Some churches let you slip in and out anonymously when you attend. They avoid the threat of social interactions by studiously ignoring newcomers and by making sure there are no impediments such as coffee or biscuits to you making a swift exit once the service is done.
Not so Barrie Covenant church. I was intercepted three times before I even made it to the coffee hatch. I was greeted, welcomed, and by the time I’d finished my coffee I’d been treated to a high level overview of the church, its denomination, its background, its history, its theological roots and its beliefs.
My initial impression was of a conservative, reserved, overwhelmingly white and predominantly older congregation. But I soon realized that there was more to this church than that. While this is probably one of the more traditional examples of this denomination, there is clearly a lot of thought going in to what this church is and where it is going.
Those I spoke to were interested in my journey and my questions, and able to give cohesive answers. I always ask who are you? I want to know the strengths of each church in the city, what makes them special, why they exist, and how they contribute to the spiritual life of the whole city. This church, I was told, has its roots in the Dutch reformed movement. It’s largely composed of second and third generation Dutch immigrants. It’s theology is strongly influenced by the works of Calvin, and is formally grounded in the Apostles and Nicene Creed, and in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort. I’ve rarely been in a church where the ‘man in the pew’ can so succinctly and comprehensively review the doctrine and theology of his congregation.
As to what God is doing in the city, several things were mentioned when I asked. Barrie Christian Council, Barrie Christian Hockey League, Life 100 radio station, and Unity Christian High School. Interestingly, these are all examples of inter-church initiatives. I got the strong impression that although the CRC denomination may have been somewhat insular in the past, it is trying very hard now to figure out how it plays a healthy and complementary role alongside other churches.
I wish them all the best as they continue to figure out their mission.