January 13, 2011: A Twist On Tradition New Church Has Members But No Walls.
A Twist On Tradition New Church Has Members But No Walls.
By Sheila Holmes.
If you happened to walk down Carruthers Ave. on Christmas Eve you may have seen a small group of people huddled under the arbour in McCormick Park, with lighted candles. My family joined them to get a glimpse of a new model for the church led by the Reverend Jennifer Wickham.
Jennifer was ordained in 1998 as a minister in the Anglican Church and worked as a curate (like an apprenticeship) in rural England. Her family of four moved back to Canada in January 2001 so that Jennifer could accept a new post at St George’s Church in downtown Ottawa and they lived in Blackburn Hamlet.
At the end of her tenure at St George’s Jennifer felt that it was time to do something different, something creative. She proposed a new model of a church community, one that has no physical home, and in November the family moved to Irving Ave. in Hintonburg.
SH: Where did this idea come from – of having a church without a building?
JW: In the past I was responsible for an outward focus in the church. I could see that we spent lots of time planning. This model skips all the extra meetings and gets us straight out to make friends. Instead of putting energy into running programs and the church building, we eliminate that and focus on building meaningful relationships both inside and outside of the church.
SH: What has your group chosen as their focus for serving?
JW: The first mission community chose to focus on serving families in the neighbourhood. As they considered their skills and experience they settled on a Reading Buddies Club at the Rosemount Library. We welcome children to come to the library to read or be read to. We have had some library training in making reading fun, and as all volunteers, we have had police checks. Our goal is to support the literacy focus of the classroom by engendering a love of reading.
SH: Why do you call yourselves the Hub?
JW: We called ourselves Hub because Christ is the centre; there is a beautiful phrase that says, “in Christ we live and move and have our being.” But the word Hub is also descriptive – we are a network of communities out in the neighbourhood held together by a commitment to serve Jesus as he served us.
SH: How did you choose to come to Hintonburg to live and to create your new model of a church?
JW: First we wanted to be in an urban setting and then we looked around downtown Ottawa. We feel that Hintonburg is a neighbourhood that wants to be a community, to know its neighbour, to support the Mom and Pop shops.
There are a lot of good things being done in Hintonburg, with the schools, the library, community centre, and community association. We are not planning to build programs but to join in with the good things that are already happening in the community. If we start building programs we’ll be too busy for the friendships necessary for community. We want to stay deliberately grassroots.
SH: Why were we in the dark, and in the park, on Christmas Eve?
JW: In the park we shared all three relationships by worshipping God, with our friends, out in the neighbourhood – instead of behind a closed door. It’s hard to light candles indoors and see the impact. Being outdoors at night reminded us that Jesus has come as light in the darkness. At Christmas we are celebrating that God has come to be with his people and that the darkness doesn’t have the last word.
To contact Rev Wickham drop into Reading Buddies, call 613-218-5964 or email through their website www.hubottawa. ca.