30 June 2008


Aside from the temperament we’re born with, our family of origin gives us our basic orientation to the world and shapes a lot of our presuppositions and criteria for evaluating what is true, our sense of right and wrong, etc. We’re not normally aware how much this underlying thinking and understanding of reality shapes us and our thinking because they’ve become so much of who we are – just like a fish is not really conscious of the water it swims in. Hence it is only fitting to write briefly about my roots and faith heritage since this plays into some of my thinking.

My father’s side of the family comes from the south part of the Netherlands where Catholicism was fairly strong. My grandfather had 2 brothers who were priests, while my grandmother had 2 half-sisters who became nuns. Being ardent Catholics it was always important to live by the Church’s teachings even if you didn’t understand why. As a result it seems my Dad grew up knowing about things like Holy Days of Obligation, mortal and venial sins, no meat on Fridays, making Novenas, etc., but because they didn’t understand the reason or origin of the beliefs, these practices and beliefs must have seemed arbitrary – and at times incompatible with the Bible.

My mother hailed from a small town that has now become part of Amsterdam. My grandmother grew up in an ardent Catholic family with several extended family members being part of religious orders. While she may not have had the same deep commitment to the institutional Church, she knew how to put feet to her faith and was known for her practical concern for people. Whether in the Netherlands, or after immigrating to Canada, she has a reputation for giving things to people in need, seeing that they had needed help around their household, or ensuring that new immigrants were looked after and felt like they belonged. It’s evident that this modelling really made an impact on her children. Although not all my mother’s siblings continued with an active faith, they all seem to have a heart for people and know the priority of helping others.

Both my parents went through World War II and the German occupation of the Netherlands. Eventually both sets of parents decided there was a brighter future for their families overseas. Coincidentally my Dad’s father met my Mom’s mother while in the Emigration office in The Hague in the Netherlands. Although unplanned, both families (and my parents both at age 16) were on the same crossing of the Atlantic on the Volendam entering the country through Pier 21 in April 1950. Nevertheless, through all this my parents never met each other. You can read a bit of their immigration stories here and here.

Because they were such a large family (12 children at the time), my Dad's was photographed a number of times with the pictures now being featured in a number of books on immigrants to Canada.

Although not as large, my Mom still had 6 siblings.

After moving through several communities in southern Ontario, both families settled in the Niagara area. Finally, in 1955, my parents were introduced to each other for the first time on the steps of the Cathedral in St. Catharines and were married in May of 1957.

As an aside, one of my Dad’s uncles who was a priest (the Dutch title for such an uncle is Heeroom) and a missionary in India. When I was born, Heeroom Frans sent this picture from India to my Mom with the handwritten inscription on the back: “Welcome to this
vale of Tears.”

I travelled with a friend to the Netherlands several years after finishing my undergrad degree. One night we stayed with Heeroom Frans who was now retired, but had pastoral responsibilities in a retirement home. I had already left the Church by this time and was instead attending an evangelical church, and the friend I was travelling with was studying for the pastorate in a reformed tradition. Over lunch we got into theological discussions, and Heeroom commented that we didn’t actually have that many differences at the core of our beliefs - at least insofar as we had discussed. This always stuck with me, and thereafter when Heeroom Frans came to visit I felt a special kinship with him and would try to make a point to visit him when he came to Canada.

A few years before he passed away Heeroom Frans went to my parents for a visit and I was able to connect with him there (Picture coming). As he was getting up to leave he said to me: “Well, we hope to see again, but if not we’ll see each other in glory.” Besides the appreciation for the heritage of faith I was given, these encounters with Heeroom have also stayed in my heart through the years. Now that I’ve been learning more of what the ancient Church believed about those in heaven being aware of what is happening on earth and being able to pray for us, I can’t help but wonder if he has been praying for me and is part of the reason I’ve become open to the Church once again.

19 May 2008

Introduction: Why Blog?

Three reasons I can think of:
  • It will probably be a therapeutic and creative outlet to write about where I’ve come from, what I've wrestled with in the past, and what I'm working through now on my spiritual journey - especially as it relates to church. I'm hoping blogging will help me sort out where my head and heart are headed.
  • So that friends and family might better understanding why, after 27+ years of involvement in charismatic and evangelical protestant churches, numerous short-term missions trips, and two years at a prominent inter-denominational seminary, I’m now seriously re-examining the original historic Church.
  • To be part of the faith blogging community and to find camaraderie with fellow travellers. I’ve found it helpful reading the blogs of others on a similar journey, and would be grateful to know that someone else might find my ponderings and musings helpful. It amazes me that it is in our struggles and weakness that God shines through to reveal himself and encourage others.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Cor 4.7 NIV

15 May 2008

Preface & Dedication

The Reason for The Blog Title

Although raised with a strong Catholic heritage, I stopped going to Mass after first year university. I had ‘gotten saved’ a few years earlier but our family had continued attending a Catholic parish. I had already stopped believing in some of Rome’s dogmas, and now found I was getting little out of going to Mass. There was more support for my faith from an interdenominational fellowship group on campus. I still agreed with the core Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the Bible being God’s word, but by then I had shifted to a more fundamentalist understanding and approach to the Christian faith. At the invitation of a friend, I began attending a lively Pentecostal church with many other university students.

Nevertheless, I never felt an antagonism towards the Catholic Church, but rather a fond affection for the basic faith and heritage it had given me. Occasionally, I would voice this to protestant brothers and sisters and at times even find myself saying ‘there’s nothing like a Catholic who gets turned on for Jesus.’ I puzzled as to how they could still subscribe to some of the Catholic distinctives, but sensed that they had taken something solid and rooted, and added into that a real living relationship with Jesus. Yet they weren’t usually flighty or way out in left field like some of the charismatic or fundamentalist Protestants I occasionally encountered.

Over the years I have been an adherent/ congregant in a number of different churches: Pentecostal, Baptist, Mennonite Brethren/ Vineyard, Anglican, and Missionary Evangelical. I loved the people, the fellowship and encouragement. However, I never really felt like I was a ‘Protestant,’ but instead preferred the generic label ‘Christian.’ In fact, in all my years of being separated from the historic Church, I have always felt myself in some sense to be a little ‘c’ catholic since I was part of the one universal (i.e. catholic) church. Ultimately I realized I was a ‘denominational orphan’ - and since I had wandered or roamed through several different denominations I jokingly began calling myself a ‘roaming catholic’ - from whence comes the title for this blog.


This blog is dedicated with gratitude to all those – both Catholic and Protestant - who have encouraged and helped me in my faith journey: my parents, immediate and extended family, friends, pastors, co-workers, authors. But in a unique way it is dedicated to the memory of my friend, brother-in-Christ, and brother-in-law David R. Clark.

In high school he was a great friend and encouragement to me in my faith. I’ve been blessed to have a close-knit family, so when he married my oldest sister, our friendship changed as he now became more like a brother. Dave eventually became a pastor in the United Church of Canada. When I struggled with faith or life issues over the years, he would sometimes say a sentence or two on the matter, but would continue to let me work through it myself – I think so that I would own my faith. Years later when I had come to more solid conclusions about a theological matter, I would often recall his words and realize that what had seemed like an enigmatic response was actually his prodding my thinking in a helpful way.

Although I spent a number of years in more fundamentalist-style churches, I eventually fulfilled a dream to study in a prominent interdenominational evangelical seminary in Western Canada. Home for the Christmas break, I explained that I had wrestled with going to a Vineyard-style church, an Anglican church - or something in between. Before I could finish, Dave declared that I had settled on an Anglican church. When I asked how he knew, his only response was “you can take the boy out of the Catholic Church, but you can’t take the Catholic out of the boy.” Looking back, I’m surprised how well he knew me, and how wise he was in many areas of life and faith.

In 1998 we suddenly lost Dave. It was one of the biggest shocks of my life and it took me five years to really come to terms with losing him. As the years go by, my affection and appreciation of him only grows – as does how much I miss him. In the hope of attaining heaven, Dave’s face is one of the first I want to see. Hence it is with gratitude for his life, and in the hope that he is even now joined with the choirs of angels and saints praising God that I dedicate this blog.

David Robert Clark,

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