Rev. David Dawn
It all began on 4 February 1955. I was born in Biddeford, ME, just a few miles geographically, and light years in every other way, from the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport. My family brought me up as a Baptist. As an aside, it interests me that the Marquis de La Fayette worshipped in the same building used by my church (now demolished) during his tour of America after the Revolutionary War.
After graduating from high school, I attended the New Brunswick Bible Institute in Canada. It was during these years that I bumped into the Reformed Faith for the first time.
It was one summer during that time that I read my first Reformed book. I was teaching child evangelism classes on the Bay of Fundy coast when I ran across a copy of The Millennium by Loraine Boettner. I read the book and was very shaken with the ease with which Mr. Boettner demolished much of what I had believed all my life. After graduation, I moved to England where I worked for an interdenominational society involved with village evangelism. When I flew to the UK, I was unaware that the people I would work with were, in the main, Pentecostal. That was a more severe culture shock then living in a foreign country. Nevertheless, I did work with them for several years. In God’s good providence, and despite my best efforts, I never did manage to speak in tongues. What did happen, however, was that a friend of mine who worked with the Trinitarian Bible Society-Canada sent me a box containing a collection of more books by Loraine Boettner. If the first book I read of Mr. Boettner’s discredited my premillennial theology, the rest of his works tipped me over the edge into Calvinism.
Although the people I was involved with were, for the most part, not Reformed, I did have the opportunity, briefly, to belong to the Westminster Fellowship, a ministerial fraternal which met in Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London. This group, chaired at the time by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, was interesting in many ways. Although Calvinistic, the membership represented many different denominations, including quite a few Pentecostal ministers. I recall one of them buying textbooks to teach his congregation New Testament Greek. Perhaps you can guess why I found that amusing.
As a result of reading every Reformed book I could find, I discovered the writings of Dr. R.J. Rushdoony and the Chalcedon Foundation. I decided to write an article and send it to him. One thing led to another, and ultimately I was invited to move to California to join the staff as a researcher and “ghost writer.” I worked there under the instruction of Dr. Rushdoony and Otto Scott. The three years I spent with them were the best theological and historical education I ever had. Also, whilst there, Dr. Rushdoony’s son, Mark, taught me to drive. I was very grateful for that; some of my colleagues may beg to differ on that point.
At that time, the Covenant Reformed Church in Sacramento was looking for a man to preach at their mission work in Riverbank. Dr. Rushdoony recommended me. This is how it came about that I joined the RCUS on 1 April 1984. After I was ordained an elder, I exhorted in Yuba City as well. During this time I was an elder in Sacramento, and the pastor of the church was Rev. Jefferson Duckett. He was, you might say, the “den mother” of a group of eager young men that served on the Consistory. Three of us were ordained to the ministry and remain in the RCUS to this day: Rev. Jonathan Merica, Rev. Hank Bowen, and myself. Most of the others are long serving elders in the denomination. I look back on these men, and the good fellowship we shared, with a lot of affection.
Only later did I learn that during the Eureka Classis meeting in Shafter in 1984, Rev. Duckett and Rev. Dorman Savage decided I should write to Rev. Savage’s daughter, Colleen. At that time there was no Internet, and long-distance phone calls were quite expensive. We did talk on the phone, but we mainly got to know each other through letters. We were engaged in January 1986, met for the first time in March, and married in July. (In the providence of God, this worked wonderfully for us. But, kids, don’t try this at home.)
We spent our honeymoon in Ashley, ND, where I candidated at the Salem Reformed Church. Another honeymoon activity was being examined by the Northern Plains Classis’ Candidates and Credentials Committee at Heidelberg Camp, which met at Richmond Lake, Aberdeen, SD. That was pretty tough, and I wondered if they had something against me (I have since learned it was, as Rev Hart once said to me, “like the Mafia, it’s not personal, it’s business.” Subsequent experience has taught me it is more fun to give than to receive.)
We moved to Ashley in September 1986, and I was ordained there on 21 June 1987. All told, Colleen and I were in Ashley for ten years, for five of which I also pastored the Hosmer Reformed Church. During that time, we had our three children: Phoebe (1991), Matthew (1993), and Patrick (1995). Whilst there, we developed friendships that have endured for almost thirty years. And I joined a bowling league.
In 1996 we moved to Rock Springs, WY where I pastored the Providence Reformed Church. There we spent four very happy years with the young and growing congregation there. Colleen and I miss that church and the congregation to this day. We have many dear friends there. Selecting amongst my happy memories there I would mention the Wednesday evening Bible studies and the Men’s Bible studies as being truly special times. Oh, and I won a fishing competition (I was supposed to get a can of pop for that, and am still waiting).
Our family had another blessing at Rock Springs. Our daughter, Phoebe, was five years old and a high functioning autistic. As it happened, we were only a couple hours’ drive from Ogden, UT. This was the location of the headquarters for an organisation called the National Academy for Child Development. Although not a Christian group, their philosophy fits in well with homeschool families, and Christians in general. They would evaluate children and then, believing that parents are the best therapists, would train parents to help their children. Phoebe prospered under Colleen’s care beyond our wildest expectation. Also, later, Colleen was hired by a school district to assist an autistic student for a year. NACD’s training (and Colleen) were that good.
In 2000, we moved to Sioux Falls, SD, where I pastored the Trinity Reformed Church for two years. (Colleen’s father was the first pastor of that church). In 2002 I did a swap with Rev. Herman Van Stedum. Rev. Van Stedum was the pastor in Aberdeen, SD. He moved to Sioux Falls, and we moved to Aberdeen.
Ah yes, Aberdeen, the scene of my first examination in the RCUS. Things are quieter now. The youth camp is now held in the Black Hills, and only Rev. George Syms and Rev. William Haddock are still classis ministers from the “old days.” It has been twelve years since moving here, where our two oldest children were born. The Lord has blessed both the church and our family. All three kids are in college. The church is unified and growing. We have an older membership, but we enjoy the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We have in recent years had our own radio broadcast, built an addition to our building, and sought to spread the Gospel in various ways. You don’t realise how good God has been to you until you write it all down.
One other thing. I know that many in the RCUS have been praying for Phoebe, as there was great concern she might have thyroid cancer. She had two growths on her gland removed on 1 April. This gave her immediate relief with breathing, swallowing, and blood flow. Then, a few days later, we were told that pathology tests indicated that the growths that were taken out were not cancerous. Our whole family is so very grateful to God for this. We also thank all of you who prayed for her. The many enquiries and cards were very moving. We do thank you for your loving concern.
There is more I could write, but as chairman of the Editorial Advice Committee I want to set a good example. As I look back, I see how God has brought various people into my life. Everyone I’ve mentioned (except La Fayette), I remember with great affection, as well as dozens unmentioned. To God Be The Glory.