The FreeWay, a church plant in Oshawa, has the slogan, “a safe place for the journey.”
The FreeWay literally knows what it means to journey, as the church has made the recent move to rent space at Kedron Public School. This also means transporting the church equipment weekly, tearing down and setting up every Sunday. The FreeWay has no permanent space to call their own and yet “safe place” is also part of their understanding of church. To Dale Harris, pastor at The FreeWay, “safe place” doesn’t mean a building, it means belonging to an authentic community of Christ followers.
Pastor Dale talked with me about how this church has been a safe place for those who are engaged in it, himself included. He took on the church plant as a new pastor three years ago and he says the congregation has been gracious about getting to know him and his family and letting him learn as he goes.
In addition to the recent move, Pastor Dale was officially ordained into the Free Methodist Church just a few weeks ago. There is an expectation about things moving ahead for The FreeWay.
They are optimistic about their new location at Kedron Public School in Oshawa. Pastor Dale sees this move as a way to understand God’s provision. Although they have to move in to the school each week, Pastor Dale looks at the circumstances not as an obstacle, but an opportunity. “The FreeWay does not have the option of getting in a rut to maintain or invest in a structure.”
He and his congregation also realize that the church “didn’t come here by accident.” They are expectantly looking at the area around them: they are just next door to Durham College; there is a retirement complex close by; and a subdivision development is in the making. There is a lot of potential to integrate into this emerging neighbourhood. Pastor Dale says, “The challenge is seeing God’s opportunity. Not getting ahead, not falling behind.”
During our conversation, Pastor Dale also mentioned two refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo whom The FreeWay has helped sponsor and has now taken into their care. They are living with a family from the church. They are receiving help from the congregation to get established in Canada and to acclimate into the culture.
Not only is The FreeWay a safe place for these refugees’ journey, but The FreeWay is journeying through a new perspective brought by their Congolese friends. “They have had a very positive impact on our church, bringing their cultural perspective and helping us to think more globally. Their testimony is very inspiring,” says Pastor Dale. “They have brought vivacity because of their experience. Their story is a compelling testimony of God’s faithfulness to deep crisis. It’s inspiring to be a part of that.”
If you talk to Pastor Dale, it is obvious he has a heart for his congregation and where they are at. He believes mentorship is key, equipping church leaders to function in healthy and effective ways in the community of faith. Within the congregation, there are people at different points in their faith, but ultimately it’s about being open and honest with each other and travelling this journey together.
Follow Dale Harris on his blog Terra Incognita. Dale also writes for Connexion, a blog where you will find articles, resources and general musings about theological issues that impact The Free Methodist Church in Canada.