Chris Schoon, a scholar and father currently serving as senior pastor at First Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ont., has been named the new team leader for Faith Formations Ministries, effective June 1. Schoon, 46, takes over the leadership position from Syd Hielema, who has led the ministry group since it was formed in 2014.
Schoon feels called to a role of service in the denomination. “We made a family decision before I began work toward my doctorate to prepare for a broader leadership role within the denomination,” he said. “When we moved to Hamilton I was not expecting to be a pastor . . . my call from First Hamilton came at a time that worked well with the completion of my doctorate work.” Schoon received a doctor of theology degree from Wycliffe College in 2016. He said that serving as a pastor has helped him prepare for this new role. “Faith Formation Ministries works alongside local congregations, equipping local leaders, generating ideas available to churches, encouraging fresh approaches for church and families to build and share faith.”
Currently the Faith Formation team includes 15 mainly part-time staff throughout the U.S. and Canada. Schoon envisions his leadership role as one of equipping team members to keep on doing their work well, as well as “filling in the gaps,” finding new ways to communicate faith. “I hope to recognize diversity within our churches, and to find and share resources that speak to diverse congregations,” he said, noting he wants to learn from faith-building experiences within different ethnic and different ability communities within the CRC.
Hielema, who will be 65 years old this year, plans to begin working half-time in a new position funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. encouraging team-based connections between denominational agencies and local churches. He revealed intentions to retire from FFM in 2018 and had no part in the process that led to Schoon’s appointment. Hielema said, “I know Chris well—we have studied the Bible together for the past few years, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Editor's note: This story was updated May 31, 2019 to correct the name of the granting institution funding the project to which Syd Hielema is moving. The Connections Project is funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.