Three Questions is a semi-regular series introducing individuals across the NAB by asking them about their story, their ministry, and what they are learning. This week, we hear from Bob Baumann, lead pastor of Eastwood Christian Fellowship in Kitchener, Ontario.
What’s your story?
I was raised in a Christian family and am a first generation Canadian. My folks were Germans from the former Yugoslavia, and dad survived three and half years in concentration camp before coming to Canada. I have lived almost all my life in Kitchener, Ontario, with the exception of six months on the Amazon between high school and college.
I always understood that I would be deeply involved in the church, as my dad was a lay minister and it seemed we were always doing something in or around the life of the congregation. As a young man, I began to help with youth leadership and eventually in outreach, Bible study leadership, and preaching.
After finishing an engineering technology program in college and getting married, my wife and I joined a small group that was attempting to plant a church. As I helped lead this group, I realized my need for theological training, which was strongly discouraged in the very conservative faith community of my youth. So I went off to Bible college on a part-time basis, squeezing a four-year degree into eight.
Eventually, our church plant of forty people merged with a small NAB church in Kitchener, and in February of 1998, I left my job as a technologist in the municipal government and entered full-time pastoral ministry. I have continued to serve the same congregation ever since. Theological education has always been a part-time endeavor, and I finally finished the doctor of Ministry program in January 2023 from Kairos. I am exceedingly grateful for a range of theological perspectives and mentors I have been privileged to glean from along the way, and I have always been a bit of a theological explorer with an appreciation for Orthodox theology, as well as both the spiritual formation and missional movements within the NAB.
My wife Jenny and I have two married daughters. Our eldest is a pediatrician in Edmonton, Alberta, and our youngest is a high school science teacher in Cambridge, Ontario.
What’s ministry like for you?
Over the twenty-six years I have pastored this congregation, we have seen times of growth and times of contraction. Being in one place for a long time has a certain gravitas to it. There is no escaping the fruit, both good and bad, of the things one has pursued and invested in over this long haul. Hopefully, this brings a measure of wisdom.
In ministry, my focus has increasingly moved toward encouraging spiritual formation, a balanced liturgical approach to worship, spending time together in community, and loving all people. I truly love being with the people in our congregation and am inspired by their faith and growth.
In addition to serving Eastwood Christian Fellowship, I have been on the executive board of the Eastern Association for almost all of the past twenty-six years. It has also been a great privilege to lead a monthly meal team that feeds hundreds of people in need in our community for the past seventeen years at Ray of Hope Community Centre.
What are you learning?
Last year was a year of significant change: second of two daughters got married; the church celebrated her 60th anniversary; I finished my doctorate, took a sabbatical, walked the Camino de Santiago (The French Way) with my wife, and asked for and accepted a reduction in salary and work hours. This season of change has also been a season of learning.
I am learning that authenticity is critical. So much of what is done in ministry and the church, while not wrong, may not lead to change, integration, and wholeness as a disciple of Jesus. It is easier, although less rewarding, to settle for information rather than transformation. I am learning that life and ministry are much like being a peregrino (traveller) on the Camino. When ascending a difficult hill, hang on, a descent is coming. And when enjoying a leisurely stroll through a field of flowers, hang on, a brutal climb is around the bend. Through it all, it is about putting one foot in front of the other for the long haul and being attentive to God in all the ways he is present each day.
I am learning that moving my chair, small table, and laptop to the front porch and making that my “office” in summer months is a meaningful change. Being with and among neighbors, dog walkers, and kids playing ball hockey is rich and beautiful and makes me a better pastor. The book Backyard Pilgrim by Matt Canlis has shifted from a Lenten practice to an ongoing experience for me.
One of my good friends uses this valediction, or closing line, for his emails: “Learning to be.” I like this very much, as I feel that I too am learning to be.