Church 2 – Painswick United

A challenge every church has to face is building a service that engages the entire age range of the congregation.  How can we create a worship environment that has space for 6 year olds and 60 year olds?

Painswick United church is doing a better job answering that question than almost any church I’ve visited.

The church has a small but diverse congregation, and is currently meeting at the plaza on Hurst Drive.  The focus of today’s service was prayer, based on Matthew chapter 7.

Although we frequently refer to the church as a ‘family’, it seems that in most churches our corporate acts of worship are segregated; kids in one place, adults in another.  Kids and adults have different leaders, different activities, and different lessons.

I know from experience how hard it is to craft an environment where children and adults can learn and participate together, so I was very impressed that I witnessed that this morning.  A space was created at the front of the church for the children to gather, and they were led through a short and engaging lesson about understanding prayer as an opportunity to connect and commune with God.  Then the kids got to sit at the craft table at the back of the building while the adults were led through pretty much the same lesson.

Prayer is a transformative process.  We encounter God’s presence when we pray.  God is concerned with more than our immediate happiness: he wants a relationship with us and wants us to grow and mature into people that love and bless the world around us.  Prayer is not the thoughtless repetition of phrases, but an active engagement with God that can change us as much as the world around us.

Important words for children and adults alike.

I think after only visiting two churches I’m already beginning to see some common strands.  Believers who want to be connected to one another, and see the churches of Barrie bless the city.  I hope I continue to see this as I continue my journey.



Church 1 – Redwood Park

Redwood Park Church meets on Sunday mornings  at Emma King School.  Check it out if you live in Letitia heights – the people are friendly, coffee is served before, during and after the service, and the snacks they serve with it are to die for!

This is a small, informal group, there were more kids than adults when I attended, and I got a friendly welcome from nearly everyone in the building.   Before the service had even started I’d had a long chat with one member about the church’s mission, and with the pastor about youth ministry, the role of liturgy in worship, and the links between the emergent movement and Anglicanism.  I love a good theological discussion, so this was a good start.

The service itself I’ll call ‘classic school gymnasium church-plant’.  This style has its ups and downs regardless of the specific church.  School gyms are not built with acoustics in mind, and no matter how talented the musical leadership is, any sound system in an echoing gym will easily drown out unamplified voices.  From where I was sitting at the back, I couldn’t hear a single voice that wasn’t part of the music team.  I worry that we tend to see worship as something that we observe, rather than something that we do.  There is a big challenge for our churches to figure out how to create spaces that progressively draw people into active encounters with the divine.

The questions I’m asking as I undertake this journey are “why are you here” and “what is God doing?”

Redwood Park exists, I was told, for a couple of reasons:  To provide a space for those that would otherwise not be able to find a church home, both ‘outsiders’ and those ‘heading out’.  It also wants to serve the less privileged areas around Anne St/Letitia Heights.

As to what God is doing in the city in general: answers I heard include churches in Barrie becoming less insular, and more outwardly focused, with a greater emphasis on serving the local community.

So, one down, seventy-two or so to go.

Seventy Three Churches and Counting

The city of Barrie has, as far as I can tell, 73 churches.

This year I intend to visit them all.

Now, you might ask yourself why I would voluntarily choose to sit through 73 sermons, when I could be catching up on sleep, or sitting in Second Cup, or organizing my filing cabinet.

As someone who’s avoided church as much as he could for the last year, and finds it almost impossible to sit through a sermon without either walking out or writing copious notes on each point that I disagree with, I’m even a little surprised myself that I’d choose to do this, but I do have some specific reasons.

I may be a harsh critic of the church, but deep down I do still believe that Christ loves her.  We followers of Christ may be fragmented, we may be argumentative, we may frequently get things wrong, but I believe that Christ sees beyond our denominational boundaries, our weaknesses and our failings, and cares for us and wants to work redemptively through us.

I also have some specific questions that I want to ask to the entire Christian community in Barrie:

  1. May I come in?  What is really meant by that ‘All Welcome’ sign hanging outside?
  2. What is God doing in the city?  I am curious to see whether I will get one answer to this question, or 73.  Will the Ukrainian Orthodox give me the same answer as the Pentecostals?
  3. Why is your church here?  Again, I’m intrigued to see how broad a response I will get.  Will the pastor tell me the same thing as the guy sitting next to me in the pew?

I suspect other questions will arise as I begin my visits – what would you ask the churches of your city if you had the chance?