On March 20 more than 60 vehicles gathered on the corner of 39th Street and 30th Avenue at 10:15 a.m. for a unique experience.
It was not a family comedy, nor an adventure film that brought folks out, but rather the bold proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by Pastor Ben Elliot of Deer Park Church (formerly the Deer Park Alliance Church) via FM transmission (88.5 FM) for those in the parking lot and nearby neighbourhood.
Four rows of cars filled the lot with anywhere from 1 to 4 people per vehicle for an hour.
“This week I had the privilege of being home and was invited to be part of a province wide conference call with Premier Kenney and Minister Dr. Deena Hinshaw,” said Elliott during his sermon on Sunday. “I was nervous when I suggested what we were planning for our service and we got the thumbs up from everyone. He also asked us as faith leaders to pray for government and ministry leaders to make good decisions in this difficult time.”
He added that the church was going to ensure that the maximum number of 15 people was observed with only 4 volunteer parking attendants, 3 musicians and 1 pastor.
“I know it is tempting to get out of your car and chat with your friend but please don’t, be like our youth and chat with them across a window,” said Elliott who is also head of the Red Deer Ministerial Association. “We want to honor the restrictions while honouring God by gathering together.”
Elliott spoke on cabin fever, an experience citizens across Canada are well familiar with.
“Robert Service wrote about cabin fever in a poem called Pious Pete and we are well familiar with the phenomena,” he said. “Even King David, in 1 Sam 25 was not immune to the effects of continual exposure to the same people, except he lived in a cave!”
He noted that the good news is, that even while he was not in the public, David sought God and was corrected by God! He concluded his message by challenging us to honor God by being agents of peace and his salvation in our families.
Meanwhile, this particular drive-in was one of many services throughout the city and one of many formats.
Churches like Crossroads have live streamed their services for some time to service their growing congregation and others have moved to youtube presentations for viewing anytime.
Unity Baptist Church in north Red Deer has gone to Zoom for their services.
“This morning there was 40 people who logged into the sermon,” said Kent Lindsay, a
Unity Baptist congregant. “It was a great interactive way to experience a service without being there.”
Meanwhile, prayer groups like the Red Deer Catholic Mens Group have moved to Whatapp for communication and alerting members to Zoom sessions with other believers for rosary prayers and other intercessions.
“There are many ways for believers to meet and encourage each other during this time,” said pastor Andrew Rilling of Deer Park Church. “From live streams to youtube personal phone calls, to our drive in format, Gods people need to encourage each other. His word is always working and He meets us in our needs. As a believer and a pastor I am encouraged and know that God is always working among us.”
Smiles Thru Lindsey reaching out with a new video message and urging Albertans to look out for each other at this challenging time
The holiday season is well behind us, we’re heading into the coldest part of the winter, and although the days are starting to grow longer there’s still a definite lack of daylight in our lives. The winter blues are a real thing and this year we have COVID, a whole new serious problem to add to our mental health issues.
COVID is also the reason the Smiles Thru Lindsey team has not been able do public events for many months. Unable to reach out physically through school visits and fund raisers, Smiles Thru Lindsey is reminding Central Albertans to check in on each other. Also, please follow the Smiles Thru Lindsey Facebook page . They’ll lead you to the resources you or your loved ones need right away.
Meet Lindsey and the Smiles Thru Lindsey team in this powerful video. …And remember to check in on the people in your life.
If you’d like to help Smiles Thru Lindsey with a donation please click here.
Hope, Faith and Love: the Music Ministry of Gerard Renaud
“I feel more alive today in God than I did 20 years ago,” said Gerard Renaud in the Red Deer Sacred Heart sanctuary.
The musician and worship leader had been asked by Shalom World, an international Catholic Ministry network with programs ranging from daily mass to talk shows, to provide worship music and meditations in 2019 but God had other plans.
“Shalom had come to Red Deer and put on a weekend at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and I had attended as I had never been to one before,” said Renaud. “They needed a guitarist, so I helped out and tailored my song choice to the theme of the weekend and they liked that. Many of the international leaders were here and they invited me to be part of their Dallas event. “
Renaud recalled that God had other plans as there were glitches in registration, so the Dallas trip was cancelled. Instead, he went to Vancouver to visit family and while he was there, he was part of 4 events with healings, music ministry and more members of Shalom management met with him!
Fast forward one year.
Early this Fall, Shalom came calling, this time they asked for two short devotions for Rejoice, one of which has already been posted (The Great Commission) and a second on Advent (Due December 18).
Communicating the grace and love of God has always been foremost in Renaud’s’ life.
“When I was a young man my family lived in Maple Ridge, BC, and I learned to play the guitar when I was nine years old on a 1965 Fender,” remembered Renaud. “My dad taught me 3 chords in 1974. I credit God with giving me the talent to lean how to play and three months later, my family was the choir at St. Pats and we changed the music style to be more Avant Garde and by the time we changed churches 4 years later, church attendance was up even at the early masses.”
By 1977 his family was playing up to 140 times a year in prisons, churches, and seniors’ homes.
“Wherever we were wanted, we played,” he said. “The most memorable show we ever did was in 1977 at Alouette which was a medium security prison in Maple Ridge. There were close to 200 inmates and we played during a prayer service and afterwards, we put on our regular show. We played all kinds of music, There were not many at the service, but when we started to sing our standard set everyone left, and we were wondering what happened. Not long later, we packed the chapel, and every wall was full!”
He noted that as a young boy of 12 he was singing ‘Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,’ and laughed about it. “What does a 12-year old boy know about wasted days? But, while we entertained our audiences, we ended up with an acapella Amazing Grace that had people in tears seeking the forgiveness of God.”
Experiences like that shaped his family’s music and ministry.
His spiritual journey is not restricted to music but also includes counseling and leading healing masses world-wide, a ministry that Sacred Heart has embraced for close to 3 years.
“When we had our first healing Mass in Red Deer more than 200 people came up for prayer,” he remembered smiling. “Father Tom, priest at the time, called him over and asked him a simple question, ‘Where did these people come from?’ I told Fr. Tom that if we hold one, they will come and they did.”
Looking over the sanctuary, he continued to speak.
“But you have to remember that the Holy Spirit only moves like that after great prayer and humility, and we had spent 6 months praying every week for that,” he said. “All I did was to be obedient and do my part. When I ministered in India, the same thing happened. Over a couple of months, I led worship and prayed for thousands of people, some of whom I keep in contact with! God is amazing.”
When Shalom came calling, Renaud knew he had to let God speak.
“My heart is evangelism, and I knew I had to challenge my audience with both a strong message and a powerful song so I chose ‘What will you do with the time you have left,’” he said. “We filmed it at Sacred Heart and after their editing, it debuted in early December.”
He was not prepared for the impact his segment would have.
“One of the people of Shalom contacted me and told me that it had been posted in 4 countries and they had been receiving comments from Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States,” he noted. “Not only that, but even in this parish, the response from my fellow believers is amazing with people wanting to help. Our parish priest, Father Jann wants us to produce a series of videos on faith, doctrine, and the gospels. We are looking into equipment to help us live stream and work on our video ministry, all because of an invitation from Shalom.”
Looking up at the cross, Renaud concluded with a simple statement, “If God asks something of you, do not walk away, but be obedient. The rewards will be worth every sacrifice.”
Renaud leads worship at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass.
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