This Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of us not owning a church building. The ten years have not unfolded as many of us thought they would, but the Lord has been faithful.
On February 16, 2008, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to disconnect from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Diocese of Ottawa, They also connected with another official Anglican body, The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (mainly found in the southern part of South America). When we voted as we did, we knew that the Diocese of Ottawa would come after us and that our vote would probably mean losing our building and assets.
What Makes a Disciple of Jesus
Back in those days, I was frequently interviewed by secular journalists and others about our stand. To help them understand what we were doing, I would say something like this: If you met someone who said that they were a devout Muslim, and then ten minutes later they told you they did not think Mohammed was Allah’s Prophet, you would say they were not a devout Muslim. If you met someone who said they were a committed Marxist, but then ten minutes later, they told you they believed private property rights were essential for human flourishing, you would say they were not a Marxist. If you met someone who said that they were a libertarian, but then ten minutes later they told you they thought the government should control what people said and wrote, you would say that they were not a libertarian.
A Christian, in the ancient and enduring sense, is someone who says that they are a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 11:26b). This means He is Lord, and we are His disciple. Well, if someone says that they are a disciple of Jesus, and then they say, ‘Oh, by the way Jesus, you are wrong on this matter and this matter and this matter and you need to learn from me,’ well, you should say that they are not a disciple of Jesus.
So why did we disconnect from the Diocese of Ottawa and reconnect with another body? Because we want to be disciples of Jesus, and the Diocese of Ottawa decided and acted as if Jesus was wrong and He had to start learning from them.
We Lost the Building
Threatening lawyers’ letters from our former Diocese began to come. Eight months after we voted to disconnect, another Anglican church in Ottawa, then called St. George’s, now called St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, also voted to disconnect, so now we both received the same letters. Eventually, we reached an out of court settlement that involved us walking away from our property and our sister church, “St. P+P’s” being able to keep their building. The deal was unanimously accepted by the congregation. This deal came into effect at the end of the day, June 30, 2011. On July 1, 2011, we became homeless.
No one from our congregation stayed with the building. The congregation, which had existed since the church was planted in 1865, now had to live as they did in the early days of the congregation before they bought land and built a church building.
I know that there were some who felt that God would provide us with a new building of our own in short order. But it is important to remember that the Lord is never in our debt. Probably every single one of us felt the loss of our beautiful building. Once you become used to a beautiful 19th-century Anglican church with its biblical symbolism, it is hard to get used to halls and theatres. All of us, but especially me, had to learn to live without one single 24/7, 365 days a year space.
Owning a building forms your programming and your “ministry thinking” and even your “ministry imagination.” If I could go back in time, I would have read far more books on church planting, because really what we were doing was very similar, church replanting. Many of us probably feared a bit for the future – will our needs be met? Will we always find space? Can we still thrive? How will people find us? How will ministry work? and on and on.
The Lord’s Great Faithfulness to Us
Here is where I want to testify to the Lord’s great faithfulness to us. Apart from lockdowns, we have always had a place to worship on a Sunday morning. Even during the lockdowns, the Lord provided a good space for us to livestream from. Our main Sunday morning home has been the Ottawa Little Theatre – home to a secular theatre company. They have been great landlords, and we have gotten on very well with them (As an aside, pray that they will flourish as the lockdown has meant they could not put on plays; and consider supporting them by attending some of their plays when they reopen). While our former Diocese did want to harm us by pursuing us as they did, just as in Genesis (50:21-22), the Lord has intended this for our good.
We continue to seek to make disciples of Jesus gripped by the Gospel, living for God’s glory. We continue to seek to grow into being a prayerful, evangelizing, Bible teaching church in the heart of the city with a heart for the city and the world. We continue to live as a church rooted in the English reformation.
By God’s grace, Jonathan and Renee have left us to plant a church in Rigaud Quebec and we are about to plant a church in Kanata. We have started and are seeking to grow a Seminary. We have had people leave us to serve as missionaries around the world. We have been the financial backer for an orphanage in Uganda, we have ministered to the poor and to University students and have worked cross denominationally with other local churches in the city of Ottawa. We have seen people be ordained.
I do not say any of this to boast, far from it. When we first began our journey, the scripture that came to many of us time and time again was that famous line from Daniel 3:16-18. We did not know if our first vote to disconnect from the Diocese of Ottawa and reconnect with another international Anglican body would be the beginning of the end of the congregation.
The same when we took the vote to accept the out-of-court settlement, even though it meant becoming homeless. Our situation was not nearly as dire, as it was for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – worship the gods of Babylon or die in the fiery furnace. However, in our far smaller way, we believed that the Lord could deliver us, “but if not….” still we will follow the Lord.
Ten Years Down the Road of Homelessness
Ten years down the road of homelessness, less than a year after the Lord provided miraculously for us to begin a journey of owning property to serve Gospel ministry, I definitely do not want to sound like I am boasting.
I do not think as much anymore about Daniel 3. Now I think more and more of the words of King David, “Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14b, NIV). The Lord has provided for us, all the glory is His.
Pray that the Lord will regularly reform us by His word, revive us by His Holy Spirit and renew us to be a church after His heart, living for His glory, by proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth, all the while seeking to build up His church and seeking the good of this city – all for His glory, all for His glory, amen and amen.