What was initially a coffee discussion between Dean Cooper, one of the pastors at Peace Portal Alliance Church, and Steve Bains, one of the pastors at a neighbour church, Gracepoint Community, has become so much more.
Over time, more churches and their pastors joined with Dean and Steve and a dream began to develop. The dream – churches all over the city serving the community as one body of Christ. The result was a breakfast meeting with City of Surrey, Mayor Linda Hepner, in her private meeting room one day just over a year ago. Five churches were represented at that meeting and unlike most meetings with the Mayor, this group of churches wasn’t asking for anything. In fact, ‘the church’ was asking how they could partner with the City of Surrey in ways that would most benefit the City. Mayor Hepner shared her main concerns and the meeting ended with ‘the church’ promising to grow involvement all over the city and to meet the needs presented by the Mayor.
Over a period of 18 months, ‘the church’ grew from five to dozens of churches all over the city joining together to be the body of Christ serving the City. Churches began to increase their serving quotient with emphasis on the issues raised by Mayor Hepner.
In April of this year, the Mayor invited a delegation back for a breakfast meeting to report on progress. 11 churches were represented and each provided a report to the Mayor on the ways they are serving the City. Mayor Hepner was quite taken aback by how much ‘the church’ is serving together and responding to the needs of the city.
The churches served by:
- Aiding the Poor – community kitchen, community dinners, tax clinics, counselling
- Helping Refugees – sponsorships, creation of a Syrian Friendship Centre, advocacy for immigrant oppressed by employers, ESL classes
- Reaching out to At-risk Teens – partnering with the RCMP and school board on the WRAP program (teen gangs & violence), mentoring
- Supporting At-risk Children – Adopt-a-School program, breakfast programs, backpack giveaway
There is also a Dream Centre – involving many churches and similar to the Dream Center in Los Angeles – in development. In each of the areas above, many churches either partnered together in the venture or supported it financially or with volunteers, or both. Rarely is only one church involved unless it is a specific need, for example, Chinese ESL in one area and Syrian ESL in another.
Mayor Hepner has decided to take one full page of the city’s annual Parks and Recreation mail-out to highlight how ‘the church’ is serving the city. She also offered to take a part of her weekly “Mayor’s Moment’ email communication piece to highlight a church and how it is serving.
The opportunity is significant because it allows church and denominational barriers to come down while the church service quotient to go up. There is a big administrative function in all this, but for Dean Cooper and Steve Bains, it is worth the effort.
“Jesus is our leader, and He served others, we are just doing what we believe He is calling us to do,” says Dean, Pastor of Administration at Peace Portal Alliance Church, “and it exciting to be working with so many like-minded churches all over Surrey.”