Wooden Pews to Altar Calls and Back Again

The Other 6
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It began on a long wooden pew.

I grew up on The Banner, Calvinettes (now GEMS), rolls of King peppermints, and the steadfast traditions of my Christian Reformed church in suburban British Columbia.

I used to believe that at some point all Christian Reformed kids had to spread their wings, fly the CRC coop, and explore the wider world of Christianity. We’d travel like vagabonds to charismatic revivals and Pentecostal worship services—finally, finally, experiencing the omnipotent God we’d learned so much about.

The moment my last high school bell rang, I hopped a plane to New Zealand. Eventually I settled in a prominent Baptist congregation in the heart of Queenstown, where my brother and I lived.

My memories of the church are sparse. I remember my brother, in a testosterone-induced flurry, scaling the church’s roof with his bare hands. I remember the calico church cat who’d comb through the pews looking for bored churchgoers’ attention. But the memory that stands out clearest is the

particularly bright Sunday morning the minister read aloud the following passage:

Now listen, you say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. . . . Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).

Those words helped me, at the age of 18, first understand God’s bigger story. I could make my own plans, but ultimately God was guiding my path.

Upon returning from New Zealand, I endeavored to reinvigorate my Christian Reformed experience. I made my profession of faith, began leading the senior high youths at Student Dynamics, and helped raise funds for Mexico missions efforts. Each proved a wonderful, life-giving experience, but I still felt I was missing something—something of the experience of God.

Two years later I began attending a non-Christian Reformed church—an evangelical community some close school friends had helped plant in a nearby city. The church had a feeling of newness and mission that captivated me. After much prayer and with the blessing of my Christian Reformed

pastor, I began participating in this community and didn’t look back.

Until now, more than five years later.

Perhaps it was the theological and doctrinal questions I began to wrestle with as I entered adulthood. Perhaps it was because I discovered that my new church, like my old one, had problems too. But as I have come into my mid-20s, the experience of the CRC tradition has begun to soothe my weary evangelical soul.

Reading Albert Wolters’ Creation Regained—a wonderful exploration of beauty, faith, and creation given to me by a friend working with the Reformed think-tank Cardus—I began to find language to understand the teaching of my youth. The encompassing nature of God’s great narrative resonated with me; and the call to sanctify the world, not repress it, set fire to foundations long laid in my Reformed upbringing.

My return to the Reformed tradition is still in process, but what I’ve learned so far is that the Christian Reformed Church has much more to offer than I’d first realized. With ministries like the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Aboriginal Ministries, and the Office of Social Justice—not to mention pews filled with intellectuals, artists, and environmentalists—the CRC is a vibrant and dynamic community of faith.

About the Author

Christina Crook (nee Groot) is a Vancouver-based writer and editor. She grew up attending the Christian Reformed churches of New Westminster and Burnaby, British Columbia.