From left: Pastor Dean Kurpjuweit (NEXT Christian Community), Pastor John Luth (Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert), Pastor James Ravenscroft (St. Albert United)
In the spring and summer of 2012, Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert (AB) members began a project to discern how Jesus might be leading us in our community. The thought of even conducting a Community Opportunity Scan (COS) by ourselves was daunting, so we invited two neighbouring churches (NEXT Christian Community and St. Albert United) to join us.
We developed three inter-church volunteer teams who interviewed a combined total of 14 community leaders and agency staff. Interview summaries were collated and a final report was written for the three churches. *Another church heard about the COS and did their own community survey in their neighbourhood.
The COS helped us to appreciate the many people in our community who work hard each day to make life better for others. It helped us to identify themes (mental illness, housing costs, loneliness) that can help shape our ministries. And, it revealed a great need in our community, namely the need for a place where those who are dying and their families may receive the medical care and support they need near the end of life.
As three congregations, we recognized that a project of this size was beyond us. But, we also said that if we had gone into this looking to follow Jesus, we should at least take the next step. And that is all we have done. We have sensed strongly that God has been leading the way for us.
An initial meeting for those interested was held at our local hospital in June of 2013, followed by a September meeting and an October town hall meeting to raise awareness and recruit volunteers. Our local newspaper (St. Albert Gazette) has been instrumental in promoting the cause in our community. Civic and provincial politicians have also been very helpful. People have contacted us asking how they could be involved, how they could help, how they could give financially.
To date a Steering Committee has been formed, made up of members from a range of churches and from the community. The Steering Committee’s mission has been defined: “Our mission is to establish a space for enhanced compassionate end of life care for community members and their loved ones.” Five working groups have specific tasks. We are pursuing incorporation as a society and charitable status. We have worked hard to maintain contact and communication with key groups in our community.
We hope to learn soon just what shape the project will take, but we are confident the Lord will continue to lead this work in our community.
Written by John Luth, pastor, Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert