Members of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario, were treated to an unexpected surprise Nov. 20 when Robin Mark, a well-known Christian recording artist from Belfast, Ireland, dropped in to help lead worship that morning.
Sydney Slootweg, age 9, was thrilled to meet Robin Mark.
Mark, who wrote “Days of Elijah” and “Jesus, All for Jesus,” was in southern Ontario for a Promise Keepers convention. Rick Verkerk, national manager for Promise Keepers in Canada, is a member of Immanuel and arranged for Mark to join them.
Verkerk presented his “crazy idea” for Mark’s visit to the church’s pastor, Rev. Henry Kranenburg, who kept the plan under wraps together with Rev. Mark Knetsch for several months to avoid unmanageable crowds of people showing up to hear the singer.
Kranenburg said the consistory demonstrated “a fair bit of trust” in allowing the pastors to plan a special service without sharing the details. It was important to Knetsch and Kranenburg that the service remained focused on God, not on their guest, while acknowledging that Mark’s songs have played a role in their worship for many years.
“An important element for us was to keep it ‘our’ worship and not have it become a Robin Mark event,” Kranenburg explained. “We planned the liturgy that way, both in its opening and in its structure. Worship is about God, and that is who we are there for.”
“I didn’t believe it when [one of the pastors] told me,” said Audrey Benjamins, a member of the praise and worship team, who found out about the special visitor at the pre-service practice. “At first I felt nervous, but when we started I realized my purpose in being there hadn’t changed. It was about worship, and Robin Mark accented that.”
Mark, who started his musical career by leading worship in his own church, said he welcomed the unique chance to play with local musicians and to encourage the congregation through shared worship.
“I am a big fan of being committed to the local church,” he said. “If you start by serving there, and you are faithful where [God] has placed you, he can and will open the doors for more opportunities to serve him in other ways.”
Members young and old expressed how blessed they were to be led in singing their favorite worship songs by the person who wrote them.