On the evening of Friday, October 26, the congregation of Living Hope Presbyterian Church (of Beamsville, Ontario) came together, along with members of the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario, and the congregation of Grace Covenant Church, to have a service of organization as Living Hope became a particular congregation of the Presbytery.
So very often in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, church plants seem to quickly flourish and move toward particularization. But in the providence of God, Living Hope developed slowly and over nearly two decades. A reminder that indeed “the heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Living Hope became a mission work of the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario in the year 2000. The provisional session of the congregation included Revs. John Ferguson, Peter Wallace, James L. Bosgraf and Ruling Elder William Carson.
In January of 2002 the congregation came under the oversight of Grace Covenant Church of Sheffield, ON, as Grace transferred into the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario.
Following the resignation of the founding Evangelist in 2005, the congregation struggled to persevere as a mission work of the Presbytery. For the next six and a half years the congregation carried on, but with a vacant pulpit. They sought to call several OPC pastors, but the Lord closed those doors. Those were particularly difficult years. The congregation saw almost no growth and contemplated closing down the work.
In 2010, Doug Bylsma, himself having served the congregation for several years as ruling elder, completed his own seminary studies and began his licensure and ordination exams with the Candidates and Credentials Committee of the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario. Completing his exams, the congregation extended a call to Doug to serve as Evangelist in Living Hope. Doug was ordained and installed as Evangelist on March 4 of 2011.
From 2011-2013, Living Hope received denominational support through the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, which helped the congregation financially support a full-time pastor.
In February of 2017 Michael Short was ordained and installed as ruling elder of the Session of Grace Covenant Church, Sheffield, but served particularly in Living Hope. By the end of 2017 the congregation began discussing a plan to petition the Presbytery to grant particular status to the congregation. At the September 2018 presbytery meeting of the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario, petitions from the congregation to particularize were approved and a date of October 26, 2018 was set for a service of recognition.
Currently there are eighty members on the roles of the congregation, with more regular visitors expressing interest in membership. Three men are being trained for the office of deacon.
Pastor Bylsma shares: “In all this, we testify not of the glory or strength of man. This is not a testimony necessarily of the glory of the Church. Rather, this is a testimony of the grace and faithfulness of Jesus Christ, the Head and King of His Church, who in the midst of great human weakness and failures, builds up His Church and Kingdom. This is a testimony of Christ’s faithfulness to His promise: ‘And behold, I will be with you to the end of the age.'”