When theStory, a Free Methodist church in Sarnia, ON, closed its doors last year, it was an ending, but a year later something new is beginning in that space. The building that housed theStory is located on the main street in downtown Sarnia. Like many smaller downtown cores, it has been revitalized over the past ten years with new shops, restaurants, and businesses. In other words, it’s a pretty sweet location. The denomination didn’t immediately slap a “For Sale” sign on the building. They took time to discern if the space could be used for a church plant or a ministry that could effectively serve the community. Enter nightlight Canada and FM Church Planting Coach Evan Garst.
Nightlight Canada is a multi-denominational Christian ministry that operates drop-in centres in Belleville, Cambridge and Kingston, Ontario serving the marginalized. Through their drop-in centres they address relational poverty by creating safe places to build meaningful relationships. Relational poverty refers to lack of community or support system. Everyone is invited, including those who would normally be excluded. Evan reached out to Ben Platz, nightlight Canada’s Executive Director, and asked if nightlight had considered planting in Sarnia because a space was available that would make a great drop-in centre. Ben did his homework, visited Sarnia, and chatted with a bunch of people. There were lots of other signs that it was God’s will to plant nightlight here in Sarnia, and so the work begins.
Ben, Evan, and Steve Lapp, pastor at Next Church in Kingston now make up the interim board of theStory. They acknowledge all that has come before them in theStory as they seek to build on their legacy and follow where God leads. For now, theStory will continue to host groups which seek to advance the Christian faith in Sarnia, and they hope, one day, it will be home to a new church plant. Nightlight Sarnia will rent space from theStory for its drop-in centre. This will keep the space viable and help to subsidize nightlight’s good work in the community in gathering the church and engaging those at the margin.
There are several volunteers in Sarnia who are working together to spread the word about nightlight, find monthly donors, and recruit volunteer teams to staff the drop-in centre. It is a challenge to start something new during a global pandemic, but one that has been embraced because right now we all clearly see just how important relationships are to our health and wholeness.
So, the story of theStory continues with a new chapter. Please pray for nightlight Sarnia.
By Alison McKinnon
Communication Content Developer