On September 29, after 10 years of renting space in a public school for Sunday worship, The River Community Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, began worshiping in a building that provides them with a 1,000-seat auditorium, a permanent children’s ministry space, a strategic location, and much more.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said pastor Bruce Gritter. “All I can say is, to God be the glory!” Along with the rest of the congregation, his wife, Sharon, shares his enthusiasm: “We’re so excited! We want everyone to know what God has done!”
When a dramatic rent increase by Edmonton Public Schools meant The River could be spending $80,000 over six years to rent classroom space one day a week, they prayed for God’s guidance.
Meanwhile, only eight minutes away, a huge church once known as Victory Christian Centre had gone bankrupt and into foreclosure. When the building, located in one of the fastest-growing areas of Edmonton, was purchased by a developer who planned to turn it into a community center, The River was about to have its prayers answered. The developer extended a financially favorable lease to The River to use the building for worship and other ministry needs.
While The River is negotiating how exactly the property and the community center concept will be developed, the move will provide The River with abundant ministry opportunities it didn’t have before.
“If everything happens that I think (am praying) is going to happen, this will be a one-of-a-kind situation,” said Gritter. “We are opening not as a church, but as a multi-faceted, bustling community/fine arts center with a church as its ‘incarnational resident.’”
Gritter explained further, “By opening as a community center, we want to make our building ‘public space,’ such that people will feel more comfortable coming through the front door. This means actually inviting the community to join us in using the building.”
The church is being encouraged to sub-lease space to third parties. “It’s complicated,” Gritter said. “So far the response has been amazing. As the incarnational resident, this allows us to serve the community and be with them in our space. Once they’re in the building (for whatever reason), they discover that there is this church that meets there and they further discover that the people from this church seem friendly and credible. At that point, attending a Sunday morning worship service isn’t such a stretch.”