Pastor Portraits: Rev. Ron Potter

I was born in 1943 in Ottawa, ON, to parents with barely a passing interest in the things of the Lord. I was raised in the context of a family-run garden center and market-gardening business near Kemptville, ON. I became a full-time employee at age 16 after dropping out of high school. In addition to laboring in the fields and greenhouses I was the principal salesman, truck driver, seminar teacher, and landscaper. In short, the all-around flunky. At that same age I began working several nights a week as a paid musician in various dance bands and small combos ranging from country (when E.T. meant Ernest Tubb) to easy-listening and some jazz. It was a sideline that continued for some sixteen years. In my free time I developed a hands-on love for woodworking.

At age 20 I was introduced by means of a “blind date” orchestrated by friends (I had a car, they didn’t) to my future wife Sharon (who reminds me all too frequently, now that I have hit the venerable age of 70, that I married a much younger woman). In 1966 we were married and over the years blessed with two children, our son Daryl and our daughter Lyra.

Both before and after our marriage, Sharon and I labored at milling the materials for and finally building our own home. We then began our own business venture, a small garden center and florist shop which lasted several years and which we finally closed during a time of economic down-turn. Near the end of that venture I worked as a designer in a large flower shop in Ottawa, then the assistant manager of the local branch of an eastern Ontario wholesale floral supply. After a work place accident, which disabled me for some time, I began studying to be a life insurance agent and estate planner, which I did for several years.

I was offered a job, by a competitor, with a new branch office in the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower in Vancouver, BC, which I took. This necessitated a family move to British Columbia. Ultimately we settled in the vicinity of Sardis BC, where I chose to work out of a local agency office rather than a downtown office tower. While there I inquired after and was offered a job as a manager of the home-decorating department of a family-run lumber yard and building center. Given my interest in woodworking and sales it proved a good move.

Regrettably our home which we left in ON, which had stretched us financially to maintain for over a year and half, did not sell and we suffered a large financial loss when it was foreclosed upon. This left us with very few resources. At the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, the Lord, whose name was frequently blasphemed by me and whose person was rejected, worked powerfully through the instrumentality of His Word and Spirit in the context of a home Bible study. We came to believe the gospel and to trust in the finished work of Christ. I was 33 years old.

We joined an evangelical church. The lumber yard I worked for (which providentially was run and staffed by Christians), helped us get reestablished in our own home and within a year or two I was sensing a call to, (of all things) the Christian ministry! Upon the advice of church leaders I tested that call in the context of our church by bird-dogging the pastor on many of his duties, meeting weekly with leaders of the church for Bible study, and hosting a home Bible study. At the end of a year, and with the approval of church leadership, I enrolled as a mature student at Columbia Bible Institute (now College) in Clearbrook, BC. While laboring at studies in spare time and in the summers, I completed three years of studies in two with a 4.0 grade point average. We could write a book about the Lord’s provision during those years.

Following graduation I was invited to intern as a pastor (paid position) at an evangelical church of 250 members which one of my former instructors was now pastoring. We moved to Fort St. John, B.C., on the Alaska Highway where we remained for two years from 1979 to 1981. During the period of my studies and internship I had serious questions about doctrines being glossed over, such as the sovereignty of God, the covenant, predestination, etc. In Fort St. John the providence of God placed in my hands Calvin’s Institutes (which I read cover to cover) and several tapes from the Mt. Olive Tape library (Reformed) in Mississippi. Things were never the same. I began to find answers.

A family of snowbirds from Fort St. John who wintered in Glenn, California knew of a Baptist Church at Glenn in need of a pastor. I was ultimately called there in 1981 as pastor and ordained to the gospel ministry, another long move. As I pastored that church for the next five years I continued to read Reformed theology and it influenced my preaching so much that the church slowly reformed and the bulk of that congregation became the nucleus for Grace Reformed Church (RCUS) in Willows, CA, which formed in 1986. While the Baptist church was reforming, I looked for other Reformed men in California and providentially found Dr. Bud Powell, Rev. J. G. Duckett, Elder Wayne Johnson, and others who helped me understand the covenant, the doctrines of grace, and church government more fully.

Through the influence of these men we had the RCUS in the crosshairs as our denominational destination when Willows was formed. I was appointed stated supply in 1986 and after preparing for and passing classis examinations, was received as a licensed minister in the RCUS in 1988. In that same period a group of believers in Chico, CA, sought me out and I became pastor of two RCUS congregations. During that period I also served as a chaplain in the Glenn County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Western Classis as clerk for a short period of time.

At Synod in 1989 I was approached by the then-forming Rock Springs congregation and took a call there in 1989 and also served as a sheriff’s chaplain in the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Dept. and led Critical Incident Stress Debriefing teams, helping emergency responders deal with crises. I also served as Clerk of South Central Classis. In 1995 I received a call from the former RCUS congregation in Carbondale, PA, where I labored for over seven years. Again I served as Clerk in Covenant East Classis, this time for only a year. Providential circumstances led that congregation to leave the RCUS. A remnant of that Church desired to continue with the RCUS, so under the guidance of Covenant East Classis a congregation was formed known as Heritage Reformed Chapel. This work was overseen by Peace RCUS, Napoleon, OH, where I was also called to serve as associate pastor with responsibilities for HRC. In 2012 HRC was constituted a particular church in the RCUS and I was formally called to be its pastor.

Currently I serve (since 1996) as chair of the RCUS Interchurch Relations Committee and (since 2003) as secretary of NAPARC. And, I was able to pick up a couple of academic degrees along the way and we have a business. In order to supplement our income in a mission setting, Sharon and I began a furniture restoration business about ten years ago. So I am still woodworking, still bi-vocational, still into music, and as Jeff Duckett would put it “still prayin’, pluggin’, and preachin.’ The Lord has been truly gracious to these Canadian transplants for which we are truly grateful. Soli Deo Gloria.

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