“There was uneasiness in my heart and I didn’t know what to do with it.” Well, Paulo Mugarura figured out what to do with it: he became a church planter. And no one was more surprised by this realization than Paulo himself.
So just who is Paulo Mugarura? Let me borrow this bio from the Pivot 613 website, “Paulo has been on staff at churches in Ottawa as the Worship Pastor for the last ten years. His one goal in life is to connect people with Christ and has pursued this passion relentlessly for over sixteen years now. He is particularly interested in the intersections of life and faith and the wonderful possibilities that faith groups afford to the communities they are a part of.”
A couple of years ago Paulo began questioning why their church was losing worship team members 18-27 years of age. “It was bothering me. I would lose them and they would leave church. I asked the real question of, “why?” Most were struggling with the fact they didn’t feel our church was a place of grace. Even though we had all these grace filled programs like Celebrate Recovery, grace did not permeate the church.”
Other factors added to Paulo’s uneasiness, “My sister is out now and a publicly gay person. I realized that if she chose to come back to her faith she could not come to our church.”
In June 2013, Paulo attended a workshop, “How to Make Your Church a Place of Perpetual Creativity.” The facilitator drew two circles on a whiteboard. He wrote grace, mercy and love in one circle and fear, judgement and condemnation in the other. As Paulo explained, “When churches, ministries, families and people are faced with decisions, they can choose to respond with grace, mercy and love or fear, judgement and condemnation. The choices you make become your language that becomes your story and eventually your history.”
Paulo realized that he was part of a language, story and history that didn’t work for him anymore. So he asked the facilitator, “How do you change your church?”
After much discussion the facilitator finally said, “Sometimes you have to stop putting new wine into old wineskins.”
For Paulo it was as if God was shouting at him in that moment. “I never thought I would be a church planter. I always thought I would be the guy who comes alongside a church planter and tells them, “I have energy, a deep bucket of talent and experience and I’m at your disposal.” That has always been my ministry role. I did it with my Dad who is a pastor, and at my first ministry job. Someone else carries the vision and takes the hits and I’m the guy behind him saying, “Go, go, go! I’ve got your back!” This time, God was taking me out from behind others and saying, “I’m calling you.””
Paulo is a ready-aim-fire person so right after the workshop was done he met with friends Jim and Wendy Ferguson, “I think God is asking me to start a church. Would you guys do it with me?”
Jim and Wendy were in and so was Paulo’s wife Evelyn. Three people from their former small group joined them and Pivot 613 was born. They launched in February 2014 with seventy people in attendance. Paulo jokes, “We have never hit that number again!”
Pivot 613 affiliated with the FMCiC after Paulo and Jared Siebert, FMCiC’s Director of Church Planting, connected. Why FMCiC? “Free Methodists tend to have the quirkiest and “out there” thinkers. There is a willingness to allow us to experiment with new paths of bringing people to the kingdom.”
A few months ago Pivot 613 moved from the east of Ottawa to the Glebe to share space with another FMCiC church, Ecclesiax. The move has allowed people from all over the city to participate.
I asked Paulo how it was going, “It is hard work. We were in a dry spell with no new visitors but now there seems to be movement and excitement is coming back. We are a slow burn church. What drives us is an idea not a presentation so things take longer to germinate. It’s tough work but we are cool with it.