I was quite impressed with the Telegraph-Journal story entitled “Apohaqui’s ‘miracle’ church to mark 10th anniversary” which ran on September 8th. It chronicles the 10 year history of the Apohaqui Community Church which has grown to over 500 attendees on a Sunday morning.
I like this story for two reasons. One relates to the culture in New Brunswick and the other to ‘preachers’ in general.
1. Regardless of your religious persuasion, Apohaqui Community Church is a great metaphor for what could happen in New Brunswick. Just imagine when Rev. Vincent decided to set up in that small rural community 45 minutes outside of Saint John, what the ‘detractors’ said:
Vincent, you crazy guy:
-Apahoqui is losing population
-The community is dying
-There’s not enough money to even come close to supporting your salary let alone the costs of a church
-The old people won’t accept your new ‘community church’ format. Unless you sing The Old Rugged Cross every week, there’s no one living in Apahoqui that would even consider coming to your church.
Well, the rest as they say, is history. There are 500 people attending the church in a community of 238 (one assumes the catchment area is a little larger than that). They just moved into a $3.2 million facility and have a team of pastors and staff.
In my opinion, it comes down to vision. I have met this Vincent and he is a passionate guy with an unyielding vision for that community and his church. He is bringing a sense of hope to that community.
2. My father was a Baptist minister before he retired. I watched as Pastors, Priests, etc. went from men of respect in the 1970s to among the most maligned in the 1990s. I saw a survey in the 1990s that placed ‘men of the cloth’ down with politicians as the least respected occupations in Canada.
Now, I think they are making a little comeback. I see that in my church, Hillside Baptist, and with others such as Vincent. I hear there are even a few groovy Priests emerging in the local Catholic church.
I am not drawing any conclusions here about religion, hope, community development, etc. But I will say this. If indeed a new breed of Minister emerges in New Brusnwick with a message of selflessness and community mindedness, I can’t see how that would be a bad thing.
I sit in church every Sunday and am bombarded with messages of hope and optimism, of selflessness and of ‘putting a towel on my arm and serving others’. I leave every week thinking that even if you were to take all the ‘religious’ elements away, that’s a message that would be beneficial for all of us to hear.
I, like most people, tend to be absorbed with my own little life and my own little problems. But there’s a little thing out there called ‘community’ and you can define that as your church, your neighbourhood, your town or your province but either way, it could use some of your time and effort.
So put a towel on your arm and get out there and give something back.
I just read this week about North Dakota’s 900+ ‘ambassadors’ who are business leaders and men/women of influence who on a daily basis pitch the benefits of locating business in North Dakota when dealing with suppliers, partners, customers and anyone else with a business interest outside the state.
That’s not exactly saving souls but it will go along way to saving the ‘soul’ of the state’s economy.