Aaron Au seemed to have it made in his musical career. For 10 years he had been a first violinist with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO), during which time he appeared as a soloist and a chamber musician in both violin and viola in concerts across Canada, the U.S., Cuba, and Europe. He was a frequent guest on CBC Radio. But God was calling him to something else.
“While things seemed to be going well in terms of my musical career,” Au explained, “the Lord was preparing me for something else.” Au said that he never imagined the journey to which God was calling him and his wife, April, as church planters.
On September 14, during a special service at Mosaic House Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Au was one of a team of individuals blessed and sent out to establish Avenue CRC. It is a new church plant in the city’s Alberta Avenue community, an inner city neighborhood that struggles with issues related to crime and poverty. The church will meet biweekly in a coffeehouse.
Au’s call to ministry began with the diagnosis of a close family member with severe depression. During this difficult and reflective time, Au said, “I felt God calling me away from the ESO to pursue studies at Edmonton’s Taylor Seminary and soon after at Calvin Seminary.” Au has completed the M.Div. degree at Taylor and coursework at Calvin Theological Seminary. “I just need to complete my language requirements before going through the candidacy process for Minister of the Word,” he explained. Au will be a bivocational pastor, continuing to work part-time as a professional musician.
With ties to the Baptist and Pentecostal traditions, neither Au nor his wife had any previous connections to the CRC. Along the way, however, he met Bruce Gritter, pastor of The River CRC, and Victor Ko, pastor of Mosaic House, who would become Au’s mentor. Au is quick to say, “We have felt very welcomed into the family, and we both find the Reformed faith to be full of beauty and depth.”
Au and his wife have moved into the Alberta Avenue community. Au considers it a joy and a blessing to live in this diverse community where he and his wife will work and minister. “We are just one of the neighbors, not ‘courageous ministers’ coming in from the ‘outside’ to work in this ‘crime-ridden’ area; we live here and we care for our neighbors and they care for us. It's in our daily interactions, mowing each other’s lawns, shoveling each other’s walks, and just living life here that we have gotten to know our neighbors. We really feel like it’s in those day-to-day interactions that we experience God’s love together.”
Au said that a number of members of the church’s launch team live in or near the neighborhood. “We want to make sure that we're not ‘service-providers’ coming in from the outside but ‘stakeholders’ who live in and are completely invested in our neighbors and neighborhood.”
Enjoyed this article?
Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight