The Church in the Community

by Karen Gross

I read a question in a blog the other day (and have permission from the author to use it): “If your church decided to leave the community would there be a rallying from the community to keep it there?”

This got me thinking of the impact that Portage Alliance Church has had on Portage la Prairie. If PAC were to announce that its doors were shutting down, would there be a rallying cry from the people of Portage to keep the place open?

I have been attending PAC for about 22 years (Has it really been that long?) One of the first things that impressed me about this church was its level of involvement in the community. The other churches that I have been involved in focused most of their ministry inward: Sunday School, prayer meetings, youth events. The only regular ministry outside the walls of the church was going to the old folks’ homes to sing. And even with that, most of the old folks in the homes were members of the church. Serving each other within the church is good and important, but God has called us to be His witnesses in Jerusalem (our communities), and in all Judea and Samaria (our country), and to the ends of the earth.” The goal of PAC has always been to love our community to loving Jesus.

If churches are only open for Sunday morning services, maybe a weeknight Bible study/prayer group, and the occasional wedding and funeral, that would be a wasteful use of real estate, however, the doors of PAC are open almost every day from 8 in the morning until 10 or 11 at night.

Our facilities are in almost constant use. The building houses the offices of pastors and administrative staff; the classrooms and offices of a private Christian school; a large and long-running weekly study and fellowship program for the women of our church and the community; youth events; and counseling programs. Our facilities are also made available for a plethora of community needs. We host regular blood donor clinics and conferences, seminars, and events of all sorts. When two young women from our community went missing, we offered the use of our facilities as a command central for the police and volunteers during the search.

PAC members give generously of their time, money, and skills. We are constantly collecting food for the Salvation Army, providing meals for new moms and families in need, food hampers, and donations of household goods and clothing for free garage sales. Any time a need in our community and beyond is made known to our congregation; there is always a generous outpouring of what is needed.

Since PAC is a large church, members are all encouraged to join small groups of mini house churches to study, worship, and serve together. The groups are meant to become like family or a village. These are the people who will help you move or give you a ride to the airport. When I was in labour and my husband was out of town, I called a couple from our house church to take me to the hospital in the middle of the night and care for our toddler until my husband got home.

The people in house churches take care of each other, but they also look for opportunities to help people in the community outside the church. The Bible says to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). These days it is also single moms who really need help. People in our church (including my very handy hubby) have done home and car repairs for single moms and widows in our community.

A group of women in our church has put on events to pamper single moms and give them a much needed break. Since many single moms don’t have cars, they arrange for volunteers to go to their homes to babysit and give them rides to the events.

If we were to take a survey of the residents of Portage la Prairie to ask them if they would miss PAC if it were to shut down or move to another community, I am quite sure that they would say yes.

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