1980 AACS Niagara Conference
Perspective Report by William & Nell Van Geest
“The Seasons are Fixed by Wisdom Divine” was the theme of the twenty- second annual AACS Ontario Conference held in Fort Erie August 1 through 4. Over 800 people gathered on the grounds of Niagara Christian College to listen to speeches, participate in discussions, worship, sing, and spend time with old and new friends. Conferees from as far away as the Philippines and the Netherlands, as well as a large contingent of staff members from the Coalition for Christian Outreach in Pennsylvania, joined with others from southern Ontario.
The Conference began with a multi-media presentation entitled “In the Beginning” by Calvin Langejans. Through slides and music we were given a sense of the “original” world about which God once said “it is good.” We were again reminded of this reality on Saturday morning when Dr. A1 Wolters read the dramatic poem “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson. In the speeches that followed Wolters took the idea of creation beyond the theme of what we call “nature” to encompass all of life on earth including that of people and institutions relating in society. Both “nature” and human culture are subject to divinely-given norms.
Emphasizing the uniqueness of the biblical religion, Wolters pointed out that in contrast to other religions, our God is not subject to an eternal order, but is above it because he himself imposed the order of creation. Christianity also breaks with humanism which says that the order in the world is imposed on it by mankind rather than God. Just as the whole creation suffered the effects of sin with man, in the redemption brought by Christ, all things are restored to their proper relationship with God. In salvation, man is not removed from the earth, as is often thought , but reunited with it to serve the Lord.
Wolters continually placed creation in the forefront of human faith and action. Human life is inescapably lived in the context of the norms which God has given in his act of creation. Our salvation allows us to see the true meaning and purpose of the world. Therefore the wisdom that the Bible speaks of involves a “personal knowledge of the created order, rooted in the fear of Yahweh.” In this context the Bible functions as a new set of instructions to help us read the original “blueprint” of God’s intention for his creation.
Although Wolters’ speeches were presented in a somewhat academic manner, the significance of his main point, the centrality of God’s creation- revelation in all of human life, gave us a renewed commitment to our cultural task as Christians.
A variety of workshops were offered during the weekend to deal with various aspects of the general theme of the Conference. In order to meet the variety of needs of conferees, two new sections of workshops were added to those with a general focus: one at a more advanced level for university students and other academically-minded persons, and one for young people. In the general interest section topics discussed were: the covenant, “Can Government Tolerate Evil?”, faith development in children, the stewardly use of creation and our calling to work for cultural change, and a discussion of contemporary television.
The academic workshops dealt with historicism and creation, the image of God, and ideological conflicts in South Africa. For young people the topics included “obedience in art” and contemporary Christian music. Two workshops called “From Words to Action,” one on food co-ops and the other on community involvement, provided opportunities for sharing and developing concrete ideas for involvement. Coffee, watermelon, and late-evening campfires provided additional opportunities for discussion after the various events.
A highlight of the Conference came on Saturday evening with a concert by Bill Romanowski from Pittsburgh. In a delightful And informative presentation, Romanowski led us through a history of popular music from Beethoven to contemporary “new wave” music. He had his audience singing, clapping and foot-stomping with his varied talents and lively manner.
The “Fellowship Festival” on Saturday included a grand scale volleyball tournament which continued enthusiastically despite some rain. As usual Sunday worship services attracted many people from surrounding communities, bringing our numbers to over 1000. Compliments are in order to those who organized the popular children and teens programs which were again a big successReport.
As conferees leave this annual conference of reflection on our task, one hopes and prays that the renewed and enlarged commitment gained there may bring about concrete fruits in the life of the communities of which we are a part.
One thought on “William & Nell Van Geest report – 1980 Conference”
My husband and I met at that volleyball tournament, and when it rained he brought an umbrella over and we talked under the umbrella for quite a while. After the rain, we each returned to our respective friends, and I said, “I am going to marry that man” and here we are married for 40 years!