Saturday, 1 April 2017

Coincidences in Camrose

I thought it was time I made another trip to  Camrose Alberta. But I woke up Wednesday morning to a dense fog outside my window and reports of  multiple resultant traffic accidents on the radio. My mind was changed. So I fired off an email to a half- dozen church leaders in that city asking if the next day (Thursday, although that should go without saying, I suppose), would be convenient. I received one reply that, unfortunately, it wouldn't, but that was not enough to alter my plans for the day so off I went.

My first call was to Pastor of Adult Ministries, Jesse Schellenberg, at Century Meadows Baptist. I arrived there at about 9:45 and approached the receptionist. I introduced myself and she said she would see if anyone was available to see me. Returning, she informed me that Pastor Jesse was available and ushered me to his office. Jesse greeted me warmly, said he was glad to meet me (we have communicated in the past, but only by telephone), but said he only had a few minutes as he had a meeting at Starbucks (St. Arbucks, as I like to refer to that establishment within the church community) at 10.

So we had a very nice conversation for about ten minutes. Both he and his senior pastor, Ed Lehman, are big fans of Alpha, especially the new(ish) Alpha Film Series aimed Primarily at the 18-35-year-old generation. I was the one who looked at my watch and noticed it was ten o'clock, so I excused myself, thanking him very much for the brief time he was able to spare me. I returned to my car and checked my phone for messages (for a number of very good reasons, I tend not to do so while I'm driving.) I noticed there was a message from Jesse, received at 9:14, with apologies that, as he had a meeting at 10 o'clock, he would be unable to meet me that morning.

Oops. The next day (Friday, of course) I sent him a note apologizing for my barging in anyway and thanking him for being so gracious. Looking back, it was a very good meeting in any case, so God must have been orchestrating things in spite of my lapses.

I made a few more calls, to the Church of Christ, to  City Lights, the PAOC church in town who have taken over a former Safeway store and made quite a beautiful facility out of it. On my way to the church of Christ I got lost on the wrong side of the tracks, but in my wandering I passed a building labelled, "The Solid Rock." I wasn't sure if it was a church or a curling rink, but I took a chance and dropped in. It turned out to be a Free Lutheran Church, the building a former roller rink, so I spent a few minutes in conversation, left some Alpha information, and went on my way.

"So when are we going to hear about these coincidences?" you may ask. Well thanks for asking - I'll get to them now.

Camrose is the Western Canada Regional heaquarters of the Church of God.  They used to be in a house right next door to the local Camrose Church of God, but moved to a location on 48th Street right across from the above mentioned City Lights Church. So I popped in right after speaking with Senior Pastor Clayton Milgate at City Lights. I didn't spend a lot of time there, but left some information on Alpha and planted the seed that I would be willing to help out, in a denominational sense, if they thought there might be an opportunity to participate in some kind of denomination-wide event regarding outreach or evangelism.

I hadn't planned to drop into the actual Camrose Church of God location, but there they were, right on my route, on the main east-west street of the city, so my car just sort of turned in. It was 11:35 AM. I approached the receptionist and introduced myself as being with Alpha Canada. She said, "Oh, we were just talking about you. Just a minute." She went to an office and back out came Connections Pastor Manfred Boller.

"What a COINCIDENCE!" he said. "We were just wondering what we could do about outreach and connections within our congregations. Can I get you a coffee?" I looked at my watch. It was getting close to noon and I was feeling a bit peckish. "Why don't I just buy you lunch?" I said.

That was it. We went across the street to a Humpty's Restaurant and had a great conversation about his church, his personal history, and his hopes for everything from society at large, his congregation, and the next generation. In short, we pretty much hit it off. Long and short of it, when I uploaded the list of Alpha's in the Province the next morning, he had registered to run one.

Coincidence # 2 is one from the past. One of my first visits, upon first assuming my position with Alpha Canada about four years ago, had been to Camrose. Every call at that time was a cold call, because I didn't know anybody. One of my cold calls was to Camrose Community Church. I won't repeat the entire story, but you can read about it here and here. Of course I dropped in again and had another nice visit with Shannon. She was so pleased to hear that the Alpha for Youth is being redone and is looking forward to seeing and using it again in the fall.

All in all, Camrose seems to be a City of Godly Coincidences. Maybe I should spend more time there.



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