Brian Plouffe is retiring, but is staying in the community
By Darren Lum
There is a saying that you don’t really know a person unless you’ve walked a mile in another man’s shoes.
When people think of pastor Brian Plouffe’s 32 year career and where he came from and what he endured to gain a perspective that enables him to empathize with those who have struggled with the challenges of life this rings true.
Before he found God at 22, Plouffe was lost and was struggling. He acknowledges how his faith saved him from what killed his mother at 39, alcohol addiction.
It’s all about living up to what he and his wife, Dianne, who have been married for 42 years said is a “calling”
“I remember saying in my heart to God that I want to be fully committed to the community that you’re calling me to for as long as you want me to stay. I, truly, in my heart thought after five years that would be great because a lot of pastors last two years and go to another church or have in the past” he said, reflecting on his impending retirement.
With his late-daughter Laura, or known affectionately as “Buddy,” who had down syndrome moving wasn’t the ideal because she didn’t fare well with change.
“We knew to move from one church to another would be so hard on her as well as our two other daughters,” he said. “So, my prayer was it would be nice if the calling we’re getting would be for five years. Well, lo and behold, God had much better plans than that,” he said, referring to his more than three decade career here.
His training, he said, was actually to be a youth pastor and not a senior pastor, but he grew into his role and anyone who has heard him speak at service knows he didn’t need it.
“And, yet, I have a heart for God and a heart for people. I love people,” he said.
Buddy died in December 2020 and will always be with him. She is one of three daughters Brian raised with Dianne here. His other two daughters are Leanne Young and Lindsay Daou, who have provided four grandchildren. God, he said, ensured this life of value and reward was realized. He doesn’t think he would have ever reached the age of 67 without Him.
Brian’s career included 22 years as a fulltime pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church. Initially, he thought when his time ended with Lakeside that it would be the end of his time in the Highlands. He sent applications to churches in places such as Sarnia, and Three Sisters, Manitoba, which is 300 miles north of Winnipeg.
“I’m glad that didn’t work out,” he said, laughing.
Divine intervention came to be with another opportunity with West Guilford Baptist Church that was best for everyone.
His daughter “Buddy” was living in Haliburton at the Community Living home, so staying within a short drive was the ideal. Dick Henderson, who was on the deacon’s board gave Brian a call about an opportunity for Sunday preaching to a small congregation of 12 people. It was intended to be short term.
“So, I thought about it. I prayed about it. Talked to Dianne. Yeah, we can do that. I kept looking. Lo and behold, this church started to grown and when they got to about 30 people, I’d been here about six months or so. They took a step of faith and said, would you come on,” he said.
With 300 in the congregation of Lakeside when he left, the salary was far greater. Everyone agreed to try it out for a year and Brian said the church needed to grow 20 per cent, so he could have a livable wage.
“The first year it grew to about 50 and before COVID we were at 70. We were doing pretty well for a country church. We only hold 110 people and then COVID hit. The last two years have been the hardest two years of ministry for any pastor,” he said.
This was owed to the difficulties with the imposed provincial health measures, which left pastors preaching over the internet or on the phone. The current congregation at the Baptist Church is at about 40 members now.
Long-time friend Harry Morgan, who is pastor of the Haliburton United Church said Brian is a “true pastor” and a “natural evangelist” and is a big friendly guy that loves to hug everyone.
Originally from Minden, Harry was ready to speak about his friend of 30 years on the initial day scheduled, but will not be able to make it since the retirement event was rescheduled due to a planned power outage.
Harry met Brian when his friend was the full time pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church.
He said their friendship grew from regular interactions at meetings for the Haliburton Ministerial Association. Morgan said the cross-denominational interaction is atypical and he said it’s pretty much owed to Brian.
“We’ve been blessed to have that. That’s why we have the summer service in the park and stuff,” he said.
Brian is excited for his church’s future, with how ideal his replacements will be for his congregation.
“I’m very excited that they have a new pastor and family here to begin and I can actually pass the baton on to them, knowing that they’re going to be in good hands, especially a little church like us to get a young man [Shawn Turner] and who’s only 44 and his wife, [Amy] is less than that and come with four kids … We’re a small country church, mostly older folks, but this will give an opportunity for the church to grow, families wise,” he said.
The co-pastors will each work half time in the week. She will be doing children’s ministry, music and visitation while her husband will be doing administration, sermons, visitation and bible studies, Brian said. Although this is the unique for this area it is typical for larger centres.
He said he knew Amy when she was 15, meeting at the Joy Bible Camp and then met Shawn, who grew up in the Highlands. His parents have since moved away, but his brother owns the Peppermill Restaurant. He said the new co-pastor has been in the military for 20 years and retired as a chaplain, who served overseas.
Two years ago, when Brian thought his retirement was nearing he alerted the church about his long-term intentions. Following the early notice, he met Shawn at a men’s retreat. During the conversation, he talked to him about the opportunity. The soon-to-be co-pastor expressed interest to return home because he wanted to be closer to his brothers and sisters, who all live in the area and how his own military service was drawing to a close at the end of May.
“We both looked at each other and I said, ‘Pray about whether or not you’d like me to submit your name.’ They did. And I guess the condition was they thought the best perfect condition would be better to be co-pastors. So, I passed that on to the selection team – that’s what they call it. And they went with it. I didn’t have any other inputs. They interviewed other people. Lo and behold. They were the ones they selected and they bought a home here, sold their old one in Ottawa,” he said.
The usual practice of past pastors moving out of the community is not being observed in this instance, which is good for Brian and his family, who have grown to love the community and the people.
“My wife cried because she is very close to the people that are in our church. They’re like family,” Brian said.
The Plouffe’s will take the summer to enable the new co-pastors to lead the congregation without their presence. Brian said with diabetes and getting older leading a church 40 plus hours a week was just not possible anymore.
“This is great. He’s full of energy. He’s a runner. He’s in great shape. You’d think he is 33 not 44 to look at him. He can run with the crowd and he can run with the young people,” said, referring to Shawn.
Brian references the bible about how he lives his life. “Gospel is another name for good news and the good news is that God loves us and sent His son to die for us so I’m a John 3:16 preacher, you know. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life,” he said. “So, my ministry has been the simple message not deep theological stuff, not the Greek, not the Latin. Remember that things sometimes preachers can get caught up in their own education and my prayer for John is that you won’t get caught up with that he has it all, but I know him well enough. When I said I know, he knows that the people up here are salt of the earth down to earth people.”
He’s still taken aback by the divine intervention, which enabled him to give back.
“And God has blown me out of the water. Not only did I stay 32 years, but the church at Lakeside blew up in a good way and it grew and they had to build a new building and God allowed me to be there when that done. Paid off within five years, unheard of in many ways. The goodness of God there,” he said.
He recounts doing more than 365 funerals, more than 350 baptisms, “lake baptisms” or what he said are “believer baptisms.”
For those that appreciate and love Brian, his last day at the West Guilford Baptist Church located on Nila Road is on Sunday, June 19. The church service will start at 10:30 a.m., then the new pastoral couple will be baptized by Brian after the service close to 11:30 a.m. in Pine Lake. Once the couple are baptized they will baptize their four children.
“I’ve never heard of it,” he said. “Never heard of it happening [in my 32 years]. So, it’s going to be very exciting.”
A picnic lunch (with people bringing their own food) will follow at noon and then reflections and cake at 1 p.m. at the West Guilford Community Centre, located at 1061 Kennisis Lake Road. For more information telephone 705-854-2275.
Brian isn’t completely sure what he’ll do in retirement, but said he is working on a memoir on the “faithfulness of God,” calling it Forever Faithful “because he has been faithful to us.”