— Phil Reinders, pastor.
It wasn’t an anniversary, a birthday, or a holiday but on Monday, Sept. 19, ClearView Christian Reformed Church in Oakville, Ont., hosted a banquet for over 250 people. The goal? “To celebrate that we’re all a part of God’s family, from whatever space you’re coming from,” said Marlene Nirula, a member of the congregation.
Nirula is one of the leaders of the church’s Friendship Ministry, a group where people with and without cognitive disabilities grow in faith together. She came up with the idea for a great banquet after ClearView’s pastor Phil Reinders preached in February on Jesus’s story of the great banquet recorded in Luke 14:15-24.
Nirula said as plans developed the focus shifted more to “what would it look like for us to come together as a family regardless of our life circumstances and celebrate we are all God’s kids?”
People from Indwell, a Christian organization that provides affordable housing; Friendship Ministries; Christian Horizon, an organization that provides residential care for people with developmental disabilities; Community Living, an organization that provides other supports for people with developmental disabilities; and Food for Life, a food security program that is run out of ClearView CRC, were invited and attended. In the end, about 50% of attendees were people who regularly attend ClearView CRC and 50% were people who don’t.
Nirula said the church and organizations in the local community raised over $30,000 to support the event. Guests didn’t have to pay to attend. The banquet was at St Joseph’s Banquet Hall in Oakville to “really honor people and make it memorable.”
When people arrived they walked in on a carpet, had their photos taken at a prop photobooth by professional photographers, then found their assigned tables.
After a warm welcome speech by Nirula, guests enjoyed a delicious meal and then danced while a band of current and former ClearView members played music.
Rita Kerkmann attended the event with her daughter, who attends the Friendship Ministry, Kerkmann said, “Everywhere you looked it was ear-to-ear smiles. I have never seen a dance floor fill up so quickly after dinner.”
Michael Lazowski is a part of Friendship Ministry, he said, “The banquet was very great I really enjoyed it, and I would really do this again next year.”
ClearView doesn’t currently have plans to repeat the event.
Reinders said, “Acts of joy are serious business in the life of faith, and feasts like this are acts of hopeful resistance to all that is broken and wrong in the world, a taste of the life we are made for and meant for.”