The new year has brought a new church to the Glenmore area of Kelowna, and it has given an old church building new life. Valley Road Church, a ministry of Mennonite Church B.C., held its first worship service on January 7 with Jordan Pilgrim as pastor.
Pilgrim relates a remarkable story of how this new congregation came to be. He and his wife, Elisabeth, ministered together in England, Ontario and Kamloops before moving to Kelowna seven years ago. In Kelowna, Pilgrim served as youth pastor at the Valley Road campus of Willow Park Church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation.
Three years into the pandemic, that campus shut down and the church had to break the lease on the building. It was hard to leave, Pilgrim says, as he had a heart for the Glenmore area of the city. “I felt in my spirit we were going to be back there one day,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to let the dream die.” At the same time, he felt the Spirit saying, “I have something else for you.”
He took on a role as an assistant pastor at the Willow Park main campus, but he and Elisabeth still felt a desire to plant a church. Then this past year, Pilgrim felt it was time to move on, prompted to leave but not knowing where they were going.
“Our trajectory in ministry wasn’t lining up with the MBs anymore,” he says. “Our call was starting to shift. We said to each other, ‘even if it’s just me and you and our kids, we are going to make our own church.’”
One day last year, Pilgrim was driving by the old building on Valley Road and felt God saying, “You should go in there.” It seemed like an improbable idea because at the time another congregation was renting the space, but when Pilgrim inquired, he learned the group was moving out. He was uncertain how to proceed because he didn’t have financial backing, and several other groups were interested in the building as well.
Meanwhile, the Pilgrims met Shel Boese, MC B.C.’s executive minister, at the Jesus Collective, a group of people who promote Jesus-centred Christianity. The Pilgrims learned that MC B.C. was interested in a church plant in Kelowna. A small MC B.C. congregation—First Mennonite—sold its building to Willow Park Church last spring and is now meeting in a retirement centre.
Even though several other groups were offering more money to rent the church building on Valley Road, the property was granted to the new church initiative because they were the first to ask.
According to Boese, Valley Road Church is now an “official developing congregation of MC B.C.” A core team is being formed with start-up funding from MC B.C. With blessings from Willow Park, the Mennonite Brethren conference, and MC B.C., the new congregation held its first meeting last Dec. 12 and settled on the simple name Valley Road Church. Their first worship service was held January 7, with 55 people attending.
“A lot of people coming haven’t gone back to church since COVID,” says Pilgrim. “For one reason or another they want to see something genuine, raw and vulnerable. We want to be real with people, a place where questions can be asked.”
To the question some ask as to why another church is needed in Kelowna, Pilgrim responds, “Why not? If we want to be a real missional church, just serve those God puts in front of us. I’ll just love them. We don’t all have to be megachurches. We can impact those within two square kilometres.”
Pilgrim is also excited that many residential buildings are going up in the area, as he sees potential for a growing congregation. “I love the idea of worshiping and celebrating together as we preach the gospel of love and peace. We’re excited to have this church in Kelowna.”