The winds of God's favor have been blowing across the Atlantic District of The Wesleyan Church, which includes the Maritime Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, as well as the state of Maine. Because of God's favor, these churches have been able to bless their communities in some remarkable ways.
For instance, the Kings Valley Church in Quispamsis, New Brunswick . . .
“Wow!” “That’s amazing!” “Awesome!”
Those were just some of the responses to Kings Valley Wesleyan Church’s LOVE WEEK. Beginning in November 2014, Pastor Brent Ingersoll challenged his congregation to give sacrificially in order to bless others. They set a goal of raising $50,000 in one offering, but surpassed $70,000 when all contributions were totaled.
“We wanted to say to our community, ‘Because God loves us, we love you,’” the pastor said. “Because God has blessed us, we want to bless you.” LOVE WEEK has given the church considerable credibility in the city and community. By far the largest church in the area, Kings Valley has topped 1,000 in worship attendance, up from 600 just three years ago. “LOVE WEEK shows we’re not just a big club of Christians but people who care about the community,” Pastor Ingersoll said.
Among the recipients of the church’s generosity were elementary schools, a pregnancy resource center, a shelter for homeless youth, a men’s shelter, and other local agencies. Some of the gifts were in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. No wonder the recipients were amazed! They placed no strings on the money.
"We trust your leadership," church leaders said, "and hte gifts can be used in any way you choose."
In addition, the congregation logged 1,300 person-hours in a seven-day period, picking up trash in community parking lots, handing out free coffee, stacking firewood, ministering in a nursing care center, and in other ways. They also surpassed the goal of 500 shoeboxes packed and donated for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, which blesses children overseas with Christmas gifts.
In the weeks since the LOVE WEEK offering, regular giving has increased. “This became a hinge point for people who were locked into a certain level of giving,” the pastor said. “Lots of people were blessed because they gave sacrificially.”
God’s blessings are not confined to large churches. For instance, the Central Nova Wesleyan Church in Truro, Nova Scotia, a congregation of about 100 in attendance, is actively involved with young mothers.
“It’s amazing how many people have been scared about church,” April Banks, director of Baby-N-Me at the Central Nova Church, said. “But we have people coming to church who are not afraid anymore, because they know we will be there.” “We” means April and others who work with the Baby-N-Me ministry, building relationships and meeting the needs of mothers with young children.
Several years ago, April and her husband Rev. Ken Banks, pastor of the church, were looking for a way to reach out to mothers in need. They began providing bags of clothing, bags of diapers, wipes, and other essentials, and engaging them in conversation and befriending them.
One young mother had two children and another on the way when she began coming to Baby-N-Me. She had no family to help her, her unemployed boyfriend depended on her to support him, and social services was threatening to take her children because of the boyfriend’s abusiveness. Initially she was reluctant to come to Baby-N-Me because of a bad experience with a church in the past.
“She was really scared when she first came,” April said, “and didn’t open up for a long time.” But the church befriended her and convinced her she could make it on her own. She went back to school, got a job, and is now supporting herself and her daughters.
We have connected with over 300 different women in the past five years.
Many single mothers have been referred to Baby-N-Me by social services, by a transient home for battered women, by the mayor, and even by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Baby-N-Me is totally funded by donations from the church.
“Our kids’ programs have grown dramatically,” April said, “because many of the mothers have begun attending church and bringing their children. We have connected with over 300 different women in the past five years.”
Women receive a listening ear, a loving relationship, and prayer when they turn to Baby-N-Me.
The Corbett Avenue Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick, has experienced God’s favor in what they are calling “the miracle of the little green house.”
“What about that house? That one, right there?” District Superintendent Dr. H. C. Wilson stood at a window in the Corbett Avenue Church and pointed to a green house that stood nearby. Heand the pastor, Rev. A. J. Plaizier, had been discussing the church’s need for space. It needed land to facilitate more parking and provide a new entrance to the property.
The discussion had arisen out of the church’s encounter with the district’s Maximizing Impact Team. They were talking about how Corbett could make it to the next level.
There was no reason to think the green house was for sale. It just seemed like the logical place for the expansion the church needed.
We are taking new ground.
Later the pastor’s wife, Julia, was searching the Internet for properties around town when she came across a notice that the adjacent green house was in fact for sale. But because the snow was four feet deep, no realtor’s sign had been posted. After prayer and discussion with the local board, the pastor approached a realtor. Within a few weeks, he went to the district camp with the keys to the house in his hands. Dr. Wilson’s comment was, “Isn’t that just the way the Master works!”
Since that time, the church has gotten $20,000 ahead of schedule in paying off the mortgage. “The house really wasn’t the point,” said Pastor Plaizier. “It’s what God is doing for us, in us, and through us that really counts. Having God bless us like that has really given our church a shot in the arm. We are taking new ground—literally and spiritually!”
More than fifty new people are attending, particularly young families and single mothers. Women, who themselves have had experiences with single mothering, have volunteered to help reach these young mothers.
Meanwhile, the Deep Water Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is only seven years old, has bought and refurbished a 100-year-old former church.
“We have re-consecrated the church building and now it is being used for the purpose for which it was originally intended,” said Pastor Jon Stephens of the Deep Water Church. The original Disciples of Christ building was sold to a man some thirty years ago who then lived in it and renovated the auditorium to become a dance studio. When he decided to sell it last year, although he had other offers, he chose to sell it to Deep Water because he liked the idea of a church group using it as sacred space.
The congregation, which started in the fall of 2007, meets in a movie theatre in a shopping mall on the south end of town near the universities, and that location is ideal for college students and young professionals. Parking is also available in the mall’s underground facility.
The newly purchased 100-year-old church building is located in the north end in the heart of Halifax’s artistic community. The area has locally-owned, unique restaurants. Deep Water, while adding flat screens and other updates, has kept the original chandeliers and the woodwork to retain much of the historic character and sacred atmosphere. The worship style resonates with young families and young adults in the neighborhood, who worship there on Saturday evenings.
The north-end location includes a small café next to the church. Three apartments and an office space are part of the property. The ground floor apartment is to become a space for children’s ministry. Launch of Sunday morning services, complete with children’s ministries, is to be in the fall of 2015.
Deep Water Church, in its seven-year history, had never had a facility for a traditional Christmas Eve service. This past Christmas Eve when they opened the doors at the north site, the sanctuary quickly filled. The north location also conducts a Friday morning play group for newborn-to- school-age children with an opportunity for parents to connect.
The congregation in the movie theatre will continue to meet, giving the church multiple locations to reach the different communities. At present, between the two locations, they are seeing nearly 300 in weekend worship attendance.
The sacred space draws families and young adults for Saturday services.
At the Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, leaders found they could engage the community in a different way—by converting to solar energy.
Formerly, they spent $16,000 a year on electricity, mostly for heat. Cornerstone was determined to find a less expensive, more environmentally friendly way to operate. They installed heat pumps, which enabled them to save about half their heating costs. But they are going further. In April, they are installing solar panels on the church roof. By doing this, they will produce more electricity in the summer than they use. They will sell it to the utility company and buy it back in the winter at a reduced rate. Over time, they expect to save and produce enough energy to cover the majority of their own usage plus their payments to Wesleyan Investment Foundation (WIF) for the loan that covered the utility conversion effort. They are the first church east of Ontario to adopt such a solar project.
Beyond conservation, the project leads to new conversations.
Pastor Denn Guptill planted Cornerstone nearly 21 years ago, and he is there today. For the first ten years, attendance averaged well under a hundred, but a loan from WIF enabled them to erect a new building and provided impetus for growth. Approaching the tenth anniversary of their building, they now see 300 persons in worship each weekend.
Pastor Guptill sees three major benefits to their project: 1) better stewardship of the earth, 2) better stewardship of their finances, and 3) a better witness to their community, which is environmentally aware.
Thousands of people drive by their church every day. Pastor Guptill says, “When they see our roof covered with solar panels, it will make a favorable impression in the community. It will start conversations that could have eternal consequences!”
Love requires action. Whether by engaging in “Love Week,” reaching out to single mothers, or relocating ministry in a shopping mall, Atlantic District churches are going beyond their four walls and pursuing relationships with people who need Jesus.