Skip to main content

A New Church Home Part II

(Disclaimer: Some of the following information is based on my memory of what I've heard and been told in the past. My memory has been known to make mistakes. If someone reading this sees any inaccuracies, please inform me either in a comment or via e-mail.)

The church is in the heart of the neediest part of town. Prostitutes wait for customers beneath the church windows. Drunken brawls take place outside the tavern across the street. Too poor for other drugs, sniffers carry paper bags hiding baby food jars of glue--five dollars a pop. Homelessness, poverty, violence, alcohol, drugs, gangs and murder are common fare.

Winnipeg Centre Vineyard was founded by David Ruis who had (and, I'm sure, still has) a passion for the oppressed, to bring them the justice and mercy of God. For this reason, the location of the church is intentional. What better place for a house of God than in the centre of hell?

The brick building is an old tractor factory, four stories high. Looking from the outside, it is easy to see that the fourth floor has yet to be refurbished. The windows are old, cracked and dirty. I haven't yet visited the upper floors but the main floor is impressive with massive wooden beams two feet wide supported by square, wooden pillars that block the view of those unfortunate enough to sit behind them. The interior walls are brick and to one side of the sanctuary platform is an enormous weigh scale that has been preserved intact. Behind the platform are the old truck bays with all but one door closed and blocked up. Above the sanctuary are pipes of assorted sizes, uses and ages. I've sat in my metal folding chair looking up and wondering.

What a variety of people! Suburbanites with pricey haircuts and the homeless with tangled hair; white and aboriginal; babies and toddlers galore, many twenty- and thirty-somethings and only a few grey heads. Jeans are the most popular attire and no suits. It's a casual and very comfortable, inviting place to be. At the back is a constant flow of people coming and going in and out of the building or from one place to another. No one seems disturbed by the activity and sometimes it's encouraged.

I think of one recent Sunday. First a young couple were being introduced to the congregation as new members. After they told a bit of their story the pastor directed them to a corner and invited those in the congregation who know the couple to gather around them and pray. While people were moving to do this, he called up a number of couples who had babies to dedicate. After each family said a few words they were sent to various places in the sanctuary to also, separately, be surrounded by those who knew them to pray for them. While this movement and prayer was happening, the pastor started the baptism. Three women were baptised by immersion in what looked to be a temporary tank holding what was obviously very cold water. They each deserved a medal for being brave enough to walk into the tank and be dunked under and, again, as each left the tank, family and friends were invited to gather around them to pray.

There's always about an hour of singing and worship to begin with but after that, it's a bit unpredictable. For instance, for the Sunday described above, there was no sermon--the service ended with communion. Other times we've been directed to get into groups to discuss something that is being preached on or to pray for each other. Every service ends with an opportunity to be prayed for.

So why have I fallen in love with this church? I'm not really sure but the following elements are part of it: I know many of the songs (don't laugh at the smallness of this--music is important!); people are free to dance and move to the music in an attitude of worship; the lack of homogeneity and mix of polished and rough, rich and poor, sophisticated and simple; it doesn't matter how you're dressed, you're welcome.

This is a church that does what it preaches and is successful in doing it. In the two and a half months I've been attending, a woman living in one of the near-by "flea-bitten" hotels (known more for the quantities of alcohol served not for their inviting rooms) has been baptised, a woman who had just gone into detox phoned the pastor during the sermon and he held up his cell phone so we could all give her our encouragement, a former prostitute from beneath the church windows has now been 5-months crack-free and is hoping to begin school in the fall to become a pastor.

I think the final deciding factor for choosing this church, however, was this past week of prayer. That in itself deserves its own post and so I will stop for now and continue the story another day.

Thank you, God, for this church that doesn't mind getting itself dirty in meeting the needs of the disenfranchised, the poorest of the poor, those with the ugliest lifestyles. Thank you for a people who honour you in the way they treat others: with dignity, love and the humility of Christ. Thank you for a church that has chosen to step out of the box to do what you've called it to do.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Monogamous, Homosexual Unions--My Position and the Story behind it

I've been asked to be one of two participants at church each representing opposing views on the matter of monogamous, homosexual unions, moderated by the pastor.  In preparation, I have written the following.  In the comments, please do not post any vitriol--from either side. If I think any comment is hateful, I will delete it. Respectful disagreement or questions are welcome, however.















My Position and Values:
I believe that sexual relations between two people of the same sex is contrary to God’s will.I would like to say otherwise but I find nothing in Scripture that allows me to do so.BEING homosexual, having a longing or desire for someone of the same sex, is not condemned in the Bible.  We all have desires that are contrary to God’s will.  The sin occurs when we feed those desires, like Jesus talks about when he calls lust adultery (Matthew 5:28).Much cruelty to LGBTQ people has happened because of the stance of the Church. We have not acted with love, compassion and listening ear…

About the Author

DEBBIE HAUGHLAND CHAN
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA

I'm married (35 years in December 2008) with four grown sons. I love my city (Winnipeg) and my country (Canada) and promote them both to whoever will listen. God (through Jesus Christ) is the biggest part of my life. I am learning to let him take control of all areas--though I do better at this some times more than others.

I have written a book that's recently been published about part of my journey with God. In it I tell how God confronted me with the same-sex attraction issues I've struggled with all my adult life and how he led me through them to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with him. God is amazing—his forgiveness, his love, his movement in our lives when we allow him and so much more. I suspect God will never run out of things to teach me or ways to make me grow and that’s a good thing (though often very painful).

I suppose I can say that what gives me the greatest pleasure in life is telling others about…

What Is Separating me from the Promise?

This is the question Andy Wood asked us each to consider this morning at the end of his sermon and it hit me like a thunderbolt.

Imagine the Jordan River on the eve of the Israelites crossing it into the Promised Land.  The river was at flood stage, so it was moving quickly (even the Red River here in Winnipeg moves quickly during flood season) but this particular stretch of the river near Jericho is narrower than the rest so that as the rushing flood waters reached the point where the people were waiting--all two million of them--it became even more turbulent.  Anyone who's witnessed a flood knows that it doesn't just carry water; there is debris like fallen trees, parts of sheds and houses and perhaps even animals unable to escape the river's grab.

Back in the days of Abraham, God had promised the land of Canaan to him and his descendants but during the days of Abraham's great-grandson, Joseph, the whole family had moved out of the Promised Land to Egypt because of f…