Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spiritual centre raising funds to finance a permanent home

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THE Centre for Spiritual Awareness is building up its building fund and plans to move out of its shared accommodations as soon as it is able.

With its tenth anniversary as a church in Fort Garry coming up next year, the plans will soon be realized, said Rev. Connie Phelps.

Currently, the centre shares space in the Donnelly United Church on Waller Avenue, an arrangement that has worked well in the past, but is increasingly inconvenient for Sunday morning worship services, said Phelps.

"They have theirs at 10 and we have ours at 11:30," she said, making for some overlap in the parking lot and the church entrance.

"That does create some havoc. That's definitely one of the reasons why we want to have our own building."

Another major reason is the difference in philosophies. The Centre for Spiritual Awareness is a branch of the Church of Religious Science International, which was founded in the United States about 75 years ago.

The church is not considered to be a Christian denomination, said Phelps.

"In mainstream society, people who call themselves Christian believe that they have to accept Jesus as their personal saviour," she said. "We don't believe we need to be saved. We don't believe in original sin."

Instead, Church of Religious Science followers believe each individual has the ability to connect with God through the power of prayer, also known as treatment or affirmation. They follow many of the same principles as Christians, however.

"We believe there's many paths to God," said Phelps. "We're just one of them."

"It's a new thought church," added member Paulette Bessett, a Fort Garry resident and past member of the church's board of trustees. "What we believe in is the power within."

Phelps, a Fort Garry resident who was originally from Alberta where she was ordained, said the congregation has around 100 members and is growing. The church uses as its text a book written by the American founder, Ernest Holmes, in 1927. It is called The Science of Mind.

"The book is based on Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism. Really, it's a combination of the best of all different denominations," said Phelps. "We have people here from every walk of life, because we're inclusive. We don't exclude anyone based on ethnic background or denomination."

Last Saturday, the Centre for Spiritual Awareness brought in guest speaker Peter Comrie, a Toronto entrepreneur, lecturer and scholar who travels the country giving presentations on human dynamics. The centre charged $125 per person for attendance at the day-long event as a fund-raiser toward its building fund. It has also held garage sales, pancake breakfasts and other traditional forms of raising money.

Bessett said the church members are hopeful that they can find a space of their own later this year.

"I'm not sure if we'll build or buy an existing building, probably buy an existing building," added Phelps.

The new church might be located in the south part of the city, but not necessarily, she said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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