Revitalizing a Transitioning Neighborhood and an Old Church Building
New Hope Church is located in a transitional community bordering North Delta, Newton and Whalley. It’s a diverse community with great opportunities to share Christ to people on the margins of society, middle class people, as well as recent immigrants and people of many ethnicities. There are many challenges as well…yesterday, as I arrived at in the church parking lot, police tape was around the apartment complex adjacent to our building and police officers were busy. One officer came into the church before the service to ask if I knew any details about the shooting that had occurred there last night. This is the second gun incident in that apartment complex in the last few months, in addition to a lot of drug activity as well. Through some efforts by our church administrator in connecting with the local police and getting them to patrol our parking lot, there are no longer nightly drug deals happening on our church property.
July 19th, as I rode my motorcycle up to the church for my first day at work, I was followed by a police car. It seemed strange to me that he just wanted to chat about my year and model of motorbike – super friendly. It was later in the day that our church administrator said “I got a text from the police asking “Who’s the yahoo that rode up on the motorcycle?” She texed back “He’s OK – he’s our new pastor!”
There are rougher neighborhoods than where our church building is located, but our church sign gets tagged repeatedly by neighborhood youth. A couple of weeks ago, a seriously inebriated man walking by the building tried to join the discussion in our Alpha group. He was very disruptive, yelling out random phrases and we had to usher him out. I was glad he didn’t begin to throw chairs like he did a few months ago at the AA group that meets in our church gym. I was also glad to see him come for the first time to our Sunday service two weeks ago, and assure me that he hadn’t been drinking and wouldn’t disrupt the service. Tragically, our church is also known as the go-to place for funerals for men who overdose on fentanyl. Every week, people who struggle with addictions come to our church on Thursday mornings to receive free bread. We sit and have coffee together.
Our church started in 1944 as Strawberry Hills Mennonite Brethren. It was known as the little chapel in the woods. Then the housing boom came in the ‘50’s and 60’s and more ethnic Mennonite people moved in. It became Kennedy Heights MB, and a new building was constructed in 1969. It had some booming years of ministry and then struggled and closed its doors in 2001. The neighborhood was changing to a majority non-Caucasian demographic. Cost of housing was going through the roof and many young families began moving further out to places like Langley and Abbotsford. Then, the church congregation was resurrected again in 2003 as New Hope Christian Church. The old 1969 building still stands but has shown its age, along with many buildings in the area that look well past their glory years.
As an elder team about 6 months ago, we felt that this old building was an incredible asset to ministry, but needed to communicate a “new hope for the future” rather than an “old hope that is no longer relevant and died in the past”. The building needed to communicate who we are as a congregation –
not a dusty old crumbling thing of the past, but a lively, hope-filled, vibrant, relevant, and dynamic place where all are welcome and all can come to find all they need in Christ.
We have begun a renovation process. We want this space to be a place of hospitality, warmth, respite and a sanctuary from the hard scrabble challenges of life, where people can relax and connect with God and each other. We have fundraised and have been blessed by generous donors, both inside and outside the church, and have transformed large parts of the church into fresh places of warmth and hospitality.
One area that was stacked full of junk and used for storage was cleaned out, given new floors, carpeted, and painted. Now, with some brand new donated furniture, it has become our prayer room!
We want to prioritize prayer.
The lobby area of the church was cramped and the floors were literally crumbling and heaving. It did not create a good first impression as a place to hang out. We have poured new cement, recovered the floors with vinyl, and added a couch sitting area. We opened up a wall in the front lobby to create a café area so that we can enjoy coffee with the people from the neighborhood who come for our Thursday bread program, as well as those who stop by throughout the week for assistance and counselling. We put a big screen TV in the café area so that we can show Alpha videos. The church has had a thriving Awana program for years, and unchurched families would drop their kids off in the lobby and come pick them up after the program. We recently invited the parents to stay during Awana, and enjoy appies and dessert in the new cafe as they do the Alpha course. We are halfway through our first course and celebrated as two of the participants followed Christ in baptism last month!
We look forward to continuing to connect the message of Jesus with our community. We have a great new/old facility to invite them to, some warm hospitality to extend, and more opportunities to talk about Jesus. What has been a good traffic flow of people from the neighborhood coming and receiving hope, is now growing steadily. Heaven is going to be a place where people of every nation and background are welcomed –
We want New Hope to show heaven on earth.
A few weeks ago, we welcomed a group of people into membership. It occurred to me, after we heard each person share their favorite verse, that in that group of 13 people: two people had immigrated from Hong Kong, one from Mexico, one from Zambia, and two from China. In our little congregation, we also have people who have immigrated from St Kitts, Paraguay, Bahamas, Philippines, Turkey, Romania, Portugal and India.
It doesn’t take long before you don’t see race or socio-economic background – you just see the One….that is, The One where we find all we need – Christ