I haven’t done a personal update in a while, but I wanted to do this one since it involves a big step toward a longtime dream. We’ve been friends of Rob and Wendy McAlpine for nigh past two decades now, and off and on over that time we’ve always talked about ministry opportunities together… “someday.” And it looks like “someday” is finally arriving! Starting in a few months, we’ll be starting a new work together in Medicine Hat, Alberta!
Rob and I have been talking, dreaming, and praying in more detail for the past few months about the possibility of planting a missional community. We’re announcing this now because we’ll be entering into the final preparations stage and wanted to let our wider circle of friends in on the news. Finally, the timing seems right, and the location is a diamond in the rough. Medicine Hat is a small city of just under 60,000 people about 3 hours southeast of Calgary. It has a surprisingly active arts community for a city its size — Medicine Hat Folk Club and the Medicine Hat JazzFest are two of their music festivals, and they also have a one-act play festival annually in June and a musical theatre each November. This kind of arts community critical in our selection of locations, as was a good relationship with the local churches. So far, St. Barnabas Anglican (cool people; they’re hosting N.T. Wright this month) has offered space if we need it, and we have been welcomed to become involved in the drama program at River Park Church (EMCC). Both understand our missional aims and that we are not intending to become part of their communities, but to plant a missional community of our own. We’re still looking to connect with some of the other churches in the area before we launch.
The community will be in a neo-monastic vein centered around a missional order. Since the cost of housing in Alberta is quite significant, we are initially looking for a large home that could house two or three families living communally in an older/established neighbourhood. It remains to be seen if we’ll stick with that since it’s such a big adjustment for all of us, but it’s a good way for us to be able to focus all of our resources as we start out. Each of us will be working part-time and giving ourselves to missional endeavours the rest of the time.
We are excited to be able to announce that we’ve found a couple of investors who will be funding our setup of a coffee house, which has some significant startup costs; their investment should cover the startup and first year until it becomes self-sustaining. St. Barnabas has offered space if we can’t find anything right away, but we’ll probably want to secure a lease someplace and get it going there rather than having to move it later. This is a big deal for us, because the investors understand what we’re about and are putting up the money at very lenient terms… no interest for five years, and partly forgivable if it flops! I can’t disclose who the investors are of course, but this is obviously pretty huge.
At the moment we’re hoping to find two more couples who would be able to pitch in with us at the outset, and are planning to be established there five months from today, on September 1st. After living in larger cities for so long, it’s going to be a delight for both of us to settle into the slower pace of a small-ish city and make our homes there. One of the families in our simple church here in Winnipeg is praying about this now, but if any of you in our wider circle share our values and feel the call, do let us know. Exciting times ahead!
Update: For those who read this post or Robbymac’s without checking their calendars, there’s some additional background available as well, in case it helps explain some of the mechanics.