Laurence Croswell was born and raised on a homestead near Newbrook, Alberta. His home was not powered by electricity until he was twelve years old, nor did his family have modern plumbing and running water until he graduated from Newbrook High School in 1962. While in high school, Laurence began to record with the Club 93 Rebels, a popular teen band in Edmonton during the 60s. He wrote, sang, and recorded his own pop songs, one of which made it onto the local CJCA Top 20 hit parade. Upon entering the University of Alberta, Laurence earned a Bachelor of Education and became a teacher in Edmonton for two years.
But Laurence couldn’t ignore a deep sense that he had been called to be a pastor, and in 1967 he enrolled in the Brockville Bible College. In 1968, he accepted the appointment to pastor the small Brockville Standard Church, located in the inner city by the railroad tracks. After marrying Faye Montgomery in 1969, Laurence continued his ministry in the St. Lawrence Valley for forty years. The church grew to become Centennial Road Standard Church, one of the largest churches in eastern Ontario. Upon retiring in 2008, Laurence became assistant superintendent with the Wesleyan Church and the Regional Director for Alberta.
Laurence has also recorded a number of records and CDs. The latest, It Is Good to Be Here, is a compilation of old hymns and songs from the early camp meeting days of the Holiness Movement. Books Laurence has authored include Faith for Pedestrians, The Wealthy Preacher, The Lion, the Root, and The Lamb, Good News Theophilus, It Is Finished: Readings for Lent; and Lift Up a Standard: The Life and Legacy of Ralph C. Horner.
Q: You write of the vision, sacrifice, and labours of your parents and grandparents. What lessons have you learned as you researched their lives?
A: My parents and grandparents began life with very little, but they had a dream and vision to improve their lot in life, not only for themselves but also for their families. When my grandparents, the Stebners and Croswells, left their homes in Poland and Parry Sound, they said goodbye to their parents forever. As far as we know, they never saw them again! Likewise, my great-great-grandmother Rebecca and grandfather Charles left England in 1842 on a sailing ship with eight children and never returned; they experienced unforeseen hardships. My forefathers sacrificed to provide a better way of life afforded by the opportunities that abounded in the newly emerging land of North America.
My parents and grandparents took the raw land of their homesteads and transformed it into productive farms. They faced primitive living conditions, battled the elements, and laboured long hours as they broke the new earth into productive fields. Eventually they prospered enough to build or purchase new homes and enjoy some sense of retirement ease.
It was their children who lived the dream. We have become the beneficiaries of their hard work and sacrifice. Each of us had the privilege of attending various universities and colleges to become successful. We enjoy a standard of living our parents only dreamed of achieving.
I believe this legacy of facing hardships and overcoming them must be acknowledged and recorded. I have written My Homesteader’s Heritage to honour the vision, sacrifice, and labour of my forefathers and pass that legacy on to my children, grandchildren, and following generations.
Q: You grew up on a homestead without modern conveniences until you were a young teen. Did you ever feel deprived or resentful, especially when you visited your relatives who lived in the city or on more up-to-date farms?
A: I never felt deprived! First of all, we didn’t know any better. And secondly, we had plenty to eat, good clothes to wear, and always looked forward to the day when “Calgary power” would finally make its way to our part of the province. We were happy and contented because our neighbours lived with the same conditions. *
Q: Why did you leave the farm, a promising teaching job in Edmonton, and become the pastor of a small church in Brockville, Ontario?
A: I loved my teaching job in Edmonton. I loved the children and I was at home in the classroom. I also had many opportunities for advancement. But I had a deep sense that I was called to become a pastor. I could not escape that calling. My university education had trained me in public speaking, leading music, and preparing lessons. I was given the opportunity to preach at some services in our Edmonton church and I was amazed at how I was able to communicate with a congregation. I always advise young people who are considering a life of pastoral or missionary ministry to only become involved if they cannot do anything else. My calling was so strong that I felt I would not be obeying God to continue in another field of service.
Q: What legacy would you like to leave behind to your children and grandchildren? *
A: First, determination. I want to pass on to my children the knowledge that overcoming obstacles is part of life and that with God all things are possible. My grandparents and parents overcame many hurdles and disappointments, but none disqualified them from becoming successful. With determination, hard work, and faith, they overcame difficulties and hardships to contribute to their country and the welfare of their children. I want my offspring to have this level of expectancy for their lives as well.
Second, gratitude. I believe strongly that we enjoy the blessing and opportunities of this life because we are building on the shoulders of those who have gone before us—their faith, determination, and sacrifice.
Third, faith. My parents passed on to me the knowledge of God and taught me that faith in Him is the most important issue of our lives. I want to pass that same faith to the next generation. As Joshua 24:15 says, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (NIV).
Laurence Croswell is a husband, dad, teacher, and preacher. He was senior pastor of Centennial Road Standard Church, Brockville, Ontario, for forty years. Laurence presently serves Western Canada as an assistant superintendent with the Wesleyan Church.