Bishop Keith Elford came to Sarnia this past Sunday to ordain Barb Peterson and also joined us for our Sunday morning gathering at theStory. He wrote about us in his latest bishop notes which was kinda cool. What is very different about planting a church with a denomination is that you are usually partaking on something very new and different than what the denomination has previously been doing for a long time. So you have this nagging at the back of your head that you might not fit (which drives a lot of new church planters away from planting with a denomination at all). We have never felt this with the Free Methodists, they have always been extremely encouraging and excited about new opportunities to try something different. Here is his letter that gets sent out to all the pastors in the denomination.
Yesterday morning, Donna and I worshipped in the healthy community atmosphere of theStory, a Free Methodist church plant in downtown Sarnia, ON. Now in its third year, this church plant led by Joe Manafo and Nathan Colquhoun, meets in a storefront location where it has high visibility in the arts and film section of the city. They regularly open their doors to community groups and provide space for bands to practice and work space for local artists. During the week, there is a lot of drop-in traffic (and conversations with) not only curious people passing by but also with neighboring storeowners. As they told stories about relationships that they have been developing, it was clear to me that this community of believers is being salt and light in their neighborhood.
Yesterday morning’s worship experience was beautiful in its creativity and simplicity. While Pastor Joe spoke about the tables where Jesus sat and met all kinds of different people, a communion table made out of a door creatively drew us into the reality that the bread and wine is a doorway into intimacy with Christ. He reminded us with stories from the New Testament about how regularly Jesus went out and often met with undesirable people bringing the good news of grace and forgiveness to them. You’ll see a picture of this table in the Photo Gallery along with pictures of the group as they eat together – something that happens weekly.
Next door, there was a healthy group of lively children meeting in an attractive space that has been developed for them on Sunday mornings, but is used, like the meeting area, in many other ways by the community during the week. With deep appreciation, Pastor Joe talked about the ways that the New Horizons FMC just a few blocks away has been a source of encouragement and financial and practical help. They are already beginning to dream about planting another church in another neighborhood in Sarnia.