March 5–6, 2013, Lodi, CA
The old vines were pruned down to the trunk, lending the landscape an alien appearance as we made our way to Lodi, the Zinfandel Capital of the World. As the farmers in this city of the northern Central Valley eagerly awaited the harvest to come, so also we eagerly awaited to see what fruit the Lord would bring from the branches of His church after a year of pruning.
Jeannie, the lovely and helpful lady that lives somewhere inside my phone, enthusiastically lent her assistance and guided my family and me to the door of Providence Reformed Church, where we were warmly greeted by old friends. Too long were we absent from one another, and heartily were we well-met.
After lunch, where even this old wallflower comfortably engaged, we were on to business.
As the monster in the basement that the heroine of every suspenseful movie must inexplicably enter still takes her by surprise and horror, even though everyone knew it was coming all along. We knew that Rev. Jim West was retiring, but the day came too suddenly upon us. Fortunately for us all, Dr. Frank Walker, with the woodsman’s ax of proper constitutional procedure and a lawful election, burst through the door, confronting the great Freddy of anarchy and lawlessness, and rescuing the hapless princess from an unproductive Classis.
Rev. West had faithfully served as the president of Western Classis for 14 years, and reported that he was unable to continue. Classis commended him for his labors and he will be greatly missed.
Western Classis now has three students for the ministry. Elder Matthew Davis, currently serving as an elder at Rehoboth Church in La Habra, will soon be relocating to Sioux Falls with his family to begin training at Heidelberg Theological Seminary. Elder Derrick Merkel of Covenant Reformed Church, Grass Valley, is studying at City Seminary in Sacramento, as is Mr. Colin Samul. However necessary a good theological education is, we should remember that it is only the Lord who makes a man a pastor. We must continually lift these men up to the throne of grace, asking that the Lord would see fit to grant to us not just scholars, but shepherds of his sheep. Scholars and shepherds may appear to be the same, but history and experience teach us that they are not.
President Walker welcomed two new churches. Covenant Reformed Chapel of San Diego, CA, and Rehoboth Reformed Chapel of La Habra, CA, were both organized as particular congregations, thereby exchanging the designation “Chapel” for the designation “Church.” Pray with us that the Lord of the harvest will bring growth to these churches, not just in numbers but also in devotion and in the knowledge of God.
With tremendous sadness we heard the report from Trinity Reformed Church in Modesto. Due to internal conflict, the congregation lost most of its leadership and a large portion of its congregation. Many of those who left the church were long-time members and friends to many of us. We grieve that they did not bring whatever grievances they had to Classis as prescribed in the constitution so that reconciliation could have taken place. However, it is done. Please pray that the Lord will grant healing and wisdom to this struggling congregation during their time of transition and pruning.
The worship service Tuesday evening was led by Elder Wayne Johnson. Rev. Paul Henderson preached a dynamic call to victorious warfare from 1 Corinthians 16, and we closed by singing the roof off of the building with “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” If you have not yet had an opportunity to be present at a Classis worship service, you have missed some of the most tremendous, earthshaking congregational singing there is. With voices blending, great hymnody, and vigorous faith, there is no worship band or modern contemporary praise music that can even begin to compete with a singing Church.
Credence Clearwater Revival may have placed Lodi on the flip side of “Bad Moon Rising” (you kids can look up what a “flip side” was), but Providence Reformed Church is on the flip side of no one. The warmth and hospitality were a credit to their newly ordained minister, Rev. Doug Schlegel, along with his lovely wife, Cheryl, and the elders and deacons of the congregation. Deacon Gerald van Egmond smokes a mean tri-tip, and his mother hugs like she means it. The food was glorious, the fellowship sweet, and the service exquisite. John Fogerty wails that he was “stuck in Lodi again,” but only because he has not met the good folks at Providence Reformed Church. May God richly bless them.
And so we stumbled weary and hazy-eyed to our cars on Wednesday evening, one day earlier than expected, and made our way home. Until we meet again in Sacramento¼.
Rev. Sam Powell, First RCUS, Yuba City, CA