In a corner of Winnipeg’s sprawling core area – where office towers meet social service agencies, hipsters buy their first condos next to retirees’ last, high culture shares space with guerrilla art, and Chinatown rubs shoulders with skid row – suburban Eastview Community (MB) Church has moved in.
It’s not a church plant, nor a satellite; 188 Princess Street is the first iteration of Eastview’s vision of becoming “one church in many locations.” And quite the location it is: a 4,134 square-foot main floor contains offices, an open gathering space and small kitchen; the lower level contains more offices, a board room, and showers; and the upper floor, formerly the high class Mirlycourtois restaurant, has a commercial kitchen and well-appointed dining area. Purchased by the Canadian Conference of MB Churches, the building is home base for Eastview chaplain Greg Armstrong, teaching pastor Dave Ens, and their vision for community.
Armstrong’s pastoral duties include working at elementary school breakfast
programs, prison visitation and supporting ex-offenders at Forward House transitional centre, and “normal” church tasks, and he hopes to bring aspects of all that into the new campus. He can envision Alpha courses for Red River College students from across the street, laundry facilities in the basement, shared office space with related ministries, wedding receptions and cooking classes upstairs – but as the servant-hearted of Eastview launch into fixing and doing in the heritage building, he wants to “bring Mary’s attitude into Martha’s kitchen,” he says, referring to the story of work and worship from Luke 10:38–42.
This campus is intended to become a location where a complete church ministry takes place, but rather than centre around programs, Armstrong hopes to foster relationships. “If we’re efficient enough, we don’t have to put anything down to pick up what Christ has asked of us, but community wasn’t mean to be efficient,” says Armstrong. “We haven’t done a good job of meeting one another.”
With two Christian homeless missions just up the street, “we’re not here because people aren’t doing things,” Armstrong says. “But ‘social’ [handouts] can be part of the problem to justice – when do we call people to change?”
At 188 Princess, “we can raise the bar of what it means to follow Christ,” says Ens. About 60 Eastview members are committed to rub shoulders with Armstrong’s friends released from the Remand Centre, and learn “there isn’t an ‘us’ and a ‘them’; we’re all stumbling after Jesus,” Ens says.
There will be a regularly scheduled worship time. There will be food. And amid the fellowship there will be deliberately challenging questions about lifestyle and faith. “We want to start with communion and then prayers will flow out of that,” Ens says. The campus provides a place to slow down and learn from each other. Literally and figuratively, “breaking bread together is the core of who we are.”