started a seekers forum on Sunday nights and eventually invited 15 of the participants to help start the church. Gathering a core group had been much more difficult than they expected.

When Providence Community Church held its first worship service on October 17, 1999, 160 people were in attendance – another example of their powerful prayer support and God’s blessing. Most everyone who came was the direct result of relationships they had cultivated over the past 14 months.

"The Lord has opened doors to allow us to have credibility in the community and we have formed a network of friends who are real community leaders," says Lynn. As a result, Scott was invited to be the keynote speaker at last fall’s Remembrance Day (Canada’s Veteran’s Day), which receives more attention than the US version. He wove a spiritual theme into his message.

Today, Providence Community Church has a steady attendance of 80 to 90 each Sunday, and the number is increasing. The majority of these people haven’t been church goers and are true seekers. Many are hearing the Gospel for the first time.

The staff now includes a worship team leader, Dale Manason, as well as a children’s ministry intern, Tyler Kovacs and nursery leader Laurie Bowes. In addition to worship services, the church offers small groups, children’s Sunday school as well as special music porgrams. Topical seminars on parenting and marriage and mercy ministry are in the planning stage.

In the two years since the Riches arrived in Victoria, they have faced many difficulties, including serious family illnesses. "We’ve had some very hard moments, but it’s so clear that God is in this," Scott and Lynn point out. "We’re humbled by it. We know that God has people here He wants us to reach, and it’s such a joy when we see His message getting through."

The Riches hope to lead in planting three more churches in Victoria over the next decade and assist in church planting in Vancouver.



Scott and Lynn Rich moved to Victoria in August, 1998, with their two sons and one daughter. They were well aware of the tough challenges of church planting in Canada, but excited about starting Providence Community Mission and winning people for Christ.

This scenic view of Victoria overlooks James Bay. Inset photo pictures a busy street in Oak Bay, an upscale community near downtown Victoria with a population of about 18,000 where the new church is situated. Scott and Lynn have established credibility with Oak Bay residents by building personal relationships and getting involved in local activities. The response has been excellent, and they've gained a community-minded reputation.

Noted for its natural beauty, Victoria has both mountains and seacoast. Blessed with the mildest climate in Canada, the area invites all kinds of outdoor recreation, from biking and hiking to mountain climbing and golf.

The congregation includes all ages, from infants to people in their 90s, and offers a variety of activities. Children attend Sunday morning classes; teenagers take part in a mix of outings and other get-togethers.


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Palmetto Prayer Luncheon: "God has blessed us beyond our expectations and opened doors that showed us His involvement. Over the years, people keep coming back because they sense His presence."

That’s what Jim Wright, ruling elder at Heritage Presbyterian in West Columbia, SC, says about the monthly prayer luncheons he initiated, which are devoted to praying for the 43 churches in Palmetto Presbytery, as well as for new church plants and campus ministries in this area.

Jim organized the meetings six years ago when he felt God’s leading to pray for Palmetto churches and wanted to encourage others to do the same. "When a pastor told me he had a similar idea," Jim says, "I took this as confirmation and we got started. Later, my pastor, Jim Schirmer, became involved and we worked together in organizing the meetings."

Since then, they’ve been meeting regularly. Currently, 8 to 16 people participate on a regular basis, including pastors and lay people. Churches submit prayer requests by email or postal mail.

A physician with a busy primary care practice, Jim is thankful the Lord has given him enough flexibility in his professional life to help manage the monthly meetings. "We greatly need to increase prayer for our churches and to mobilize those who have a heart for prayer."

Archie Parrish, MNA church vitality coordinator, appreciates the prayer group for its dedication and effectiveness and encourages other presbyteries to follow Palmetto’s lead.

Those who want suggestions for organizing such a group may contact Archie at or Jim Wright at

Convocation on Reformation and Revival:
Register now for this important meeting, Oct. 31 - Nov. 2 at Trinity Presbyterian in Jackson, MS, with James Montgomery Boice of Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia, as keynote speaker. The theme is "The Five Pillars of the Ministry." Sign-up deadline: Sept. 30. Contact Trinity Presbyterian: 601-362-8244 or, or Archie Parrish

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Pictured with Jim Wright (left) is John Jardine, who leads the church vitality subcommittee for MNA and has been an active leader for church revitalization in Heritage Presbytery.

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What’s Your College Ministry IQ?

University of Mississippi Vanderbilt

Church members, youth and college staff, MNA committee and affiliated campus committee members, seminary students, and others interested in college ministry – all of these can benefit from the upcoming Foundations of Campus Ministry Conference sponsored by Reformed University Ministries-MNA. The dates are August 7 - 10. The place is Simpsonwood Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

John Gess, pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Clover, South Carolina, took part last year. He commented, "I gained fresh insight into the work of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF)."

Seminary student, Rob Hamby, also attended and sees it as a great opportunity for pastors, future campus ministry workers, and anyone interested in reaching college students. "For me," he explained, "the greatest benefit was gaining an understanding of the vision and philosophy of RUF." Rob will be the new RUF campus minister at Furman University in South Carolina this fall.

The agenda will range from the purpose and goals of campus ministry and its philosophy and theology to evangelism and discipleship. Participants will also learn how a new RUF is established and how a church or presbytery can be involved in furthering campus ministries in their own areas. Presenters will be Rod Mays, Reformed University Ministries-MNA Coordinator, and James "Bebo" Elkin, Area Coordinator for Mississippi, West Tennessee, and Louisiana, along with several seasoned RUF ministers.

For nearly three decades, Reformed University Ministries has embodied the church on the college campus. Today, it is expanding faster than ever and its significance has never been greater. To request a brochure, call Reformed University Ministries at 404-929-2160 or email

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A Vision for Vancouver

We have mountains of challenges and an avalanche of opportunities." That’s how church planter John Smed sums up the situation in Vancouver where he’s leading in planting Grace Vancouver, a church reaching city center residents: affluent young families and young urban professionals. For years, Faith Reformed Presbyterian here (Doug Codling, pastor) and, more recently, Christ the King Presbyterian in the suburbs (Bill Senyard, pastor) have longed for greater outreach to Vancouver through the PCA. Grace Vancouver, the first of three new churches outlined in an ambitious ten-year plan, brings hope for a greater Gospel advance.

Vancouver’s breathtaking beauty – its mountains, ocean coastline, ski hills, parks, and architecture – is sharply contrasted by these factors: the city has the highest rate of intravenous AIDS transmission in North America, lowest per-capita income in Canada, flourishing child prostitution, and serious gang violence. Among the population of two million, five percent attend church; a third claim no religion.

Grace Vancouver has implemented a diverse group strategy to reach the city. John explains: "First, we promote dialogue and world-view discussion in our ‘Arts in the City’ forums, as well as in our youth group. Local artists facilitate the forums by presenting their work. Second, we engage in apologetics at discovery groups and skeptics forums. Alan Clark, a nuclear astro-physicist leads the class, ‘Faith and Science.’ Third, we present the Good News through Christ-filled preaching and historical, lively, and energizing worship.

"Some good disciplers are helping plant this church," John adds, "including church planting apprentice Mike Ivancic, formerly with Campus Crusade for Christ, his wife, Charlotte, and Paul Engstrom, a seminary intern.

"There’s been tremendous response from unbelievers. We see God moving ahead of us opening hearts to hear the Gospel, and we’re excited about the great vision He has given us. The expectation in the US is to expand Christianity; in Canada, it is to see Christianity survive." To learn more, check the Web:



With the support of a strong core group, some of whom are pictured here, worship services began in April at the Grandville Island Community Center. A facility has been purchased in the target area and will be renovated.

John Smed, formerly MNA church planting coordinator, and his wife, Caron, began laying the groundwork for the church in July, 1999, based on these core values: a church for the city, the searching, the nation, and the needy.


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Gospel in Uniform

8a.jpg (9681 bytes)Chaplain Bob Marsh, US Army, is stationed at Fort Dix, NJ, where he serves at the Installation Chapel and handles a variety of duties, such as conducting funerals (as shown at right) and preaching at weekly chapel services. Fort Dix is well known as a summer training ground for Army reservists and National Guard units; 20,000 to 30,000 of these troops come through each year. "As training manager," Bob 8b.jpg (4907 bytes)explains, "I coordinate chaplain coverage for all of them." Throughout the year, he ministers to active duty personnel and retirees. "I’m thankful," says Bob, "for the opportunity to present Jesus Christ to such a broad range of people."

!454568c.jp0 (6734 bytes)If You’re Interested in Chaplain Ministries…
PCA chaplains serve a vital purpose in the military as well as in civilian posts, such as hospitals and prisons, by ministering to thousands of people at their point of need. If you’d like to know more about their work and how you can help, request a brochure or a video about MNA Chaplain Ministries. Email or call MNA: 404-320-3330.


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Church Plant Highlights

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PCA pastors, church planters, lay leaders, and wives from the western region attended their annual church planting conference last February at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA. Pete Alwinson, pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian in Winter Springs, FL, was keynote speaker. "There was a great spirit of enthusiasm for all the speakers," said Lewis Ruff, church planter at All Nations Presbyterian in Oakland, who organized the meeting.

Church Planter Training Conference: Whether you’re involved with a church plant or considering one, you can benefit from this event: August 7 - 10 at Simpsonwood Conference Center in Atlanta, GA. It’s designed for pastors, key lay leaders, and their wives. Guided by the theme, "The Church Planter: A Worshiping Leader," seminars and workshops related to all aspects of church planting will be led by experienced church planters. A fee of $395 per person includes lodging and meals. Call MNA: 404-320-3330 or email





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