Although Mountainview Mennonite Church in Vancouver closed its doors in 1996, its legacy lives on through several Mennonite Church British Columbia congregations. When Mountainview voted to disband due to declining membership, the remaining members decided that proceeds from the sale of the church property should be put into an endowment fund for future urban ministry in the region. The Mountainview Fund has been used since that time for revitalization purposes.
“Funding is intended to support the efforts of MC B.C. church planting initiatives, revitalization projects and new initiatives that extend the horizons of MC B.C. church’s extension efforts,” says Kevin Barkowsky, MC B.C.’s church engagement minister. “Our prayer for the revitalization projects is that God will open doors for people outside the church to be welcomed in.”
This year, seven congregations applied for support through the Mountainview Fund. Among them are:
Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship
Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship, a small congregation in Surrey, had made plans for outreach to seniors, including an effort at a nursing-care facility and organizing meal delivery for seniors. Those plans were put on hold, however, because of COVID-19.
“The extra revitalization funds were very helpful in enabling us to continue to exist during the pandemic,” says Pastor Gerald Neufeld.
The Fellowship was able to prepare a website and begin regular Zoom worship services.
“It has been exciting to have people as far away as Calgary, Niagara and even Japan regularly attend,” says Neufeld. “We even have a seeker who has faithfully attended for a number of months! For worship services, we play pre-recorded music, add the song lyrics and then mute everyone during the singing.”
While online worship has the advantage of more adults participating than were able to in the in-person services, a few have not been able to connect online, and children have not as easily been able to experience the worship services. To reach the younger generation, Neufeld says, “We have had regular online meetings on Sunday mornings for children, and Saturday evening online meetings for youth. We only have a few participate in each of these meetings, but one youth regularly joins in from Japan.”
The congregation plans to continue online Zoom worship services and will soon be experimenting with hybrid worship services at Living Hope Christian Fellowship, where the congregation used to meet, with the service broadcast on Zoom.
Neufeld says that if this is successful, the Fellowship will consider inviting others to register and come. “We may be using some funds to get equipment so that we can continue online services with good quality,” he says.
Chinatown Peace Church
Chinatown Peace Church in Vancouver was awarded grant money for sponsoring interns for church work. Chan Yang, a member of Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship of Vancouver, and Ran Tsan, a member of Chinatown Peace, both preached during the summer.
“Our strange and disruptive season has thrown a bit of a wrench in our plans, but we’re trying to make the best of what we have,” says Tim Kuepfer, Chinese Peace’s English pastor. “I meet with our two interns regularly for study and prayer.”
Yang is primarily responsible for the youth and young-adult ministry. His group of about eight young people from Point Grey often joins Chinese Peace’s group of about a dozen for bi-weekly activities. The goal is to help orient the group outward and to be more invitational.
Tsan helps with a spiritual friendship program that groups members into mentors and mentees.
“He keeps people informed of who they are meeting up with, welcomes new persons into these connections, and also keeps them on track with our curriculum,” says Kuepfer. “He contacts people regularly to ask how the connections are going, and what resources they need, as well as to provide accountability.”
Chinatown Peace has started meeting together outdoors as well as on Zoom. Currently, about two-thirds of the small congregation meets in person and the rest continue to connect through Zoom.
Peace Church on 52nd
Like many congregations, Vancouver’s Peace Church on 52nd is shrinking in size while it grows older.
“This grant allows us to increase our pastoral staff, thus giving us greater capacity to discuss and implement revitalization strategies, as well as teach our congregation about what God’s mission is and help them to engage missionally with their neighbours,” says Pastor Lydia Cruttwell.
As Peace on 52nd continues to deal with the effects of COVID-19 restrictions, it is seeking to care for neighbours by supporting English-language classes, both online and in person, and by offering the church building as a distribution hub for a local mobile-food program.
Co-pastor Adam Back is especially focused on the revitalization process, as the church seeks to know the practical and social needs of its neighbours and to respond to them.
“We have learned that seeking revitalization is not about new programs or flashy advertising campaigns; it is about letting ourselves be renewed in our understanding of who Christ is, and what it means to follow and imitate him in our everyday lives,” says Cruttwell. “It is only as our congregation learns to live as a ‘church for the sake of others’ that we will be renewed and revitalized, both in our own lives as Christians and as a congregation.”
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Members of Chinatown Peace Church, one of the MC British Columbia congregations receiving a grant from the regional church’s Mountainview Fund, gather for a summer worship service in a Vancouver park. (Photo courtesy of Tim Kuepfer)