When pastors John Van Sloten and Rich Braaksma decided to preach a Lenten sermon series tied to the tanking Alberta economy, they did not know that it would attract the attention of Global News. It gave Van Sloten the opportunity to share the message of Lent with a large television audience.
Van Sloten and Braaksma are pastors of New Hope Hillside Christian Reformed Church in Calgary, Alta. Because of the slump in oil prices, Alberta’s jobless rate is at a 20-year high at 7.9 percent, and even higher in Calgary at 8.4 percent. So they developed a series called “The Parable of a Tanking Economy,” addressing topics of uncertainty, worry, and fear.
Van Sloten sent emails to people he knew who had lost their jobs. “Tell me the story of what it’s been like and how you feel.” The following church service, interspersed with readings from Psalm 22, “turned out to be as much a lament as a pastoral response,” explained Van Sloten.
During the television interview, the Global News reporter asked Van Sloten what message he had for both those who don’t attend church and those who do. First, he affirmed some of the feelings associated with losing one’s job. “Feeling worrisome, ‘How am I going to feed my family? What am I going to fill my day with? Who am I?’ Much of who we are in our culture is about what we do,” Van Sloten said. “But, [job loss] can be a wake up call to new priorities. There are lessons in a time of great need.”
“God is with us, even in these times,” Van Sloten said. “You are not alone. It is often in the broken places where we’re closest to meeting God.”
The interview aired in several time slots in Calgary.