No one planned this from the onset
Yes, there were a lot of meetings and a lot of prayer to get to the point of Prairie Presbyterian Church being formed through the amalgamation of Trinity Presbyterian Church and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, but nobody sat down two years prior and mapped this out. Except maybe God.
In September of 2012, Trinity was seriously considering settling in and trying to make a go of their ministry full-time in the neighbourhood closest to the University of Manitoba, where they were renting a church building. St. Andrew’s, had moved to another part of town and was sharing space at a Lutheran Church with whom they hoped to develop a stronger ecumenical relationship.
The 2 months that changed everything.
In October 2012, leadership from Presbyterian Churches in the area gathered for a day of “visioning.” As often happens, not too much came from this, but one thing did: that congregations in close geographical proximity ought to discuss ways they might work together. A seed was planted that day, as Trinity and St. Andrew’s were in the same group, along with St. James and Somang Korean Church.
In November 2012, two major things took place in the life of Trinity. 1) An opportunity came along to have Trinity act as a host to a New Church Development amongst Arabic speaking people. 2) God intervened on the “settling in plans” and directed the leadership to instead look toward building a new home for the ministry in the southwest of Winnipeg. The people of Trinity didn’t know how a building would be paid for, but took it on faith that God was guiding. It was quickly identified that Trinity wouldn’t build solely “for itself,” but would look toward building a facility to serve the community - preferably in partnership, even though at the time, it was not known who those partners would be.
Was it clear then that these were pieces intended to come together? Absolutely not. Is it crystal clear now? Not completely, but we’re getting there.
What Happened Next
By April 2013 a couple of streams were developing along what would eventually become a converging path. There was a proposal for a missionary to come from Jordan to start the Arabic Language Ministry and reps from Trinity, St. Andrew’s, Somang Korean, and St. James Presbyterian had their first meeting.
By the summer, approval for the Arabic Language Ministry had been granted and it became clear that the three congregations renting space in the south of Winnipeg (St. Andrew’s, Trinity and Somang) might benefit from sharing space in the long term.
By the end of November 2013, it was obvious that we were moving beyond a simple partnership to build/share space and into the two english speaking congregations coming together in an amalgamation. That same month saw the arrival of Pastor Ibrahim Zabaneh to begin what would become Lighthouse Evangelical Arabic Church, meeting in the space that Trinity was renting.
As some of the key leaders in the two English speaking congregations spoke it became clear that both congregations hold many of the same values. Yes, St. Andrew’s was a little more traditional in style as is often the case in a church with a longer history, but they weren’t that traditional. Yes, Trinity tended toward “contemporary” as a fairly recent New Church Development, but they weren’t that contemporary. As we met together and spoke, it became clear that such labels weren’t particularly useful. We sang many of the same songs. We supported many of the same mission activities. The two highest values consistently raised in both congregations centred around worship life: biblically based preaching, and solid music. Both congregations seemed to be longing for greater community, and a greater emphasis on service and outreach.
We found the congregations complemented each other many ways, even to the point of having very few duplications church furniture. Some examples... St. Andrew’s had a great acoustic piano and a beautiful communion table, things that Trinity had hoped to have, but could never really afford. Trinity had enough chairs for the combined congregation, but St. Andrew’s didn’t.
One of the greatest strengths and opportunities identified was the diversification of age groups. Trinity had a number of young families and a number of young adults, but very few retired people. St. Andrew’s had many retired people and few younger people. Both congregations saw the addition of people of different ages as a positive move.
In separate votes the amalgamation was approved overwhelmingly by both congregations (over 93% in favour) and was officially approved by the Presbytery of Winnipeg on March 20, 2014.
Prairie will begin to find its way, taking some of its character from St. Andrew’s and some from Trinity. More importantly, going forward Prairie intends to be shaped by Christ working on us through the Holy Spirit. Our intention is to be Spirit-led, focussing on our common life in worship, prayer and community, while looking toward outreach and service.
We plan to take up conversations again with potential partners (including Somang Korean Presbyterian and the Lighthouse Evangelical Arabic Church) to build a facility that can be used for the good of the neighbourhood, and are excited about where the Spirit is leading.
This is an exciting new chapter in the histories of two congregations who are now one!
What is Happening with The Ministers and Music Directors?
We give thanks for the work of Ashley Boychuk who will finish in her role as music director at the end of April. Ashley led the music well at Trinity and has been both patient and pro-active in her leadership through the amalgamation process.
We give thanks for Rev. John van Vliet, who will finish in his role as minister at the end of April. John helped St. Andrew’s through several important transitions, including moving out of and selling their old building. John was invaluable throughout the amalgamation process, drawing on his experience in interim and transitional ministry.
Rev. Matthew Brough will continue as the minister of Prairie Presbyterian Church and Evangeline Keeley will continue as the music director.