Church booms in ailing region

“We tend not to mince words,” admits pastor Mark Danyluk. After two flat-out congregational meetings, Boundary Community Church members reached a basic consensus. They will not expand into a new building; they will “do church” in the community centre instead. Strong opinions were expressed, but by the end, members agreed they need to put their resources into people, not bricks and mortar.

And that seems to be a typical outcome for the MB church in Midway, B.C., “45 minutes east of Osoyoos,” as Danyluk says. The church was planted 15 years ago in the village of 600 people, with an area population of about 3,500. The church plant took hold and is still growing, even as the community slowly shrinks.

Within the past two years, the Boundary area has taken one economic hit after another. First, the mill closed permanently, leaving 300 unemployed. Then forest-related supporting jobs collapsed and the ranching industry hit hard times. A gold mine started up and optimism returned, only to vaporize six months later when the mine closed too. Yet, Boundary Community Church membership keeps growing. And that was the reason for the meetings.

Canadian conference stewardship representatives Al Thiessen and Lloyd Reimer were on hand to help the church thrash through the fact it’s in a needy, ailing community, but weekly attendance, which has doubled in six years, is still growing. What do they do about it? Their rented country church building, designed for 90, can’t hold any more than the current attendance of 120.

As hard times in the area increase, there’s a growing sense that the issue is not the members’ personal comfort of meeting in a church building, but God’s will for the community. The talk was strong and hard, “but respectful,” says Danyluk.

They agreed to use the community hall, in a two-year deal with a possible extension to a third year (at press time, the church is still negotiating with the village) and, maybe then, they will revisit a building program. In the meantime, there’s ministry to do in the hurting Boundary area.

“We are too small to do big programs,” says Danyluk. “We’re a relationship church. We keep trying to figure out what it means to be Christ in our community.”

Barrie McMaster

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