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Moderator of the 133rd General Assembly
The Presbyterian Church in Canada
The Rev. Dr. Hans Kouwenberg
The Rev. Dr. Hans Kouwenberg came from the Hague in the Netherlands to Brockville, Ontario as a five and a half-year-old with his family of two siblings (later, three more were born) in 1951. He repeated kindergarten (just to learn English), attended several one-room country schools just outside of Brockville, completed his elementary education in Picton, Burlington and Ajax, and took his high school education in Ottawa. His favourite subjects were History and English. At Carleton University, he successfully pursued Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and German Language and Literature.
Hans received a godly upbringing. The family frequently read the Bible after the evening meal, initially as storybook adventures, and often engaged in spirited discussion. After attending the Christian Reformed Church, the family discovered the worship and witness of The Presbyterian Church in Canada at St. Andrew’s in Pickering, Ontario. When they moved to Ottawa, they worshipped at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. There was a lively young people’s group there and Hans became one of its leaders. During university days, the ministry of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship solidified his Christian faith and understanding.
Seeking to further discover his gifts and calling, Hans was able to “try out” ministry at Bekevar, in Kipling, Saskatchewan. He subsequently enrolled in theological studies at Knox College in Toronto, and helped out at a Bible study at Knox, Spadina, and with the youth group at Trinity, York Mills. He worked as a summer student minister at Osgoode and Kars, in Vernon, Ontario. He also worked as an assistant chaplain in Burritt’s Rapids Correctional Centre. His first charge was at St. Giles’, Prince George, where he worked for 20 years to help the congregation grow in size, Christian discipleship and circle of influence. He is currently the minister of Calvin Church, Abbotsford, where the congregation is on the threshold of building a new $3.5 million worship and ministry center on a 3.2 acre location.
Although Hans has enjoyed serving on a number of the church’s regional and national committees, he is primarily a preacher/teacher and pastor. He enjoys planning thematically integrated worship services, incorporating traditional and contemporary elements. He seeks to develop a congregation’s life by means of Bible study and small groups, pastoral visiting, collaboration and intentional, strategic planning. He has taken a number of courses on leadership, conflict resolution and mediation. He has conducted workshops for other Presbyterian congregations on visioning, strategic planning, transformational change, goal-setting and evangelism. He has reflected on his ministry experience by completing a Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California on the topic of “Bridging the Traditional-Contemporary Gap: Strategic Issues for Congregational Renewal.”
Hans has been involved in the work of the St. Andrew’s Hall Elders’ Institute from its inception, serving as the first Convener of its Advisory Council and instructing a course entitled: “The Wisdom of the Elders: A Guide to Polity.” He continues to serve as the Convener of the Board of St. Andrew’s Hall.
Hans edited the magazine of the Renewal Fellowship, “Channels,” for its first sixteen years. He has been a contributing editor to the Presbyterian “Record.” He teaches an English literature course at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford. His love of the interplay of literature and theology has endeared the work of C.S. Lewis to him; he has also collected first editions of most of his work in UK and US editions.
Hans has served on the governing boards of all three Presbyterian theological colleges. He has served as a part-time chaplain in correctional facilities and for the Royal Canadian Legion. He chairs a regional health Spiritual Care Advisory Council. In 2005, in recognition of his service to the colleges, the churches and the communities in which he has lived, the Presbyterian College, Montreal, awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Hans and his wife, Colleen, a learning assistance teacher, enjoy gardening, movies, professional choral concerts and frequent travel to Europe, especially France and Italy. They have three children, now grown: Jonathan, an officer in the Canadian Navy, soon to be transferred from Halifax, NS back to Esquimalt, BC; Joanna, an equine veterinarian, married to Tyler Birkham, now working in Colorado Springs, CO; and Jenn, a fourth year medical student at UBC in Vancouver, BC.