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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New lease on life

Lutheran church closes after a century, Baptist congregation takes over building

Posted: 01/25/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Cathy Horbas (from left) and Carol Allen of Christ Lutheran and Carlito Arceo of Living Christ Church.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Cathy Horbas (from left) and Carol Allen of Christ Lutheran and Carlito Arceo of Living Christ Church. Photo Store

Sometimes you might need to be careful what you pray for.

Faced with declining attendance, members of Winnipeg's Christ Lutheran Church spent months planning and praying about their future, hoping for new life for their aging congregation.

What they got instead was new life in their building, says church chairwoman Cathy Horbas.

"We had hoped it would grow our congregation, but (now) we're helping another congregation to grow," she says.

Sunday at 11 a.m., the once-thriving Evangelical Lutheran congregation, founded in 1905, holds its final service at their Garden City location. Then they'll hand over the keys to the Living Christ Community Church, a Baptist congregation with a large Filipino-Canadian membership.

Horbas says weekly attendance at Christ Lutheran had dwindled to about 30 people, with about 100 more on its membership list. The church has also been without a permanent minister for several years, and it shares a youth minister with two other Lutheran churches.

The Baptist group purchased the building after three years of renting it for their two Sunday worship services and weekday activities, explains the lead pastor of the congregation of 250.

"We are happy so much space is available to us," says Carlito Arceo.

"What attracted us to (the building) is that it looks like a church."

Constructed in 1956 near the corner of Inkster Boulevard and Arlington Street, Christ Lutheran Church has worship space for about 450, several meeting rooms and an elevator to a large lower level hall with a kitchen.

"Our youth love it because they can play basketball down there and our kids love it because it has a stage," says Arceo.

"Our church loves to cook, our members love cooking, so the kitchen is absolutely a delight."

The Baptist church is now in the process of selling their former building on Wellington Avenue to another congregation.

Over the last six months, four Evangelical Lutheran congregations, including three in Winnipeg, have sold their buildings because of declining attendance, says Bishop Elaine Sauer of the Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod.

"We knew this was coming for 10 to 20 years," she says about the downward shift in attendance and membership, common to mainline churches.

"That trend has been accelerated in the last two or three years."

While acknowledging the decision has been difficult, Horbas says the remaining members at Christ Lutheran are happy a vibrant and growing congregation will inhabit their former building. They're also pleased to direct the proceeds from the sale to Luther Home, a seniors' complex, and Luther Village, a summer camp, both organizations which they've long supported.

"Because we've chosen to close in this manner, we have the opportunity to direct our resources and assets," says Horbas, adding they are seeking a new home for their two-manual pipe organ.

Sauer applauds their generosity and their example of looking beyond themselves.

"I also see some signs of hope that people are looking more outward and inward, and people are working with the communities they are part of to make some changes," she says.

As they take over the building at 815 Inkster, Arceo says his church will honour the work of the Lutherans and be good stewards of the property.

"We are glad they were faithful for more than 100 years in ministry."

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 d12

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