Down the road less travelled: two years later
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declared the Lord,
“… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
— Jeremiah 29:11
Pentecost is described in Scripture as a story of powerful change in the life the followers of Jesus, so it is fitting that a congregation in Windsor will remember on that day their own story of courage, unity, thanksgiving and joy.
Pentecost 2014 saw the birth of The Parish of St. David and St. Mark in Windsor, Ontario. After ten years of sharing a priest and two years of serious deliberation, two small congregations became “One in the Lord”.
St. Mark’s was located in a large brick building in west Windsor, where the congregation had gathered since 1959, although St. Mark’s history extends back for nearly 90 years, starting up at a different location.
When the two congregation strongly supported coming together as one, they chose to do so in the smaller St. David’s building. The St. Mark’s buildings were much more expensive to maintain and were in need of some capital construction expenditures.
The people felt that even though the smaller building would be nearly at capacity with the combining of the two congregations, it needed much less work and would cost considerably less to sustain moving forward. This would allow the congregation to allot more financial resources for mission and outreach.
With capital received from the Diocese of Huron, resulting from the sale of one building and the reorganization of the two parishes, the new congregation was able to upgrade the St. David’s building.
They doubled the size of the parking lot, which was crucial; waterproofed the lower hall, which accommodates their children’s ministries; contracted some roofing repairs; and refurbished the church office area.
If funds had allowed, it would have been nice to double the size of the upper hall. Instead the parish purchased four picnic tables to extend the seating area for Sunday hospitality out onto the parish grounds, weather permitting.
The St. Mark’s congregation held their 47th and final Civic Service, a ministry for which they are well known in Windsor and Essex. Then the St. Mark’s building was commemorated with a joyous de-consecration service honouring its long and dedicated ministry in the west end of the city.
We were all pleased when the building sold relatively quickly and that it would continue as a house of worship for a Nigerian congregation.
The new owners are allowing St. Mark’s “Cuddles Clothing for Kids” ministry to remain on site under the direction of our new parish.
The Parish of St. David and St. Mark celebrated its first Sunday together on Pentecost Sunday 2014 with a jubilant service of worship. The church was full to capacity, as the voices of all rang out in praise and thanksgiving for God’s guidance in the uniting of two faithful congregations into one.
In retrospect, a Christmas presentation in 2013 by the children of both original parishes encouraged the adults to be brave and strong and look to the positives as we moved into one congregation.
They told us that while change is difficult, we must live in hope. And that “when we do things for God, we need to trust that everything will be okay.”
The kids had it right. Everything has turned out wonderfully.
And while we are somewhat squeezed in, there still seems to be room to “draw the circle wider”, with new families joining in the fun.
T. Wright in his book “Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense” writes: “The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world… The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.”
Pentecost Sunday 2016 will mark our second anniversary. In celebration of the occasion we will be distributing a new parish photo directory. It is our hope that this new photo directory will better personalize our fellowship, allowing each of us to call one another by name as we journey forward together, building stronger relationships of caring and support.
Looking back, we are confident that while we took “the road less travelled,” we definitely journeyed with God. It was the right road. Yes, we struggle with financial stability, as do many other church communities, but we move forward working together and praying that we may meet the cost of ministry in our new context as The Parish of St. David and St. Mark.
We encourage other congregations facing “survival” issues, to put their fear behind them and step out in faith. God has many blessings in store for those who trust in the Lord and move forward into new and exciting ways of being church.
Rev. Canon Sue Paulton is rector of the parish of St. David and St. Mark, Windsor.