Transition Team Report

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It looks unlikely that I will produce a blog post this week, which is ok, because the Transition Team’s report is complete and has been shared with the congregation, so I thought I’d post it here as well. It contains plenty to think about without me adding new stuff.

Here is a review of what led to the creation of this report. I (Pastor Pete) presented to the Team members, over a number of months, my observations made from visiting and interacting in the congregation. We discussed them as we went.

The Team members were then each asked to make their own list of 5 things they thought were most significant. Those lists were blended together into this report.

It was presented to council (including incoming members) at their last meeting, and it has been printed and shared with congregation members via their mailboxes. Council now has the responsibility of ‘owning’ these observations as valid, and then coming up with ways to address them.

The report, I realized after it had been presented to council, confuses some people because they might have been expecting something different. Some seem to have expected a more technical “How to fix the problem” report, or a more theological defining of the issues and their solutions. Neither of those are within the Team’s mandate, authority or ability. Council has the authority. What in fact the Team has produced, I realized, is a list of adaptive challenges for the council and entire congregation.



July 2014 “where we are in the process” update

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As I put in my last few minutes before officially starting a two week vacation, it seems a good idea to create a post updating you on where we are in our Transition Process at this time.

Here is the description of that: http://wp.me/P3etrg-ge



Two of the interesting things I’ve read recently

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I have lately been taking up interest in some developments at the denominational level. I am working on a significant blog post related to the denominational picture more than to Nobleford, but it is not fully ready. I’m  not sure it every will be, actually.

Instead, for now, I’ll share a few things by others which I have read recently and which are pretty close to my own views. Transition Team members are especially likely to appreciate the applicability of the second one.

This first one you can skip the first four paragraphs about a particular dispute, and begin reading at the heading “What to make of little progress.” I do agree with him that the self-awareness he writes about is a big part of transformation.


This one is by a consultant who has worked with many many churches. He says the single common factor in churches that are dying is their inward focus. Here is his list of warning signs:

Warning Symptoms

  • There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
  • Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
  • Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, and lay leaders in the church.
  • Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.
  • The past becomes the hero.
  • Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
  • Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.
  • If the churches are a part of a denomination or similar affiliation, meetings of those denominations mirror the churches in lost focus and divisiveness.


Happily, not all apply here! But the ones that do will likely sting a little. More hopefully, the prod will be seen as an opportunity to work more on transformation in the congregation!

R before T

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Yes, a bit of a mysterious title, but that’s a way to pique your curiosity and have you feel compelled to follow the link.

I am in a time when I am making many new theological and scriptural connections, and even though I have a gut sense it might be time to slow down in presenting you with new-to-you interpretations and understandings, when God has me in a phase like this when many things are converging into ideas and applications that make sense, I just have to share them!

So here are this weeks thoughts: http://wp.me/P3etrg-5x

Hi I’m Pete VanderBeek, and I’m from the plainclothes Amish

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I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how the Amish, Hutterite and Mennonite groups that live in this area are a good mirror for us to look into. I’ve mentioned in a sermon how scripture is a mirror for us if we learn to look, and how the people in scripture and in our lives can be mirrors. In previous postings here I’ve held up some things I’ve been told about such folks and used them as a mirror to ask how — even though we think we are very different than them — some of our behaviours are actually quite similar. Some of their obvious-to-us habits and patterns just might be some we have our own version of. For instance, as I shared Sunday evening, most CRC’s still tend to dress themselves in subdued clothing styles and colours. I can’t think of any really flashy vehicles being in the parkinglot, some nice ones, but not flashy, just like in the parkinglot of the Mennonite churches.

I recognized some of these reserved traits in myself this past week as I shopped for a replacement car. Some options, like power sun or moonroofs, seemed frivolous to me as did the feature one salesman was trying to get me pumped about “and the speakers light up in different colours as the music changes!” And I wanted to say ” That is SO lacking in practical necessity!” But that would be the plainclothes Amish in me speaking out and they don’t speak out. They just don’t buy frivolity. Publicly, that is. So, I am realizing that I might just be more Amish-ish than I thought.

I first started using the “Plainclothes Amish” descriptor with the Transition Team of the last congregation I served. That community had been a typical CRC rural enclave where everyone worked their farms and met on Sundays, and didn’t have a whole lot of dealings with regular Americans. But some 15 years ago they had what they refer to as the “Farm Crisis” and one could not live from farming alone for a time. So the farmers and/or their wives, took factory jobs (Pella Corp and VerMeer are major employers nearby), sometimes splitting one job between two people so they could both keep the farm going and actually earn an income. These jobs brought them — somewhat to their shock — in close contact with regular Americans. Several of the men told me, with the shock and puzzlement still showing on their faces and voices years later, how challenging it was to work with a guy who had a problem with the bottle, or who was excitedly planning for his third marriage (which the CRC guy was pretty sure was not going to go any better than the first two), or who had been in jail, or who believed he was a woman trapped in a man’s body all his life. They admitted that nothing much in church or catechism had prepared them for those relationships and the questions they raised, and wanted advice on how to handle such situations. Hearing them, I realized how isolated they had been, circling only among farmers of their own kind, and at church and the Christian School. Switching CRC churches had been the most radical change most of them had ever dealt with, and within the CRC circles that was a radical thing to do! So I began to see that until the farm crisis they had been able to be much like the Amish, a comfortable-with-themselves colony. The only thing different from the Amish was that the CRC’s did not wear as obvious a uniform, yet they were uniform in the reservedness of what they wore.

At first the Transition Team was upset with the monicker, but when I explained what I had seen that caused me to apply the label, they agreed it was not out of line.

So, now, here in Nobleford, seeing similar things in the church community and in myself, I wear my upper lip bare to show that I am plainclothes Amish/Hutterite/Mennonite.

One more thing needs to be put in writing to prompt reflection. Sunday night I mentioned that we, as Christian Reformed folks, might not be ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ like others, but how we might actually be competitive in keeping up an appearance of frugality. So we might be ‘keeping down with the VanJonesmas” instead. Can you catch yourself doing that?

I’m here, behind the desk!

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Well, after a marathon of moving and driving and unloading, and then a quick run to the coast to check in on three of my five children and their significant others’ I’m here in the parsonage at Nobleford beginning to learn the ropes. Oh, while on the coast I got the great news that my married (middle) son and his wife are expecting, which means I must be old. If all goes well I’ll be a grandfather for the first time in about 7 months.

In this post, besides announcing I’m here, I have two other things to do. One is introduce my dog “Reef” and give some guidelines about how to meet him if you happen to encounter him. The other is to give a beginning outline of a plan.

First, Reef. Here he is: Image

He’s a “Blue Heeler” or Australian Cattle Dog. A very interesting and unique breed. Very smart!

Blue Heelers are bred to round up range cattle. They are a mix of Dingo and English Sheep dog, with some Dalmatian in them too. They nip the heels of the livestock (and sometimes are known to grab the tail or the flank to motivate movement) and that is why Heeler is part of the name. They are not doctors or nurses. They are a breed that makes very loyal one person companions. Unlike other breeds, Reef is not interested much in humans or human affection. I’ve had him three years and he finally knows my daughters well enough to let them cuddle him.

His name is the one he had when I took him over from some surfers on Vancouver Island.

I am a dog owner who believes that leashes are a sign of human failure. Failure to understand dogs and manage them. I am not an expert, but my experience is that loose dogs that are socialized well to dogs and who see their human as pack leader are the best and happiest way for dogs and humans to co-exist. See Caesar Milan’s National Geographic videos to see more about that.

Here are a few things I want to warn you about:

Reef is NOT used to children. I’d prefer if church kids did not approach him unless I was present. In fact, I’d like to have them help me get him used to kids. But because he will nip if he feels threatened, I don’t want any of us to risk a hurt child so I want to manage the interaction.

Reef will, if he sees you before I do and is off the leash, will bluster and bark his way right at you. IGNORE him, and he will stop. He might sniff you, but even that would be a lot of interest shown. React by screaming or running, and you reward him. Lately I’ve been practicing making him lie down when I see someone, and then he has to wait until I’ve said hello and invite him to come. Keeps me in the pack leader position, and lets him know he does not need to be my protector when it comes to that person. There, you know the main things to know about dealing with Reef.


I will take about 2 weeks to get more or less completely set up in the house. I have a lot to unpack and organize. Just ask the guys who carried in just my books alone! In those two weeks I will only attend meetings and prepare for worship. Shortly after the two weeks are done, I hope to have a plan for visiting every household. More on that when I have it. Suggestions welcome. I want to have met everyone within about 2 months time.

After that, I hope to begin to ask people to be part of what we call the Transition (Steering) Team. They are a team of people who help me organize the events by which we will gather useful information in three main stages:

  1. Who have we been, a look at the stories of Nobleford’s past and inquiry into what has worked well for you in the past.
  2. Who are we now, and what is our context?
  3. Given that, who do we feel God is calling us to be, and what kind of pastor do we need to help us get there.

That is the simplest way to describe their work. There is much more to it, which I will share over time.

STM’s do more observing and question asking than leading. I will do some leading in the sermons I chose to use, but in the end the directional choices are to be worked out and owned by the TT, council and congregation together. So do not be bothered if I am in some meeting but am not taking a leadership role. That’s not my job.