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Living their faith within shared walls
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian join forces
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian was having problems with its church.
The 1960s-era building wasn’t accessible for wheelchairs, and didn’t have much parking either.
A lack of windows made the St. Mary’s Road church look "a bit like a bunker," according to Rev. John van Vliet.
But instead of seeing the search for a new space as a hindrance, the members of St. Andrew’s viewed it as an opportunity to revitalize their ministry.
What the congregation found was not only a new home — sharing space with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Windsor Park — but also a new partner to explore its vision and mission.
St. Andrew’s had looked at about a dozen other locations — from empty retail spaces to rented rooms in hotels — before approaching Prince of Peace.
Pastor Stacy Moroz said his church was also looking at renewal, and both congregations were surprised by their similar histories and vision.
"Towards the end of the evening, one of our core people at Prince of Peace stood up and said, ‘If we had gone out looking for partners to share our building with, I don’t think we would have found a better match’, " Moroz recalled.
"It was God’s grace, I guess," added Lise Schwark, chair of Prince of Peace’s council.
That was 10 months ago. The two churches have been sharing the Winakwa Road church since January — with a Presbyterian service at 9:30 a.m. and a Lutheran one at 11 a.m.
Neither church is in dire financial straits, so the partnership is more focused on sharing resources and strengths, both ministers say.
"In the 21st century, we don’t want to have a building that is used for a few hours a week," van Vliet said.
More importantly, he said, a partnership allows both congregations to shift their focus from Sunday worship.
"There’s no question that churches are going through a major change right now," he said.
"Churches that have a Sunday morning mentality — it just isn’t going to work."
More and more people — especially those under 40 — want to do outreach, he said.
"I still think there’s a spiritual impulse in people," van Vliet added. "People want to live their faith. They don’t want to talk about it."
Schwark said that’s the direction Prince of Peace was headed, too, but its aging congregation made it difficult.
"When it’s time to go out and do something in the community, we often don’t have enough volunteers," she said, adding the new partnership will hopefully change that.
"What we’re wanting to do is set up an outreach ministry."
Some partnerships between the congregations are already working well.
St. Andrew’s member Mike Ramsay, 15, said both church’s youth groups have been revitalized.
"Alone, the two youth groups were kind of dying off," he said. "But together, I think we can do so much more."
A few other shared projects have also sprouted, but Moroz said the partnership is still a work-in-progress.
As the experiment between St. Andrew’s and Prince of Peace continues, he thinks other churches in the city will be watching closely.
"So many churches just can’t make it on their own anymore," Moroz said. "We’re going to have to be so much more creative."
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