Esteemed Fathers and Brethren of the Western Classis,
It has been my honor to serve you as president for another year. I have served as president for five years, for which I am thankful to our Lord.
The psalmist cries out, O LORD, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. 2 Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry. 3 For my soul is full of troubles. Psalm 88:1-3
As I reflect on the past year, I would say that it was a time of trial for the Western Classis. For me, personally, the Lord led me into situations of intense pressure and difficult decisions. My soul has been full of troubles. But he has sustained me throughout.
What follows are summaries of the various pastor’s reports.
Starting with Rev. Sam Powell. He notes in his brief report that the word of God was preached each Sunday, and the Lord’s Supper was administered 12 times. In addition, bible studies were conducted through Zoom almost every Wednesday. He submitted his resignation to the Consistory on January 10 to be effective on February 28. He requests the Western Classis to accept his resignation and to drop his name from the roll of ministers. This request will be taken up at this Classis meeting.
Rev. Tracy Gruggett reports of his regular peaching and teaching at Grace Reformed Church in Bakersfield. Highlights from his report include his belief that GRC is changing generational hands, that there is growing number of young couples, and that the remodel is finally completed, with the facilities fully functional. Preparations for Synod are underway.
Rev. Gil Baloy reports that the Word was regularly preached, Sunday school was taught, and a weekly Thursday evening bible study was conducted. The Lord’s Supper was administered each month. The church enjoys warm and deep fellowship, and he rejoices in the many workers who help out. There are new and steady visitors, who, if they should join would add nine members to the congregation. Currently, the Consistory is comprised of the pastor and one elder. He continues his evangelistic ministry at Balboa Park. Rev. Baloy closes his report by mentioning his desire to prepare the congregation for his retirement. May the Lord bless them in their decisions.
Rev. Chester Au submitted his report of his labors, as a licentiate of the Western Classis. I looked at his report as opportunity to get to know him and his congregation better. Three things stand out. First is his efforts to be conscientiously Reformed in his practices of ministry. Second, he echoes similar issues that many of us experienced in the aftermath of the pandemic. Third, he mentors two churches in the Philippines. We are thankful to the Lord that he has brought Rev. Au into our number. May the Lord continue to help us to get to know and assist Rev. Au as we can.
Providence Reformed Church of Lodi has come into an abundance of blessings from the Lord. The membership number has increased and promises to continue to do so in the coming year. Rev. Douglas Schlegel reports that this has resulted in the resumption of youth Sunday school classes. In fact, the church saw the baptism of one covenant child, the first in ten years. And there is now one youth receiving confirmation instruction. Rev. Schlegel’s plate is quite full, as he carries out his ministry and continues his doctoral studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary, where he has been offered a part time teaching position. Our prayer surely is that the Lord will give Rev. Schlegel and the congregation all wisdom to balance the heavy load of responsibilities that he carries.
The Congregation of Trinity Reformed Church in Modesto has benefited from the ministry of Elder/Licentiate Tim Curtis. He provided most of the preaching throughout the year as well book studies. There was one baptism. They have seen one consistent visitor, plus others from the Ripon area who are struggling with strife in their own church. The congregation is pursuing support of a church plant in Weiser, Idaho where Derek Reis is living.
Ebenezer Reformed Church and Valle De Gracia appear to be in a good state. The ministry of the Word continues in the congregations through the work of Rev. Ruben Zartman and Rev. Valentin Alpuche along with the Consistory. Rev. Zartman reports of a new bible study and his continued teaching at Seminario reformado de las Américas. The congregation hosted an intern from Mid-America Reformed Seminary for a few weeks which was a great encouragement to him. He reports as well that there have been many visitors, one consistently so, to the service of Valle De Gracia.
Rev Gary Mancilas has served as minister of Covenant Reformed Church in Chico for 21 years. Though hampered by health problems, he was able to faithfully minister God’s word in a variety of ways throughout the year, not least in preaching to the saints on forty-seven Lord’s Days. He reports of the elders and their work in assisting the pastor, and of the work of Deacon Chris Hekman. The congregation is well cared for by this group of godly shepherds.
Rev. Frank Walker reports that the congregation has grown stronger through trials brought about by the covid pandemic. The Word was preached and taught in a variety of ways. The remodel project is finally completed and is a significant improvement. Each Sunday sees an average of 25 visitors. Remarkably, the Lord blessed the church with 10 baptisms! He notes that Elder Chris Fellersen retired from active service on the Spiritual Council. The health issues that he experienced in 2021 are a thing of the past. However, he relates that he is prayerfully entertaining the thought of retirement.
Elder Joe Gross of Grace Reformed Church of Willows reports that the congregation continues to meet with Rev. Eric Bristley who teaches God’s Word each Sunday through Zoom, with Elder Gross leading the adult Sunday school class. They lost a few families due to folks moving away, but the congregation is determined to continue the work. They share a strong unity of faith and love, and they faithfully give to the work of the church. In an interaction with the Executive Committee, Elder Gross reports that the congregation is actively seeking a new minister.
Rev. Vern Pollema had the privilege and joy of participating in the installation service of Rev. Jeff Munive as well as filling the Bakersfield pulpit in the pastor’s absence. He also served on the board of Heidelberg Theological Seminary. He recently was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. He states “Though my wife and I may feel the aches and pains that come with age, we continue to know that God is and always will be our strength….” He and Betty rejoice that they will by God’s grace see their first great grandchild come into this world later this year.
Rev. Paul Treick desires to serve the Lord but is prohibited by decreasing abilities. Nevertheless, he was able to preach and administer the Lord’s Supper, as well conduct one baptism. He has also put together a compilation of hymns and meditations that he has written over the years, which has been published as a book on Amazon entitled “Reflections on Faith and Life.” We thank the Lord for Rev. Treick’s commitment to serving Christ even in these late years of his sojourn.
For Rev. Eric Bristley, 2022 marks his transition from full time ministry to retirement. He continued to minister online to the congregation in Willows, along with extended visits in March and September. He is reducing his involvement in Classical and Synodical committees but able to attend Classis and Synod meetings. Currently, he is engaged in some writing projects.
Rev. Jonathon Merica continued to serve Calvary Reformed Chapel until its closing on June 30. He conscientiously carried out the regular preaching and teaching of the Word and the doctrines of the faith, as well administered the sacraments, including baptism. Before closing, he was honored with a 35th Anniversary celebration commemorating his service in Christian ministry. Though retired he continues to work by supplying pulpits in various churches. He also traveled to Pakistan as part of his service with Westminster Biblical Missions. He also reports of his successful left knee replacement.
On behalf of Classis, I would like to thank our retired ministers for their service to Christ’s Church. May He reward them greatly on the day, and may the Lord bless them now as they rest from their labors.
The number of communicate members decreased from 460 to 430. These numbers do not include the Yuba City congregation. It appears that they did not submit a report of their statistics. Counting Yuba City, Classis started 2022 with 508 (cm). We ended with the Yuba City congregation still on the rolls, though we do not have the finishing number. Currently the Western Classis stands at 430 communicate members and 603 baptized members. Setting the loss of the Yuba City congregation aside, we see that we continue to be on a trend of decreasing numbers. However, we should bear in mind that most of these losses come from the Sacramento congregation, which was still dealing with members who had left previously and with other members moving away. We have every confidence in the Lord that He will add to their number. Most congregations saw minor fluctuations. One congregation, Providence Reformed, Lodi, saw a significant increase.
Again, I have truly been honored to serve as your president. As you know, I intend for this to be my last report as president at least for a while. I trust and pray that Lord will give the next man all grace to serve Classis. I am ready to assist him should he need it. I close simply with the word, “May God bless the Western Classis.”