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Despite the kind of winter weather expected in Canada, with a storm dumping snow and freezing rain across Ontario, the Village Church in Thorold, Ontario, held an outdoor service on Sunday afternoon.

Pastor Michael Collins, on stage in a parka, boots, and toque, welcomed worshipers to The Village Church’s afternoon service on the last Sunday in Advent. There were no Advent candles, no pews—not even a roof. The church had gathered in front of a band shell in Thorold, Ontario’s Battle of Beaverdams Park for “Christmas in the Village.”

Huddled in groups with lawn chairs and a colorful collection of winter clothing, 90 hardy souls sang carols and heard Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. The service lived up to the Village Church’s tagline “A different way of doing church.”

There was a table covered in cookies and a 5-gallon tank of hot chocolate. An usher handed out glow sticks, song sheets, and postcard invites to next Sunday’s service in the usual location, Richmond Street Public School.

The worship team led the congregation in traditional carols and some new songs, which leader Matt Lensink explained were contemporary expressions of the one true story. One song, “Night of Silence,” interspersed with “Silent Night,” seemed particularly apt for the occasion: “Cold are the people, winter of life, we tremble in shadows this cold endless night.”

“We would do anything to demonstrate the love of Christ to the people in our city,” said Collins of taking worship outdoors in December. Being outside, sandwiched between a street of houses and a row of four apartment buildings, the park is the perfect location to spread the message further than the doors of the church’s ministry center. It’s even more perfect in the summer when the church’s regular Sunday services are held there every week.

“I like our services in the park,” says Village Church regular Pauline Knibbe, “because you just don’t know who might be hearing.”

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