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New pastor brings varied background to lead GCRC congregation
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 19 Jul 2006, p. 16

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One of the largest church congregations in Halton Hills has a new lead pastor. Rev. Gary van Leeuwen, 38, has come to Georgetown Christian Reformed Church (GCRC) from a charge in Athens, a community northeast of Kingston. He succeeds Pastor Mark Verbruggen, who served GCRC for almost a decade but left last year to become senior pastor at a church in Sioux Center, Iowa. Hank Visser, GCRC church council chair said the search for a new lead pastor who could fit in well with the Georgetown congregation took over a year, and says "our prayers have been answered" in being able to attract van Leeuwen to the community. He feels confident that van Leeuwen, his wife Helen and daughter Emily, 3, will soon feel very much at home. Van Leeuwen, originally from a Listowel area farm, served as pastor of the Athens church for more than six years and preached his first sermon at Georgetown on June 11. He has an interesting background and wasn't ordained until he was 32 having earlier taken engineering at the University of Waterloo for two years before feeling "God's call for ministry". Then came stints at Reformed Bible College, Grand Rapids, Michigan; teaching English in Mexico; work as assistant chaplain at the Seafarer Centre, Montreal; studying at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Chicago and at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids. As well, van Leeuwen worked for a year in the Philippines with Christian Reformed World Missions. He says, "The call to become a pastor was strong... although I tried to resist for years." Van Leeuwen says he gets a lot of energy from having coffee with people, talking to them in an informal way and also enjoys the "jeans and T-shirts" style of pastoring. Van Leeuwen says that although GCRC appears to be going fairly well, there's always work to be done building a stronger community and attracting unchurched people-- particularly new residents of the town. At the moment, he adds, it's hard to know what direction he wants to pursue for the church in Georgetown and he has no set agenda. So, his first priority will be to get to know the congregation and the community to better determine needs. His wife, Helen, is from a CRC family in Beamsville. The couple met in Montreal where Helen was working in cancer research. They were married four years ago. At GCRC Ted Bootsma, 64, remains associate pastor. He's a former Christian school principal, university English teacher and missionary and works in a 75 per cent time post with a focus on pastoral ministry. Georgetown CRC has more than 600 members, confessing or baptized and was founded in 1957. The church recently completed a $1.6 million expansion in 2004.

Dexter, Brian
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19 Jul 2006
Personal Name(s):
Van Leeuwen, Gary ; Verbruggen, Mark ; Visser, Hank ; Van Leeuwen, Helen ; Van Leeuwen, Emily ; Bootsma, Ted
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Georgetown Christian Reformed Church ; GCRC ; Reformed Bible College ; Seafarer Centre ; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School ; Calvin Theological Seminary ; Christian Reformed World Missions
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New pastor brings varied background to lead GCRC congregation