In the heart of Alberta Avenue, described as a mature, inner-city neighborhood in Edmonton, Alta., the worshiping communities of Avenue Christian Reformed Church, St. Faith’s and St. Mary’s Anglican churches and an Indigenous spiritual community called Standing Stones, come together in a shared ministry partnership called Lodgepole Communitas. The name draws inspiration from Alberta’s provincial tree, the lodgepole pine, that is highly adaptable and able to thrive even in harsh environments, and from communitas, a Latin word meaning intense community spirit and the feeling of great social equality, solidarity and togetherness.
“It’s a community bound together for the mission of Jesus Christ,” said Travis Enright, rector of St. Faith’s and St. Mary’s, who also described Lodgepole Communitas as “a circle with many points of entry by which to experience the love of Jesus.”
Some of those points of entry include meals cooked and served by volunteers several days a week, and individual support offered through belonging centers, Traditional Methods of Healing Circles, Celebrate Recovery and reintegration groups of formerly incarcerated offenders. The Lodgepole Bakery, a social enterprise providing education and work experience, operates out of St. Faith’s on Thursdays, making and selling sourdough bread, mandazi, samosas and Ugandan-style chapati bread.The Bleeding Heart Art Space brings together local artists, musicians and other forms of faith expressions. Lodgepole Communitas enables all these ministries.
Enright said, “Ours is a practical, on-the-street-level, following-the-footsteps-of-Jesus theology.”
The joining together that created Lodgepole Communitas began in 2020 when Avenue CRC, a nine-year-old church plant, moved in to share worship space with St. Faith's. It maintains its own Sunday service at 9:30 a.m. The Anglican service, using different liturgies throughout the month, is at 11 a.m. “When the CRC came,” said Enright, “they created a lot of energy and creativity. Things have flourished.”
Loretta Stadt, who co-pastors Avenue CRC with Aaron Au, said Lodgepole Communitas is “a place of belonging, a place where the love of Jesus shines through in the joy of connecting with people of all walks of life–from the person who comes with a shopping cart full of belongings to the person who owns a large home in the suburbs; from the Indigenous person living with the results of generational trauma to the recent immigrant from Uganda and not-so-recent Caucasian person; from the person who is heterosexual to the person who is somewhere else on the spectrum; from the person who is healthy, educated and skilled to the person who is living with cognitive delays and chronic health issues. Each person belongs and is welcomed as a beloved child of God. And through it all, I am slowly learning what it truly means to love as Jesus loves.”
Support for the ministries of Lodgepole Communitas comes from various church donations, government grants and a $15,000 grant from Classis Alberta North. In an interim report to classis, Stadt shared how this “has allowed them to further the work of Lodgepole Communitas, inviting people in where they are and being blessed by them.”
The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton, Stephen London, visiting in February 2023 to confirm seven young people in the faith, encouraged the work made possible by the supportive network.
“This Communitas operates in so many ways to be a blessing–by holding worship, feeding the hungry, reintegrating the broken, visiting the sick, pioneering new ways, ecumenical sharing, being the beloved community. Thank you for being the salt of the earth. May God continue to guide and bless you in this amazing work,” he prayed.