Page 43 - Presbyterian Connection
P. 43

Hanging Up the Gown
   A presentation after the Rev. Appel’s final service on Nov. 7, 2021, at Oakridge Presbyterian Church. Left to right: Bob Shirley, Clerk of Session; Gord Miller, Session member; the Rev. Hugh Appel.
College and graduated in 1976. At that time, upon graduation, you were given a two-year appoint- ment to serve in a congregation in need of full-time ministry, and this sent us to Burnaby, B.C. I learned that the church I had been appointed to had been without a minister for seven years and only had a few congregants left. A leaking roof had caused consid- erable damage to the interior of the church. An even more serious problem was that the manse had been sold and the mortgage, as well as a loan from the Presbyte- rian Lending fund, had not been paid for many years. I contacted the bank and told them that I would find a way to pay the bal- ance of the mortgage—though, at the time, I had no idea how.
We were also asked to preach at Rober tson Church in East Van- couver. In time, the congregation suggested amalgamating with Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby and eventually the pres- bytery agreed, and the church building was sold.
It became obvious that God was blessing renewal as we were serving him. The congregation kept growing, mostly by word of mouth. As our two-year appoint- ment was ending, the Session asked if we could stay for another two years, and the presbytery agreed. The question was raised if I would be able to receive a call to ministry. I can’t explain why, but I didn’t feel I was ready for that—rather strange. We loved the work and the challenge, and, of course, the people. We served at the church for another two years. We also became aware that God had a plan for us.
As it turned out, Stamford Pres- byterian Church in Niagara Falls, Ont., invited Jane and me to meet with their Search Committee. Af- ter asking for God’s guidance, we flew to Ontario, met with the Search Committee on a Saturday, and I preached the next morning. Flying back home to Burnaby on Monday, Jane and I had some time to share our experience at Stamford, convinced that God wanted us to serve him there. It’s strange how things unfold at times. The morning after we ar- rived home, we received a phone call telling us that I was called to serve in Niagara Falls. We real- ized it was God’s way. We said goodbye, which is never easy, to the Brentwood Church family and began a new challenge.
Stamford Presbyterian Church was founded in 1784, so it was quite a change moving from a “new” congregation to one of the oldest churches in our denomina- tion. I soon found out that at an old established church, “We have always done it...” was often said. We discovered upon arrival that there were two new subdivisions not far from the church—a sign of growth in the community. At a Session meeting, we discussed the matter of church growth and decided that we would do home- to-home visitations. We printed at- tractive invitations and the elders started knocking on doors, invit- ing people to the upcoming Easter celebration. We soon learned that we were the first ones to invite people in a personal way—and we were glad to learn it. On Easter Sunday, the increased attendance required the need for extra chairs. Talk about Christ at work. Amaz- ing! Before long, we started two morning services, as God was blessing the growth. Our work kept us busy and blessed.
The last congregation Jane and I served at was Knox Presbyte- rian Church in Wallaceburg, Ont. During our second year there, the church went through a significant renovation, which included the addition of a church and educa- tion building.
In 1998, Jane was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. On the day of surgery, the surgeon prayed with Jane in the operating room. The doctor was a Christian and an outstanding surgeon. The day before, at the closing of wor- ship, the clerk stepped forward and invited Jane and me to stand in front of the congregation while we joined hands. He called the el- ders to come forward and lay their hands on Jane for prayer. “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anoint- ing them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
There was not a dry eye in the sanctuary. People surrounded Jane and promised to pray for healing as the elders had shown. A group of young couples deliv- ered meals to the manse. Many people offered to drive Jane to the clinic for chemotherapy treat- ments. Jane and I have always shared strong love together but all the extra love we received was certainly overwhelming.
The time came when we start- ed to consider retirement. It would
The Rev. Hugh Appel.
be a huge change for us. Having served Knox Presbyterian Church for 14 years, we felt it was time to “hang up the gown.” It was not easy to leave the people who showed their kindness and love in a time of need. Was our work always easy? To be honest, I had to learn a lot in dealing with the wide variety of duties and many different people. We realized that ministry is not a job—it’s a call- ing and a challenge. Did we make mistakes? No doubt about it. We are sinners, which, at times, is visible.
A farewell dinner was held in a hotel with many people pre- sent, including several ministers from Wallaceburg who “roasted” the preacher. We purchased and moved to a home in London, Ont. We became members of Oakridge Presbyterian Church, where I was designated “Minister in Asso- ciation” and enjoyed preaching many times over the years. Dur- ing our retirement, we wrote a book of clergy memoirs. To our great surprise, we received an award for the memoirs from the General Assembly, presented to us by the Committee on History.
On Nov. 7, 2021, following my 87th birthday, I conducted my fi- nal service at Oakridge Presbyte- rian Church, celebrating 51 years of proclaiming the good news. The clerk and another member of Session spoke words of appre- ciation. We received some gifts. Jane was thanked for her support and received a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
I have always known that I never would have made it without the love and support of my wife. I am thankful to God for health and strength.
Over the years, I became more and more aware that it is not about the seats but about souls. Are we called to change? Abso- lutely! We are living in a changing world. We need to keep the doors open for people from all walks of life to hear and share the strength and love in Jesus Christ. After all, Christ gave all to set us free.
To Christ be the glory!
By the Rev. Hugh Appel
When I was four years old, my parents took me to church for the first time. I was born in the Neth- erlands and, back then, there was no nursery for the small children. Years later, my parents told me that my first church visit made a great impression on me. When we arrived home after the ser- vice, I told them, “What that man did in church is what I am going to do when I am older.” A rather strong statement for a four-year- old child.
Years later, God made it happen.
In 1940, World War II was in its second year. Hitler’s military had invaded the Netherlands. War time is hard to describe. It turned out to be five years of bloodshed, hunger and starvation. We moved to another town and met our new neighbours, a young couple and the proud parents of a seven- month-old baby girl named Jan- nie—who I would later come to know as Jane.
In May of 1945, the Canadian Armed Forces liberated us from oppression, at a very high cost and sacrifice. The Canadian mili- tary cemeteries in the Netherlands are a grim witness to that fact. The bond between Canada and the Netherlands is still strong today. Our neighbours moved to another city, due to a job transfer, and we stayed in touch by mail.
After the war, many people star ted looking to Canada for a new future. About 200,000 Hol- landers immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. We arrived in 1952 and moved to the city of St. Catharines in Ontario. Six years later, our for- mer neighbours settled in St. Ca- tharines as well. Our two families came together again. The eldest daughter, Jannie, had grown into a beautiful young lady and now went by the name Jane. When I saw her, I knew in my heart that she was the one, and we were married in 1960. We have been blessed with three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Back when I was thinking about full-time ministry work, I spoke to our minister at the time, the Rev. Charles Henderson at St. Giles Presbyterian Church. He immedi- ately suppor ted me. The Presby- tery of Niagara certified me to be- gin the preparations. Before long, I was asked to be pulpit supply for a two-point charge. The people in the charge were very patient with me for the six months I served there. Following this, the Pres- bytery of Lindsay-Peterborough appointed me to serve as student minister to a two-point charge in Sunderland, Ont. Jane and I really enjoyed the suppor t and love of the two congregations. I felt they showed us the practical side of serving in ministry.
I began my studies at Knox
 Oakridge Presbyterian Church in London, Ont.

   41   42   43   44   45