Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Churches helping new Canadians settle in

  • Print

They were singing, swaying and praying in the pews at Crestview Park Free Methodist on Sunday morning.

Women in African print dresses and colourful headscarves waved their hands in the air. Little girls in their Sunday best skipped up the aisles. The house band lit into a hymn and the congregants raised their voices in joyous celebration. It was a typically exuberant Sunday at the small St. James church, one of dozens that attract recent African immigrants and their extended families.

These churches, some of them with a handful of celebrants and others with 100-plus attendees, form the backbone of Winnipeg’s burgeoning African community.

"One of the things our church does really well is work with immigrants," says Scott Larson, Crestview Park’s chairman of the board. "Our church is very, very active. When African people come here, their commitment is always to make their lives better here, but to also make (better) the lives of their families back home, too."

His wife, Abigail Tackie Larson, came to Winnipeg from Ghana when she was 18 months old. The couple has three young children and support a 12-year-old cousin in Ghana.

The church community helps new Canadians find work, feel settled and quickly learn the local customs.

"This is the type of congregation where you greet and hug," says Larson. "Everyone is an uncle and an auntie."

When the band pauses and a speaker encourages people to turn to the person next to them and say "I love you," they do, smiling and chuckling.

Crestview Free Methodist is multi-ethnic, with a large African, primarily Ghanaian, population bolstered by West Indians, South Americans and Caucasians.

Larson says that mix is reassuring to newcomers.

"They may feel like they’re in a foreign culture," he says. "They see us mixing and mingling with other cultures. They know white faces, other cultures are nothing to be afraid of."

Frank Indome, treasurer of African Communities of Manitoba Inc., (Acomi) says every African community in Winnipeg finds a place to worship. Many don’t have their own churches or mosques but use space in other parishes. Some rent rooms wherever they can. What’s important is they continue to observe their faith.

"They are practising what they had at home, trying to keep their children involved," Indome says.

Some churches, such as the French Catholic parish of St. Kizito, offer their mass in a blend of French, English and African languages. A recent Sunday saw the congregation sing Prayer of the Faithful in Igbo, one of the languages of Nigeria. Drummers sat in the pews with the choir and set the beat.

At offertory time, the faithful danced up the aisle to place their donations in a basket.

The Living Gospel Church on William Avenue has an Ethiopian congregation and holds services in Amharic.

Rev. Joseph Seidu of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church says his church had 20 to 25 regulars six years ago. Now they average 100 people for their Sunday service.

"Part of it is the influx of African immigrants. All Africans are brought up with the fear of God," he says. "I think we have a community that is warm and welcoming. I think people like the preaching and the teaching I do."

The church works to support families with children, trying to help kids stay out of trouble.

"We know all the crime rates and kids being misled," he says. "The main part is how to give support."

Pastor David Edosa, the former spiritual leader of All Nations Full Gospel Church, says the churches give Africans a ready-made community.

"It’s a place (where) you meet people who share your experiences and beliefs. They understand your language. There’s comfort," says Edosa, who recently moved to Hamilton. "In Africa, church plays a very important part in life."

Edosa also believes the churches play a role in helping immigrants settle in.

"One of the beauties of the African churches is they help the people to socialize and to integrate into the community. They are encouraged to find work and stay off welfare. They are guided," he says. "The church plays a huge role in ensuring the African assimilation into Canada and society."

Pastor Peter Okaka came to Winnipeg seven years ago as an international student. He leads a small congregation out of a rented meeting room at the Quality Inn on Pembina Highway.

The dynamic preacher says church-going is essential for Africans. "Part of our strategic role is to find that place where people can actually find solace. Spirituality is always here. We want people to breathe in, breathe out, find hope. You find a place that you can call home, someone who speaks your language, knows your language. It is a huge help. It helps them settle."

Okaka helps his flock work on their resumés and job seek.

Back at Crestview Park, voices are raised in song. It is a place where handshakes, hugs and hallelujahs are shared. It is home for many new Canadians.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

video player to use on WFP
History

Updated on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM CST: Corrects when Okaka came to Winnipeg, corrects "Edosa" to "Okaka"

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Kenney commends McDonald's on taking action on foreign worker controversy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

  • Africa edition

    Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.

  • China edition

    Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.

  • Germany edition

    German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.

  • Iceland edition

    Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.

  • Italy edition

    Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).

  • Latin America edition

    It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.

  • Middle East edition

    When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.

  • Philippines edition

    A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.

  • South Asian edition

    As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.

  • Ukraine edition

    Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.

  • United Kingdom edition

    Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.

Related Items

Poll

Do you support a proposed ban on tanning beds for youth under 18?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google