First Christian Reformed Church in Sarnia, Ont., is hosting Tuesdays at First as a way of reaching out to the community, creating connections and simply enjoying time learning together. For the past several years, the church has invited the community to come each Tuesday in April for an evening of learning and discussion on a wide variety of topics such as criminal special investigations, Indigenous court, opioid addiction, and relief and development work.
John DeGroot, a member of the church’s Reach Team that plans and runs the evenings, said the seminars are a deliberate effort to become more relevant in the community. He noted that many people are reluctant to come to church because of negative perceptions about judgment or dogma. “Inviting people into a church so they can learn how to make soups or learn about the opioid crisis . . . is much less intimidating,” he added.
The Reach Team tried a few different models when they started the seminars; at first all topics were presented by members of First CRC. After a few years, they came up with the name Tuesdays at First, which DeGroot said is a spin on the book Tuesdays with Morrie. Around the same time, they opened the floor to leaders and topics with broad appeal. “We are constantly on the lookout for good topics,” said DeGroot.
One well-attended seminar this year was “Experiences as a Muslim” led by Seema Shahjahan, a member of the Sarnia Muslim Association and an adjunct faculty member at Lambton College. She spoke about her experiences as a Muslim born and raised in Canada.
Different topics draw different-sized crowds, but generally between 30 and 60 people have come to the free seminars, about half of whom are members of the faith community at First CRC. In the months leading up to April, the church spreads the word about upcoming topics and speakers through postcards, social media, and word of mouth.