Two years ago, The Freeway in Oshawa, ON went through the Lifeplan process and discerned that God wanted them to find a permanent facility to use for their ministry. Up until that point, The Freeway met in school gyms on Sunday mornings and had a small office in downtown Oshawa. “Our original vision was to have something like a storefront facility that we would rent and use for our worship services and ministry. Our team looked at all kinds of options including warehouse spaces, storefronts, and old community halls, but there was nothing that met our needs,” shares lead pastor Dale Harris.
The Freeway vetted about forty different properties and visited ten of them, but were unable to find the right balance between the size of the space and cost. “We finally found a storefront property and negotiated with the landlord. Then God challenged me to think through some of the zoning stuff, and we found out it wasn’t zoned for our use so we pulled out.”
After six months of searching they were back at ground zero. Dale was part of a prayer meeting with Vic Stonehouse, Cliff Fletcher, and Steve Utley, District Superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene. “In that prayer meeting, I explained my discouragement with trying to find a permanent space for The Freeway. Two weeks later, Steve contacted me. He was the founding pastor of a Nazarene church called The Gateway who had purchased a building in south Oshawa, but were currently without a pastor. The Freeway was a church without a building and The Gateway was a church without a pastor. Steve wondered if there was a way to work together.”
In January 2018, Dale began talking to The Freeway board and Steve floated the idea past The Gateway board. Both boards were open to the idea and met for the first time that month. At the same time, Vic Stonehouse (pastor at The Freeway prior to Dale) reached out to Steve and offered to be the interim pastor at The Gateway. “Vic had no idea we were talking about merging the two churches, but it was a blessing to have him step into that role while we sorted things out.”
It took five months of heavy work to sort through what merging these two churches would look like. Dale pushed for a single congregation in a shared ministry model which is what was decided on by the two boards. The Corner Church had its first service in June 2018. “We had agreed on a six month and one-year evaluation. Last June, everyone gave it a full green light to go forward and here we are.”
The Corner Church’s structure is fairly straightforward. There are two boards, one Free Methodist and the other Nazarene, who meet together for The Corner Church board meetings. There are two sets of finances and two sets of membership roles, but everything is done together as a single church. The Corner Church has a shared ministry agreement with a very detailed list of expectations and commitments. “One of the commitments included me attending one of three Nazarene gatherings a year. This year I went to the Nazarene version of a regional gathering. We also have an associate pastor who is an ordained Nazarene minister.”
The Corner Church is a modest building located in a lower-income neighbourhood of Oshawa. “We knew The Corner Church couldn’t be about two churches surviving. It had to be about impacting the neighbourhood and that was our focus right from the start. We’ve hosted community BBQs and pancake breakfasts. We have an after school program and a food pantry. We’ve also hosted two Alphas and our first VBS. Everyone has caught the vision of serving this neighbourhood.”
Newcomers to Canada, single moms and recovering addicts are all part of the fabric of The Corner Church’s neighbourhood. “We are getting to know our neighbours. We’ve come to know Peter who is homeless, and anytime he sees a light on in the church he comes in. We’ve started putting meals in the fridge for him. We try to be hospitable and kind. There is an overwhelming sense of how much God loves this neighbourhood, and it’s inspiring to be here.”