If only I had known

When Melinda and I got married I was working as a Sales Representative for a company owned by Plymouth or closed Brethrens called ‘Finnex’ We sold exhaust systems. I loved the work, and was good at it, but it was not ministry.

Both of us decided that I needed to get a Theological Degree and go through the Baptist system. It was around the same time I received a phone call from Reverend Joe Westlake to come to Bedford Baptist Church as Young Adults Pastor. I preached on the Sunday night and was impressed by such fine young adults as Janelle Dean (nee Slade), Janine Gethin (nee Gribble) , Quentin Gribble, Kim and Phil Sobey and others. They were running a social program on Friday nights and a good service on Sunday night.

It was a great opportunity and I took it. The Sunday morning service was another story. Even in those early days it was a huge culture shock, coming as I had from the progressive church at Joondalup with Glen Smyth. Joe Westlake had had a successful ministry in Victoria where the church he was pastoring at was thriving with a school and other ministries. Bedford was like a roadblock in comparison. At the time I did not realise it, but later on I understood why the service was as it was. A combination of staunch resistance, a tired pastor, and ingrained despisement of leadership.The service itself was four hymns, responsive readings, little spirit, inconsistent quality and general tiredness. To be totally honest as well, the sermons were difficult to listen to, at times guilt laden and generally boring. That is harsh, and certainly to say publicly gives me no pleasure. But I am going to be honest about my own shortcomings as well.

There were some wonderful people there. Bev and Ernie Lyon (still at church) Margaret Gethin, Marj Sobey, Jeanette Nancarrow (deceased), Jim and Vera Mc Kinnon, Steve and Tracy Taylor, and others…some of whom still attend Inglewood Community Church. I don’t know why they stuck around, but I am glad they did! Their support would be invaluable as we entered the conflict years.They were faithful and spiritual people.

I did some research on the church and discovered that over its 50 year history (at that stage) the average pastoral stay was 18 months. Joe Westlake was the longest serving pastor at that point, and would stay for 6 years, a record.

There was also whispers of things I cannot state publicly, things that should never happen in churches, or anywhere for that matter.

Even though I was a Young Adult Pastor I rarely attended members meetings or deacons meetings, which in those early years was a blessing in disguise. Because it was here that the real face of the church would be exposed. And it was not good.

I entered this scene as a naive, idealistic young pastor who thought he knew more than he did, and wanted to please people. It was a mix bound for conflict.

3 thoughts on “If only I had known”

  1. I know where this is heading as you spoke on it at the recent Harvest Time conference so looking forward to reading more as I know it will be a blessing for many others…

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