God invites us, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) This month’s “Slice of Life in the CLC” gives us another taste of the Lord’s goodness. Life in any congregation of God’s people is like a little taste of heaven, for our life is already “hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) We have already received “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) This article will give you a taste of some of the specific blessings God has granted St. Paul congregation beyond the blessings that are common to all of God’s Children.
Our location is rich with blessings from our gracious Lord. Vernon is situated at the north end of the beautiful Okanagan valley. It is truly a little taste of paradise in God’s creation. As you drive up the Okanagan valley from the US border, you pass by seven lakes flanked by high hills and towering cliffs on either side. The Okanagan is situated between the higher mountains of the coastal range to the west and several ranges to the east leading up to the majestic Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks. Ski resorts, lakes, golf courses, and a multitude of places for camping, fishing, hiking, and rock climbing all make the Okanagan Canada’s playground. Vernon is also blessed with a more temperate climate than the rest of Canada, which supports the growing of many fruits: apples, peaches, and cherries. There is a multitude of vineyards and wineries. We are often treated to a “fly-by” from our resident pair of bald eagles. It is truly a wonderful place to live.
Reviewing the history of St. Paul congregation is like sampling a smorgasbord of God’s grace and blessings. As with many of our congregations, St. Paul Lutheran Church began with God’s great gift of faith and commitment to His Word. The founding members were filled by God with an earnest desire to let God be God and to follow His Word in all points. Therefore, submitting to God’s will, they left their former fellowship, which had begun holding to a false position.
The first contact with the CLC came when some “snow birds” from Vernon visited Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Phoenix, Arizona. After some discussion, Pastor Michael Eichstadt put them in contact with Pastor Bertram Naumann of Lynnwood, Washington. Pastor Naumann soon began monthly visits to Vernon. After about a year of these monthly services, the faithful few organized as St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Vernon. In the Fall of 1996, the congregation was approved for mission status in the CLC and began calling. In the spring of 1997, Pastor David Reim accepted their call and became their first full-time pastor. The members of St. Paul have been tasting God’s goodness ever since. By God’s grace they have grown in many ways and are committed to supporting the full-time Gospel ministry in British Columbia.
Although the majority of the founding members have passed away, the congregation has gained some new members and currently has twenty-six communicants and six pre-communicants. The average attendance is twenty-three.
Many of the original members had immigrated to Canada from Germany. They had lived through the turmoil and suffering of World War II, experiencing many hardships as they fled from their homes, suffered hunger, and witnessed the ravages of war. But they also experienced the faithfulness of God, and learned to depend upon Him in every need, in life and in death. They were grateful to the Lord for the good life He’d given them in Canada, and they served Him there with gladness. Thus constituted, the congregation conducted services in both German and English for the first fifteen years. Today they worship together in a single English service.
Worshiping without a church building poses a number of challenges, but the members of St. Paul have grown to appreciate the fact that the Lord meets with us and blesses us wherever His Word is proclaimed and His people gather to call upon His name.
The congregation organizes a youth camp each summer. In the early years they went backpacking in the mountains of British Columbia as they dug into God’s Word together. Later they joined with youth from our sister congregations in Washington state to form the Pacific Coast Youth Camp, meeting in a variety of campgrounds in Washington and British Columbia. This summer’s camp will be held July 24-28 in Banff National Park—come join the worship and fun!
The members of St. Paul bring a wide variety of experience and background to the congregation—a group made up of plumbers, carpenters, an engineer, an auto mechanic, a farmer, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, and a 911 operator. They all seek to use their various talents to serve the Lord and build up His church. They rejoice that, as of January 2018, they will have received the last of their synod subsidy and will become a self-supporting congregation. St. Paul is thankful to all the members of the CLC who have supported them through their mission offerings and prayers over the past twenty years, and they trust the Lord to bless them in the years to come.
David Reim is pastor of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.