Rev. Henry Bowen
I was born in San Diego, California, in a non-Christian home. My primary interests growing up were sports and, especially, ice hockey. From the time I was 11 my life was driven by a desire to play in the NHL. The hockey rink was my “church.” I had no thought for the things of God until I was in college.
In college I hurt my knee while playing ice hockey for San Diego State University. While laid up for several weeks, I began reading the Gospel of Luke. I came under a heavy conviction for my sin and a debilitating fear of facing a holy God. I tracked down a Christian friend and began asking him questions. He presented me with the five points of Calvinism. To his shock, I agreed with his statements and he invited me to church. I learned solid Calvinism over the next two years and was actively engaged in evangelism and contending for my faith in a sovereign God.
Gil Baloy was a member of this church and one evening it was Gil who asked if I had ever considered becoming a preacher? I responded, “No way! I could never stand up in front of people.” Unaware that our pastor was standing behind me, he responded, “That was Moses’ excuse.” I went silent, feeling wholly unworthy of such a high calling, but also desiring to serve God in whatever way He should call me. I began to pray that if I was to serve in office that God would send the officers of the church to encourage me in that direction. I was active in studying, reading John Calvin’s works among other good books. This continued for ten years.
I met Patty Brice while her family was on vacation in San Diego and visited our church. We were married on July 22, 1977. I had never told anyone of my prayer regarding serving God or why I studied, not even Patty.
After we married, I relocated to Van Nuys and transferred to California State University, Northridge, where I graduated with a degree in Business Management, majoring in Organizational Development and with minors in Economics and Accounting.
Tired of the Los Angeles “rat race” and realizing we had come to the point of needing a change in our life, we moved to Sacramento in 1983 where I got a job with the Coors company. It was here that we were introduced to the RCUS through Pastor J. G. Duckett and we found a home in the RCUS. Over the next couple of years we faithfully attended Covenant Reformed Church. After a couple of years I was ordained to the office of deacon. Not long after this Pastor Duckett challenged me to pursue preparation for the Christian ministry. The consistory agreed with this assessment and I was ordained an elder while preparing for the ministry. During these years we were involved as a consistory in starting mission works in Modesto, Yuba City, Lodi, and Willows.
In 1987 I entered Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Orange City, IA. These were three intense years and highly beneficial in shaping my future as an RCUS pastor.
Added to my studies, at the end of my first year, Rev. Robert Grossmann and I began the work of planting a church in Sioux Falls. I did this as a Student Intern under the Menno congregation where I taught VBS School during the week and then preached on Sundays in Sioux Falls. This continued for 18 months until the beginning of my senior year when they were able to call their first pastor. It was during seminary that we came to enjoy life in the Midwest. I was able to exhort in many of our RCUS churches. This acquainted me well with the traditional RCUS and I came to know the great men of the RCUS like Reverends Hoeflinger, Ploeger, Van Stedum, the Grossmanns (Peter and Robert), and others. I also had the privilege of attending most of the Synods since the very first reconstituted Synod in 1986 where the old Eureka Classis was dissolved.
Following seminary I was called to pastor the Willows and Chico congregations. The men officiating over my ordination were Rev. Robert Stuebbe, Rev. J. G. Duckett and Rev. Jim West. These are three men that I highly respect and am honored to count as friends and fathers in my development. Their participation is symbolic of how I see myself as a synthesis of the old traditional RCUS values and what was then the newer missions-minded elements in the RCUS.
Early in our tenure in Willows our first child came into our home with the adoption of Bethany. A couple of years later Marcus joined us to complete our family. We have been very blessed by God in His goodness to our home.
I was in Willows for eight years during which both congregations became solidly Reformed. In Willows much of my time was spent in a major remodel of a 100 year old building they purchased and still use to this day. Willows also became self–supporting during this time. The Chico congregation then called a full time missionary. In my last year in Willows, I became the primary supply for the Anderson congregation.
During that year, I received simultaneous calls from both Anderson, CA, and Hamburg, MN. These were two opposite type congregations. Anderson was at a point of needing major revitalization while Hamburg was a 125 year old congregation that had only recently returned to the RCUS from the UCC. I was encouraged by many to go to Hamburg and continue the work of reacquainting the congregation with the RCUS. Much of my work during my five years there was encouraging the elders and deacons to be more active. Every Sunday Service was video recorded and aired on the local cable channel four times a day. I had a large community audience that regularly responded to me when I was out and about. I also wrote a Sunday School Bible curriculum based on Catherine Vos’ The Children’s Bible Story Book that would be user friendly for the SS Teachers. While in Minnesota I renewed my love for playing ice hockey as well as coaching with several high level teams. This had an evangelistic element to it and soon I was dubbed by some college coaches, “the Minister of Defense,” for my work in coaching defensemen.
In 2003 I accepted a call to Anderson. While I did not really have a desire to leave Hamburg, the men who were on the search committee continued to pursue me through several “not interested” responses. Eventually I felt compelled to come to Anderson to attempt to revitalize the church through outreach to the unchurched. That was the focus of my work there for over ten years.
To implement an evangelism program, I pursued developing a Reformed approach to evangelism. In the course of my studies I became interested in learning more about the Evangelism Explosion program developed by Dr. D. James Kennedy. I attended a week long EE Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I went there skeptical about how Reformed it was and came away convinced that it was a workable model for a Reformed church. For the program to work it must emphasize calling a person to become discipled in the Christian faith. A church that adopts the EE model must develop an education program to work with young Christians on the basics of the Christian faith.
While in Anderson, Heidelberg Theological Seminary, under the encouragement of Dr. Robert Grossmann, one of my professors at Mid-America, encouraged me to teach the Introduction to Apologetics course which I have done twice.
Over the years I have had the privilege of serving on numerous Classis and Synod Committees, particularly in the area of Missions. I have served for the past 15 years as a classis Stated Clerk, first for Covenant East Classis and currently for the Western Classis.
Trinity Reformed Church in Modesto, California, called me to become their pastor earlier this year, and I assumed pastoral duties here on April 1, 2014.