The Grace Magazine Directory of Churches not only lists congregations of Reformed Baptist convictions in Britain; it encompasses the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, New Zealand and Canada. We would like to share with the readers of the Magazine something of what God has been doing through the ministry of a sister Church begun 18 years ago as Bethsaida Chapel, and now known as Hope Assembly of Bible Christians, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. We ask for your prayers at a significant point in our witness and life; we invite any readers to worship and establish ties of fellowship with us if their travels put them in reach of us.
Our field of service lies near the centre of eastern English Canada’s industrial, commercial and residential heartland. The ‘Golden Horseshoe’ is a continual conurbation taking up the entire shoreline of Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls in the southwest to Ajax in the northwest, and holding the larger part of the province’s population base. Mississauga is just west of Ontario’s provincial capital, the largest Anglophone city in the country, Toronto.
Formed out of a handful of villages and hamlets comprising the historic ‘Township of Toronto’ in 1974, Mississauga is the sixth largest city in Canada, and has remained for almost a decade the fastest growing with a current population of 695,000 residents drawn from cultures around the globe. The city forms a gateway to the country, holding the Lester B. Pearson International Airport, the greatest concentration of major highways in Canada, and a local transit system linked both to Toronto and other neighbouring cities by bus, subway and commuter trains. It has also within recent years come into its own as a corporate capital, housing 50 of Canada’s Fortune 500 offices, as well as 18,000 local businesses.
We are called to preach the Gospel of grace in a culturally diverse, generally affluent community with significant communities from the world’s religions (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh), a strong Roman Catholic parish system with tax-supported separate schools, an influential ecumenical cartel, and a markedly secularist social establishment.
After almost three years of ministry in Britain, during which he was ordained and served as Pastor to Grace Baptist Chapel, Napier Road, Tottenham, John Bodner returned to his family and home town in Mississauga. Over 1986-1988, he took up a year of business school, and gained employment as a hospital clerk receptionist. He also married Miss Dorothy Crellin of Crosby, Isle of Man, who had adhered to the church at Onchan. Dorothy and John were received and became active members of the Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto, sharing in open air work, visitation, writing for THE GOSPEL WITNESS magazine, and occasional preaching.
During this time, the Lord led a local family in Mississauga to approach them about beginning a work on lines more akin to Strict Baptist or Reformed Baptist congregations in Britain. After researching the growing population potential of the city, learning what could be found about church planting, and much prayer, meetings were commenced in September 1988.
In the 18 years ensuing, first as “Bethsaida Chapel: Strict Baptist” and then as “Hope Assembly of Bible Christians”, they organized and sustained a local Church and continual Gospel witness to the City. In addition to worship and ministry on the Lord’s Day, Hope Assembly has sought to preach Christ through open air meetings in parks, door-to-door visitation, literature tables at local malls, and hospital services. In addition, over seven years the Church was able to maintain a 15 minute broadcast each Lord’s Day morning. “Grace and Truth Radio” was heard over a local radio station with a broadcast coverage of the entire “Golden Horseshoe” region.
As well as our listing with the Churches of the Grace Magazine Directory, Hope Assembly has had amicable relations with other Churches of like precious faith in Ontario. In 2004 we rejoiced to be received as a member congregation of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America, whose 52 churches work together in missions, ministerial training, and church planting based on full and sincere subscription to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.
The Church at the time of this report has 12 members on its roll, of whom the Pastor has baptized nine. As well, between 2-4 adult adherents and 2-6 children may be found in attendance on the Sabbath. We have secured indefinite tenure in the Meadowvale Community Centre in the northwest of the City for our Lord’s Day meetings between 1.30 and 5.30 pm; this allows the Pastor to itinerate and preach elsewhere, as well as the congregation to travel in and out once over the Day of Rest.
The Lord’s Day meetings begin at 2 pm, when we hold a meeting for Worship. Scripture reading, prayer, unaccompanied sung praise, and expository preaching lead to the weekly Lord’s Table. After a short break for refreshments, we gather for Family Bible Hour, featuring a song service, corporate Bible memorization, and close, practical Bible teaching. Over the summer months, two Saturday mornings are given when weather permits to neighbourhood Gospel visitation and tracting; through the winter, two Saturday evenings each month are given to home-based prayer meetings and Bible study.
Our people are drawn from Mississauga itself, from Brampton and Caledon to the north, and from Hamilton to the west, a driving distance of about 40 minutes. They take in all colours, and hail from Singapore, the Philippines, Jamaica, Canada and the British Isles. Despite our size, and a few of the usual trials every church family knows, we have been richly blessed with peace and love among the brotherhood. We include a few photos from our most recent baptismal service, Lord’s Day 25 June this year, when 3 were added to the Church.
Hope Assembly survived over its first 10 years by tent-making ministry, with John serving in a downtown hospital. In 1998, the hospital was closed, and John began six years of ‘yoked ministry’, pastoring Hope and another congregation. Three years were spent with a Fellowship Baptist Church in nearby Etobicoke, Toronto; another three with an Associated Presbyterian Church in North York, Toronto. In addition John briefly served as General Secretary to the Canadian Protestant League. This post entailed preaching trips westward and eastward across Canada. All these years Dorothy has also kept working full-time as a nursery nurse/ nanny in private homes.
Since January 2005, the Church at Hope Assembly has begun to support the Pastor, and at present is making a special effort to keep him in full-time service over the next 2 years. This, together with pulpit supply work, brings about $ 13,000.00 to the family income.
It is at present our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give ourselves entirely to outreach and ministry in Mississauga over the next 2 years. We are praying that God will graciously add to us a people knitted up in mind and heart to sustain a long-term church life in this city in sufficient number to support the Gospel ministry adequately and to obtain a modest place of worship.
Pray for us! We earnestly urge all in our sister Churches in Britain who love the Gospel of Christ crucified, the pure, undefiled Bible truths of our Confession, and simple Scriptural worship, to uphold us in prayer at the throne of grace. Please pray for effective means to evangelize our diverse peoples; for the Holy Spirit’s unction and leading in our witness; for the call and salvation of lost souls; for the faithful supply of our needs from the Father of lights; and for the felt power and presence of the Lord Jesus in our life and testimony.
Visit us! If your vacation plans bring you into our part of Canada, please get in touch by phone or e-mail. We would be delighted to have your fellowship on the Lord’s Day or in the week as God enables.
In behalf of the Church,
Cordially yours in the Lord Jesus,
Rev. John Peter Bodner M.A., M.Div. – Pastor.