Eugene Peterson Visits Classis Yellowstone

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Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, spent a day with the delegates of Classis Yellowstone, a regional group of Christian Reformed churches.

Eugene Peterson

Peterson was part of a continuing education event at this meeting in Missoula, Mont.

“When you have someone who is almost 80 years old, filled with wisdom of years of pastoring, church planting, teaching, you are humbled,” said Del Vandenberg, stated clerk of the classis. “More so you are blessed with the living proof that God is faithful to those who serve him.”

Peterson has a number of connections in Classis Yellowstone, one being his longtime friend Tom McClanahan, a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.

McClanahan said Peterson didn’t want to spend the day talking about stuff he’d already written, but that he wanted to have a conversation with the pastors and elders.

Peterson spoke about pastoral excellence and church planting. “One of the things I really liked about our meeting was that we got to see how, in their ministry, he and his wife have embodied a discipleship of presence,” said Mark Hofman, pastor of Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Manhattan, Mont. “They don’t sit detached, somewhere high up, spewing information. [They] were almost more interested in hearing our stories than they were in telling us theirs, which was incredibly humbling.”

Hofman found Peterson’s reflections from his book The Pastor especially helpful. “What he did so well in that book was talk about pastoral identity as a process. As someone who recently graduated, we were bombarded with the need, before we graduated, to have a pastoral identity,” Hofman said. “What I appreciated was hearing from someone with as much experience as Eugene saying, ‘this takes an entire lifetime.’”

About the Author

Sarah Boonstra is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone.

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Rev. Peterson's books come alive when you meet the man; the cadence of his writing is actually voiced in his measured, but kind remarks to stories that you relate. What makes him so approachable is he is genuinely interested in your story- thus you become even more interested in his story.

The title Peterson's most recent book- Practice Resurrection, was inspired from a poem by William Berry- a Baptist educator, poet and farmer of Peterson's generation.

While you could stumble over the activism suggested by Berry in his poem (Berry often chastised the church for failing to challenge cultural complacency), Peterson seemed to be energized by the concept of Berry's poem; and it was the final line of the poem that galvanized his thinking to urge his readers to "practice resurrection" each day.

(sections of Berry's copyrighted poem- MANIFESTO: THE MAD FARMER LIBERATION FRONT)

...So, friends, every day do something that won't compute.
Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it…

…Give your approval to all you cannot understand.
Praise ignorance,
for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.
Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest…

…Expect the end of the world.
Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts…

…Practice resurrection.

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