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A Few Reflections on Home

As most of you probably know, Dee and I spent sixteen years in New Brunswick before coming back here to our home province and city. It’s funny how an unfamiliar place can come to feel like home. When I was growing up, New Brunswick was essentially a no-place to me. It was the highway through the woods that stood between Nova Scotia and Anywhere You Want to Go on Vacation. At that time, I had no more sense of the beauty that exists in those New Brunswick woods or of the charms of Fredericton and the Saint John River Valley than I had of the steppes of central Asia or the modern architecture of Columbus, Indiana. But over time, I found myself feeling like I was coming home no matter which direction I was facing as we crossed the border between the provinces. Although our roots were in the Halifax region, we had put down other roots in western New Brunswick. Our children were born there, and almost all our significant family memories were made there (we’d only been married a year when we landed in NB). No matter how much it feels like we’ve come back home, New Brunswick will also always be a home to us.


But there is another piece of the story of our homes, and that has to do with churches. Our time in New Brunswick was split between two churches. The first, Rockland Drive United Baptist Church in McAdam, a small railroad village situated in western New Brunswick just seven minutes from the border of Maine, was a little Baptist church where we came to be embraced as if we were the congregation’s grandchildren. That church bore the burden of being the place where I made a lot of the pastoral mistakes I later learned from. I didn’t exhaust my mistake-making in McAdam, to be sure, but those six years were a time of much learning—learning how to be a family, learning a new cultural context, learning how to be a pastor. Our time in McAdam gave us many lasting relationships, though quite a number of the people we loved there have since died.



Our ten years in Fredericton were spent at a non-denominational church that has since dispersed into other congregations in the area. The church had a complicated origin story, growing out of some divisions in prior congregations and a breakdown of denominational ties. It was founded just a couple of years before we arrived there. In the decade we spent there, we saw high points and low points, with times when our church made a big impact on certain portions of the neighbourhood surrounding it as well as times when we felt like we were just trying to stay afloat (particularly in the Covid years).


One of the biggest challenges I found in the ten years in Fredericton was the loss of denominational connections. I know that we live in a time when denominational ties are thought of as insignificant if they aren’t looked upon with suspicion, but my own experience of being in a church without formal ties to other churches was one of surprising isolation. I knew in my head that I could join the Baptist pastors at their breakfasts, and I did two or three times, but it felt distant because I knew we didn’t have as much of a stake in each other’s church lives as I’d had when I met with my colleagues in the McAdam years. And I once started a theological reading group with the rector of an Anglican church and the two pastors of a downtown United Church, and that was delightful (we were reading Fleming Rutledge’s amazing doorstop-sized book The Crucifixion), but our various responsibilities pulled us apart after just a few meetings. When I needed someone to talk with about challenges in the church, there weren’t natural places to turn. I’ve been blessed with a number of good and wise friends who have always been willing to listen and talk, but some of the networks of support that I’d once counted on weren’t there anymore.


So when we came back to Nova Scotia last summer, we weren’t just coming back to our home province, to our families and the places where so many of our memories have been kept for safekeeping. We were coming back to a family of churches that I hadn’t known I needed until I no longer had them. I learned in a non-Baptist setting what some of the blessings of Baptist congregations were, even as I continued to appreciate the wider Christian family and as I became more aware than ever of the diversity of Baptists as a group. I know that our CBAC family is not perfect. No person or organization can be. But I’ve become very thankful to know that they are our family, who want to walk with our churches as we navigate our way in the world.


A couple of days ago I went to a funeral in Wolfville for Hugh McNally, who served as pastor of several CBAC churches during his ministry career, and who continued to contribute to the community in deeply meaningful ways in his retirement (notably in his work in the Lay Pastor’s Training Program and as founder of the Atlantic Society for Biblical Equality). As I sat in that room, I looked around and saw in every direction people who have touched my life at many different points, all gathering together to say thanks to God for the life of one who lived among us and served the Lord Jesus faithfully and well. As I sat in that room I was surrounded by old friends as well as new ones, partners in ministry and in life—each of them as imperfect and prone to mistakes as I am—who have walked with my family in the exciting and encouraging times as well as difficult and confusing ones. Even in the ten years without the formal ties, I knew they cared and would gladly have answered if I called. As I looked around that room, I couldn’t help but feel, once again, how good it is to be home.



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lftrethewey
May 25, 2023

Thanks for sharing your earlier years and your beginnings in ministry. Thanks be to God for bringing you to Bedford Baptist. I’ve been coming to BBC since 1974. I was living midway between Sackville Baptist and BBC. I chose Bedford because Frank Locke was the pastor then. He started out where I grew up in Barss Corner to serve two country churches. The churches told him he needed to do 3 things: get ordained, get a car ( he only had a bicycle), and get married. The other church was about 5 miles away in Maplewoo/Parkdale where my Mom grew up. It’s neat to reflect on one’s past. Thanks for sharing. God Bless

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nancyduffy
nancyduffy
May 25, 2023

This feeling of home and family is why I've stayed at BBC. Every time I wish I could see more diversity, and wonder if if I should move, I realize no congregation and no family is perfect.

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