Folks at First – Collin Carbno

An Interview with Collin Carbno

You can read the interview included in our February 2019 newsletter.

Collin, we know you in the church as chairperson of the diaconate. But I know there is much more to you as a person. Tell us something about your growing up, and your family.

I am an only child. My mother was a music teacher who began playing the church organ at 14 years old in a small town of Cyric SK. My father was a University professor in Educational Psychology and Measurement. My paternal great grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher who hailed from Belfast, Ireland, so my father grew up in the Pentecostal church.

We moved around a lot as a family as I grew up. I was born at Balcarres SK, but we lived near Fort Qu’Appelle where my father taught. When my father later became professor in Brandon, MB, I went to high school and University there: I obtained a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics. Later, I obtained a Master’s degree and became a PhD. student at the University of Regina, where I met my wife Shirley.

My mother led me to the Lord when I was five years old, and I never really looked back. For my sixteenth birthday, I got a copy of the Bible, which I read cover to cover. Because our church became liberal, we tried out a number of churches, finally settling on a Swedish Baptist church.

I had a notion that I wanted to be a pastor, but my father thought it wasn’t a good idea, given my temperament. He gently directed me away from that choice of career. In university I had become involved with the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship to the point of becoming part of a leadership team, leading up to seven Bible studies a week.

I believe you are now retired from your profession. What was that profession and how did you happen to choose it? What about it did you most enjoy?

I worked on a Ph.D. in theoretical physics but had to abandon that in favour of supporting my wife and children. I became a programmer at SaskTel and then a business analyst, with a specialty in process improvement and process methodology. Theoretical physics became my hobby, and I would have enjoyed working in the field. I have attended physics conferences through the years and have felt at home in the theoretical world. At SaskTel I enjoyed working with new technologies, and did projects with expert systems, voice recognition, social technical analysis, job design, and so on. One job interest was the designing of work positions within companies: how to make work fulfilling, interesting, and productive both for the individual and the company. I even wrote a book on the topic, entitled, Designing Work, which I now sell on Amazon.

What do you like to do when you are not working? Do you have any hobbies? What things do you do for sheer pleasure?

I still do a fair bit of mathematical and theoretical physics research. I haven’t been particularly successful in this, but I learn a lot. I also have a deep love of music: I play piano, classical guitar, and mandolin. Occasionally, I paint with oils and I love to write books on religious and philosophical topics (thirty-three of my books are now on Kindle). I like to read science, including science fiction, archaeology, history, psychology, and practically anything.

How and when did you become a member of First Baptist? What about our church attracted you? What keeps you here?

We started attending FBC in 1999 on the invitation of Shirley’s sister and brother-in-law, Gloria and Les Toews. I immediately fell in love with FBC. The organ brought back deep memories of my mother playing Bach and the grand old hymns on the church organ in Wolsey.

What positions do you hold in the church and conference? What is your favorite one and why is it so?

I have been on the Christian Education Commission for a while and am now on the Diaconate. I also lead Bible studies and Learning for Life classes. The last few years, I have done summer TNT Bible studies on Tuesday nights, covering the gospels of Matthew, and John, and last year all the “3.16” verses in the Bible.

What about the job of chair of Diaconate gives you the most satisfaction? Are there some aspects of it that you find difficult? Is there something as chair of Diaconate or something simply as church member that you would like to say to the congregation?

One benefit of being on the Diaconate is that you really get to know and discover the strengths and insights of some amazing Christians on our board and congregation. They are a constant inspiration. On January 12th, board members shared their life stories, including their walk with Jesus.

Certainly, things come up on the Diaconate that are personal in nature, confidential, and sometimes hard to deal with; the direction we should take is not always clear or easy. Some tough choices have to be made. In such instances the work is draining both mentally and physically. Fortunately, those situations have been few.

To members of the congregation, I would say the best way to learn anything is to teach it. If you want to be part of a flourishing church, become part of the leadership team. Yes, it is work, and yes, there are long meetings, but God is there, and we feel his presence in prayer, and in the hard work.

If you were to describe our church to a neighbour or some person who doesn’t go to church, what would you say?

Actually, not long ago, I had the joy of describing our church to a lady in our neighbourhood who is a psychologist. I gathered she had never been to church and that her family is not religious. But I told her that going to church was like joining a huge family, and that every week we have a party together and sing songs. We also like to learn, and it’s a bit like a university: we take classes and learn things from each other. We like to hang out with each other, and play games, talk about life, eat food, and help each other, just like any family does in tough times. She seemed interested. I think she never thought of the church as a family, and as place where one can form deep friendships.

What would you change about FBC if you could? Do you have a dream for us that you hope to see realized during your tenure as Diaconate chair?

I would really like to see us explode in size and impact the city. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were maxing out the Church building on most Sunday mornings, and some folks had to go to the rooms at the back of balcony because of the overflow? I would really like to see our classical church music catch fire with the modern generation and see a large influx of young people. I look forward to our organ apprenticeships and scholarships bearing fruit. It would be wonderful to have the choir loft filled again. This might seem like dreaming, but I think it is possible: I have read of more amazing turnarounds in many churches over the centuries.

Is there something you would like to say that I have not asked?

I certainly struggled with dyslexia through school. My grade three marks where basically all Es. I was in grade four before I learned to read and well into high school before I learned to write. Most school nights, starting in elementary school, I worked on homework till 10:00 PM, (and usually wasn’t finished) as well as most weekends. I hated school with a huge passion, and hated homework even more. I feel I lost a huge part of my childhood to homework. Every simple assignment took me hours and writing of any sort was terribly difficult. I longed to go outside, ride my bike, play with friends, and play with my toys. Spelling was my absolute worst: my parents would go over spelling test lists with me until I could get every word correct, and the next day I would get maybe two out of twenty words right. Through my school years, I slugged through revisions of my school papers only to get barely passing grades. Testing in grade three indicated I had special mathematical and other intellectual skills, but they didn’t show much fruit for years. Many of my teachers thought I was mentally retarded, called me lazy, and berated me for not doing quality work. Still, a few teachers marveled at what they discovered: an articulate little fellow with a vast storehouse of knowledge about all kinds of things. In Toronto, my grade seven teacher marveled when I went from complete beginner at chess, just learning the rules in a mere five weeks, to third among the city’s grade seven students.

I went to University fearful but suddenly found myself with marks that I could only dream of. I’m told that my university finals in physics, mathematics and chemistry were all perfect 100s. I received a Gold Medal in science and Silver Medals in math. When asked how I was able to do math in a fraction of the usual time, I said, “It’s easy when you know how.” A picture of me with that quotation now hangs in the math mall. Awards and scholarships thrust me into graduate school. At the Ph.D. level I ran into problems and failed to complete the thesis. My academic dreams faded, and my temporary job at SaskTel bloomed into a career that served me, and my family well, for which I feel much blessed and thankful.

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Interviewer: Esther Wiens