Folks at First – Mark Anderson

An interview with Mark Anderson

Mark, all of us at First Baptist know you, but only your back, plus fingers and feet as they translate the organ into splendid sounds! This is a chance for us to get to know more about you.

To begin with, your childhood. Did you grow up in Regina?

No. I was born in Edmonton, and we moved around all over the place while I was growing up, as my father was a minister in the United Church. Some of that time I was in the United States while he took higher education at Princeton. While in Richmond, Virginia, I can remember my father taking me to a “black” church on several occasions, where we were almost the only white people, because the pastor was an amazing preacher. He preached for about an hour and a half and even as a child I was never bored.

I attended Junior High in Lethbridge, and then went to High School in Regina, at Sheldon, because my parents hadn’t found out about Luther yet.

How did you come to play the organ?

I started learning the piano as a child, but I can remember loving the organ from an early age. At 15 I began to take organ lessons. It has a different touch than the piano. You control the volume with the organ stops and with your feet. Pipe organs seemed like the only instrument majestic enough to capture the corresponding majesty of many hymns.

You have been associated with a trinity of denominations. How did that happen?

Well, I grew up in the United Church. But I was restless there, and wanted a church with a more neo-orthodox foundation. For a while Roxanne and I attended a Lutheran church. I’ve been the organist at various churches in Regina. Then in 1989 John invited me to become the organist at First Baptist. (I wouldn’t be here without his support and friendship for almost three decades.) I’ve had two stints at First and have loved working with supportive colleagues as we lead worship.

I remember that your father attended First Baptist for a while. And after that he became the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Saskatoon.

Yes. He was baptized by George Baxter. He too wanted to be involved in a denomination where he felt the theology was more grounded in scriptures.

After you left High School did you attend the University of Regina?

Yes. My first degree was a BA in English, with a minor in Religious Studies. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career. For a while I considered Medicine. My grandfather was a surgeon.

But I soon felt that wasn’t right for me. I took a year out while I thought about it, and worked at Woolco in shipping and receiving. After that year I couldn’t wait to get back into academia.

I then realized that I would love to teach, and did a B.Ed., majoring in English and minoring in Religious Studies and History.

For my internship I was placed in Luther College where I could teach Christian Ethics. I immediately loved Luther—the academic rigour, the Christian context, the freedom to pursue truth, including spiritual truth, the students. I also admired so many of the faculty, and wanted to come back and work with them. Luther is a call to service and not simply a career choice or job.

After you graduated with your B.Ed. did you immediately find a position at Luther?

At first there was only a part time position. But a couple of years later I was able to work there full time.

And then you did an M.Ed. and a Ph.D.?

Yes. I got restless for a challenge. The Ph.D. was certainly a challenge. I did much of the work between midnight and 3 a.m., and during Christmas, Easter and summer breaks. I don’t think I could do that now.

But that was only a few years ago!

(Ruefully) Yes.

You have also taught Learning for Life classes in this church. First, one on Protestant Theologians since the Reformation, then Bach, then Bonhoeffer, and just recently Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant church. These were very well attended and hugely appreciated.

I appreciate so much people attending and participating in our conversations. As you know, these sessions take an enormous amount of preparation, but, given the topics and the people who attend, it feels like purposeful work, motivating me to take it on with great enthusiasm. What an opportunity to think and grow together as Christians as we try to plumb the mysteries of God’s love and grace.

We remember your two children playing violin and cello in this church. Where are they now?

Eric, who is now 26, graduated from the Paul Hill Business Faculty at the University of Regina. He immediately landed a job with the Yorkton Terriers hockey club in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. It was a fabulous opportunity for him and the perfect place to learn the ropes. Then, just last week, he got a job with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL (Western Hockey League). This represents a quick and dramatic step up for him and he’s excited for the challenge.

Paul, almost, is studying at the University of Regina, taking classes in Philosophy, Psychology, and Religious Studies. He still lives at home. While he plays cello more often than Eric plays his violin, he too doesn’t play as often or with as much seriousness as his parents would like.

Do you have any comments about our form of worship?

One thing I particularly appreciate about our service is the time of confession and assurance of pardon every Sunday. I also think we have a good blend of traditional and contemporary worship. Our worship services, in my opinion, stress what they should—hearing the Word, preaching of the Word/Gospel, worshipping and praising God. Joel, John and Christa are superb worship leaders. And I get to serve with them, and torment them with my lame humour.

Can you share anything about God in your life?

As I consider my life’s path thus far I recollect moments of conviction and moments of doubt, moments of profound joy and moments of intense grief, moments of vanity and moments of humility, moments when God was blessing me and moments when He was challenging me, moments when He felt close and moments when He seemed distant. . . . But always, under girding it all, even through the worst days and experiences, was and continues to be the granite foundation of God’s faithfulness and grace. The older I get, the more aware of it I become. What can give more hope and purpose to the living out of our daily lives than the knowledge that God unfailingly loves us, even to the point of conquering sin and death in our stead?

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