I have been a Christian forty-one years now and was thinking the other day about our church and faith odyssey. Let me share some of it with you. What did we gain and lose through its various stages?
As I have told you, we both became Christians out of nowhere, humanly speaking. There had been biblical faith in each of our families, but not in our parents’ generation. So we had been brought up with no biblical understanding whatsoever – some disparate stories, yes, but no interpretation of them.
What was our background? John had been brought up in a privileged home. His father was a judge, trained at McGill University, then at the Sorbonne, in Paris. (Quebec’s civil law is based on French Napoleonic Code) He became Associate Chief Justice of the province of Quebec, and also taught law at McGill. His parents were friends with leading political figures provincially and nationally. He grew up with art, chess, and opera.
My father was a World War II veteran who returned to Quebec and studied education. He was signed up for his first job as a teacher when the principal of the little school was seriously hurt in a car accident. Dad found himself principal at the very beginning of his career! That became his vocation. Virtually, all in Dad’s immediate and extended family were teachers, preachers and journalists. All made their living with words, in one way or another.
We were not a culturally sophisticated family at all, but we read, and read, and read. Fiction and much non-fiction. History and biography. In the summers we went to visit grandparents who had aesthetic riches my parents didn’t.
John and I both applied to three universities: McGill, Sir George Williams, and Bishop’s. We decided to attend Bishop’s, where we met. He studied mostly philosophy; I studied psychology and sociology. He persevered, begrudgingly, through his BA studies. (and much later, more enthusiastically, through an M Div) I was a Sixties drop-out.
So that is who we were in that key year of 1972….John was completing his studies; I had dropped out and was working with Children’s Aid in Ottawa. As I said, we had met at Bishop’s but didn’t really know each other.
There were very few Christians at Bishop’s. English Canada had a couple of mainline denominations and that was pretty much it – otherwise, just a few little ‘splinter groups’ as John’s uncle called them.
Well, one of the ‘splinters’ decided he was going to focus on John.( His name was Don Lewis and he is now Professor of Church History at Regent College in Vancouver) Don had been to Israel that summer and decided that John – the campus cynic, hippie – had to hear about that trip. So he approached him with determination, perseverance, and much grace. The upshot was John’s conversion several months later, then my own several months later again, as I was on campus for a visit. We married almost immediately after that.
So, where does a young barely-converted couple go to church? How do they grow in a country of mainline denominations which had, by and large, left essential biblical truth behind?
We entered Don’s denomination – that is, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada – that he had been brought up in and was still attending at that time. (Don became Anglican many years ago).
So, there we were. I have given you our background material for a reason. Picture it. Two very mainstream kids, by background, now in a ‘splinter group’. The theology, the sub-culture entirely foreign to our own formative years, to our families. How did we weather it, How did things go?
This introduction has been so long that I will have to tell you next time!