Port Rowan is a small town located on the Gold Coast in the south of Ontario, on Lake Erie. In the summer months, Port Rowan becomes a destination for local cottagers, campers and boaters. And last summer, it became a destination for those wanting to experience Church on the Beach.
And just what is Church on the Beach? As per their website, “Church on the Beach is an inter-denominational worship service located in Long Point on The Causeway Restaurant beach during the summer. Guests bring their own chairs, blankets or beach towels. Whether you ride your bike, drive your boat, walk or jump on the horse drawn people mover, you will always enjoy the experience at the water’s edge.”
I wanted to learn more so I spoke with Doug Smith, Pastor at Port Rowan FMC, “Last year about this time I gave a message on wholeness and faith in action. After potluck, Jeff, a local business man, told me that for many years he had this idea of an outdoor church service. We prayed about it as a possible ministry opportunity and then continued to meet regularly to pray about it.”
Port Rowan decided to organize a weekly church service on the beach with the help and support of other churches in town. They also became the “host church” which meant they closed their doors for tens= weeks over the summer. As host or home church they coordinated who would lead worship and preach each week. They also looked after a lot of the logistics including a PA system, extra chairs and a horse drawn carriage that was used to shuttle folks to the beach.
Not that it’s about numbers but here are some cool ones from last summer’s Church on the Beach:
- Rain Days – 1
- Baptisms – 7
- First Sunday Attendance – 40
- Highest Sunday Attendance – 300
- $ Donated to Local Food Bank from Offering- 1000
Pastors from all different locations and denominations came to Port Rowan to speak and as a result, “All the congregations grew closer and more trusting of each other. We did a Christmas service this year and we usually have about 30 people but this year the church was packed. People grew together and put their differences aside. We grew as a community together.”
Doug also told me that every church saw an increase in attendance after Church on the Beach, “We are in a vacation area – cottage or campground – and most people don’t go to church when on vacation. Church on the Beach gave them a place to go and an opportunity to invite others who might not go to church the rest of the year. We saw a lot of that even from our own congregation because they felt comfortable inviting people to a less formal service on the beach.”
Port Rowan FMC has already started praying about this year’s Church on the Beach, “It will be different this year. It might look the same but God will work differently through it.”