Sarnia is no different than most Canadian cities in this respect: for decades now, churches in the downtown core have been struggling for survival and are finally closing their doors. Permanently. New church communities are forming in Sarnia as they chase development in the south and east ends of the city. In recent years the downtown is beginning to seem forgotten. Well if Joe Manafo (full time pastor in Calgary), Nathan Colquhoun (Tyndale Student) and Darryl Silvestri (university student) have their way that is about to change.

In February 2004, these three young men began meeting in a private online discussion about the spiritual condition of the downtown in Sarnia. These discussions formed the starting point for their new community of faith. Though physically separated by over 3000 kilometers, the three friends created a private online forum to discuss, share their thoughts and compile resources. With nearly 700 online entries detailing everything from theology to leadership structure to potential locations, the point in time came to test the waters and share the idea of this new endeavour publicly. Email invitations were sent out to family, friends, and local pastors for the initial information meeting that was held on January 21, 2006. With 60 adults in attendance that evening, the vision for this new church plant was shared followed by a time of Q&A where individuals had the opportunity to voice their thoughts and impressions. Soon after, a second meeting was held on April 19, 2006 for those who wanted to explore the possibility of what could be a little further. Over the summer they dealt with the fundamentals of calling, values and mission. Thirty-five adults participated in a dialogue that revealed much about their spiritual journeys and what God was presently speaking to them about.
The group has also taken time to formalize its relationship with the Free Methodist Church through New Horizons Free Methodist Church. The discoveries of the summer are now on record and will serve as fodder for the core group meetings that will span from September-December 2006. This four month interval will serve in getting the core team ‘on the same page’ in preparation for the public launch in January of 2007.

theStory plans to reintroduce a Christian presence to the downtown area of Sarnia, in its schools, shops and homes. With hopes of housing itself in a store front location, part of the vision of this new plant is to become integrated as part of the community by creating a common space, a high traffic area for those both inside and outside of the church community.

If you would like to learn more about theStory you can visit their website at: For more information on all of our church planting projects visit the Lifecycle Project at:

Jared Siebert is the Director of Growth Ministries for The Free Methodist Church in Canada