Every Tuesday during rush hour this summer, a group of Portage Avenue Church members sit in the Winnipeg church’s parking lot to pray. Their new scrolling electronic sign invites commuters to “drive thru prayer” while the small tent they sit under offers shelter and attracts attention. Associate pastor Edgar French proposed one month of weekly prayer to complement a set of outreach activities, but the volunteers were willing to continue all summer till the weather grows cold.
The church stands along a major thoroughfare, though most petitioners have been pedestrians and cyclists, not motorists. Many bring specific requests for heath or work, but some ask for general prayer for suffering in the world. One cyclist, too shy or too hurried to sit with the volunteers, called out a request as she rolled past. Volunteer Frank Wiebe stands and waves at cars as they pass, and often receives a smile and a wave in return.
“It’s overwhelming and scary to share your personal faith,” he says, “but once I’m out here, I’m enjoying it. It feels good to get out, to share your life with other people.”
Outside church walls
Old Pine Trail is an 80-unit housing complex run by Niagara Regional Housing – 5 minutes by foot but a world away from Scott St. MB Church, St. Catharines, Ont. Bob Ratelle and a core of volunteers are aiming to close that gap by doing biweekly activities with the children who live there.
Since March 2008, Ratelle has tapped the skills of Scott St. members to entertain the kids with activities like building bottle rockets, watching movies, playing games – and more importantly, to build relationships. “It’s a slow process for inviting them to church,” Ratelle says, but he’s not easily discouraged. “[It’s] not a day-to-day thing – I look at 2 or 3 years into the future.”
In the meantime, the kids greet Bob by name as he brings activities every second week, and parents got involved in a garden planting day in spring.