Folks at The Village Church, a Christian Reformed church plant in Thorold, Ontario, are taking the church to the people this summer by holding regular weekly services in a local park.
Their invitation is to “those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, soccer moms, latte sippers, those in recovery or still addicted, tourists, seekers, doubters . . . YOU!”
Erin Knight, worship coordinator and administrator for the church, said the services have been well received by the community. Residents of an apartment building behind the park sit on their balconies to enjoy the weekly services. Others are drawn by the music they can hear three blocks away. Many who use the park for exercise or dog-walking stop by for coffee at the free food and drink table, and some stay for the service.
The summer services began in 2009 with occasional events in the park; as a result of increased interest and attendance, the church decided to host weekly Sunday services in the park last year and have continued this summer.
“One gentleman began coming early to pick up cigarette butts from underneath the park benches—what hospitality he displayed to us!” said Knight.
Hilda VanderKlippe, community connections coordinator for the church, said a woman who had just moved to Thorold heard the music each Sunday and decided to check it out.
“She was new in town and looking for a church; she now attends regularly even when we are not in the park. Any time we bring the gospel close to where the people are, I believe it will have a positive impact,” VanderKlippe said. “Each week we sow seeds and invite the Holy Spirit to bring a harvest from those seeds; we prayer-walk the park, inviting God to prepare the way and to send people who are hungry for the gospel.”
The Village Church was started in 2008 by Pastor Mike Collins. To the locals they are known as “the church without walls” because of the many outreach and service projects they organize in the town. Organizers are frequently asked what happens if it rains. Their answer?
“We have no other plans, but so far God has provided us with dry weather each Sunday last year and this year. For that we humbly give him thanks!”