Though there’s been consistency at Transcona Memorial United Church’s pulpit for the past quarter-century, there has otherwise been plenty of development at 209 Yale Ave. W.
Rev. Jeff Cook and Rev. Carol Fletcher have served as TMUC’s ministry team since July 1, 1988 after moving from the Cutarm Pastoral Charge in eastern Saskatchewan. They’ve seen numerous developments in their time at the helm, working especially hard to boost the church’s service in the community.
"You can’t be here for 25 years without getting to know people pretty well," said Cook, a Brantford, Ont. product. "One of the honours of ministry is to get invited into people’s lives in times of celebration and in times of grief.
"When you’ve been here for 25 years, those celebrations and those times of grief — there’s another layer to them."
Fletcher, a native Winnipegger, said the church’s food bank started in the weeks before she and Cook came aboard, and they have worked to broaden its horizons, as anyone, regardless of denomination, is welcome to benefit.
As well, TMUC has brought in the Transcona Society for Seniors’ meal program, which is held at the church Monday and Wednesday for supper and Friday for lunch. Fletcher said the program has boomed, beginning with just a couple tables and now filling an entire room.
"There’s an increasing commitment to the community, and a greater partnership with organizations in the community," said Fletcher. "People have come to see the church as a stable place in the community for things that they need, and the opportunity to care for others, to serve others."
Cook explained he and Fletcher have strived to help TMUC develop alongside modern culture, noting the congregation is an affirming one, accepting anyone regardless of sexual orientation.
"In 25 years, society has changed an awful lot, and as the church tries to engage with society, the ways in which we try to become welcoming — the churchy word is inclusive — have changed," said Cook, noting the role of children in worship services has expanded. "There’s a higher awareness of the gifts and blessings that children bring."
That includes offering programs like Messy Church, which Cook said is often held Friday nights or Saturday mornings. Families will come together to make a meal and give thanks.
"For people desiring to worship, Sunday isn’t always a choice the way it used to be," he said. "We’ve been working at alternative ways and times of worship.
"All ages come — everybody helps to prepare a meal. Kids, grandparents, everybody’s in the kitchen making pizza or whatever we are making. We set up. There’s a worship component and there’s a craft component."
On Sunday mornings, Cook and Fletcher work to keep services fresh, as Cook noted they have done sermons in the form of scenes featuring biblical characters, Christian clowning, and storytelling. As well, the pair work to keep connected to parishioners with their website and through email and even texting.
The change is continuing, as building developments are in order. Fletcher said the main priorities in terms of accessibility are to add washrooms on the lower level, and to get an elevator large enough to accommodate strollers. They also hope to add an outdoor ramp and revamp the entrance.
For more on the church, visit www.tmuc.ca