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Rev. Dr. Robert Alexander McLaren

Bob McLarenBob McLaren was born in Crossfield, Alberta on September 19, 1910 and was raised on a farm in Bowden. His long-term ambition was to become a dentist, but he chose to make a living first by teaching school. His work with young people in the classroom led him to the ministry. “I felt if I could help to ‘light a fire’ in a young person’s life, there would be no limit to what they might do with their life.”

After attending the University of Alberta (BA 1936) and St. Stephen’s Theological College (1936-1938), McLaren was ordained by Alberta Conference and settled to Pouce Coupe, BC, where he met his wife, Alleen Searcy. After serving another pastoral charge in Castor, Alberta, he accepted the position of Field Secretary of Christian Education for BC Conference.

During his four years as Field Secretary, he became convinced that the Conference should have a centre for Christian Education that would benefit lay people. In 1947, the Christian Leadership Training Centre was established at Naramata, and McLaren served as its first principal. Co-founder, Alleen McLaren, had pursued theological education through the United Church Training School for Women in Toronto, and was equally committed to providing spiritual and intellectual opportunities for lay people in the church. Following the early success of the Centre, similar training centres were established in the United Church and other denominations across Canada.

McLaren eventually went back to pastoral ministry, serving Renfrew United Church in Vancouver (1965-1971) and Cadboro Bay United Church in Victoria (1971-1976). He also undertook further theological study at Emmanuel College in Toronto (1940-1941), Union Theological College in New York (1964-1965), and courses in communications and counselling through Vancouver School of Theology and the Calgary Pastoral Institute. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Union College in 1960. Bob McLaren died peacefully on January 9, 1998 in Victoria.

Transcript of Interview

Recorded:  June 13, 1977

Duration: 41 minutes

Rev. Dr. Robert Alexander McLaren