I have been the Community Development Pastor for ten years at Bethany Chapel in Calgary. Getting involved in the community has been such a gift to our church. We have learned so much from our neighbors, many of whom are new to the country.
Here are 10 ways that Bethany Chapel engages with our community:
1. ESL conversational classes and one ESL Bible study group. We have two conversational classes each week. Approx. 25 attend.
2. Playschool – Started in 2001 with l8 families (this year we have 71 families registered, 5 families from our church and 66 from SouthWest community of Calgary)
3. Play Café – four years ago we received a $5,000.00 grant from the Calgary Foundation to buy educational toys for a toy lending library. Families come for a cup of coffee and moms get to know other moms in the area. They can sign out a toy and a book each week.
4. Good Food Box Program- People order a reasonably priced box of fresh produce once a month from Community Kitchen. The boxes get dropped off at our church and people pick them up. It’s a great way to meet our neighbors and distribute flyers for events.
5. Time Out – An eight-week program offering a variety of craft classes. A fee is charged for the class and for child care if needed. We give a thought for the day during the coffee break that is encouraging, thought-provoking and challenging. More than 80 ladies attended this past session.
6. Thread Shed – In partnership with the City of Calgary Neighborhood Services, and Calgary housing, Bethany Chapel sells quality used clothing for a dollar an item out of a small heated shed in the community. Our congregation donates the clothing which is purchased by Calgary Housing residents.
7. Let’s Talk – A unit in Calgary Housing where ladies from the neighborhood discuss and learn about topics of their choice. This past session someone from the library taught a basic computer class. This spring we are learning how to sew aprons with ladies from the church who are great sewers.
8. Community Dinners – Two or three times per year, our young adult groups or home groups cook a dinner for about l00 of our neighbours.
9. Ladies Night Out – Our young adults host special events for women in our community like a dessert night, or spa night.
10. Homework Club – West Central Resource Centre helps kids in our neighborhood with homework once a week. When their work is finished, the kids enjoy playing in our gym.
We have also held tax clinics, financial classes, soccer programs, VBS, as well as community Barbeques and a Chai & Chat night. Our deacons have also changed furnace filters for single moms and immigrant families.
The church can play a central role in the life of a local community if it is willing to open its doors and start building relationships with its neighbors. The congregation will be blessed and humbled as they see God at work.
Heather Webber has been the Community Development Pastor at Bethany Chapel in Calgary for the past ten years. She is passionate about her work and is keen on showing God’s love to those who live in the community and are in need. She is married to Dave and they have four great adult children. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, reading and spending time in the outdoors supporting her family initiatives.
Editor: How are you involved in your community? Share your stories in the comments.