Two heritage churches partnering to form new Jarvis Community Church

By Shelia Phibbs

The Haldimand Press

JARVIS—For more than 150 years, Wesley United Church and Knox Presbyterian Church have served Jarvis as places of worship and community outreach. On July 1, the two congregations are beginning a new partnership of shared ministry and fellowship, worshipping and working together as the Jarvis Community Church.

The planning for this move has been in progress for more than a year, with consultations and approval from both congregations as well their denominational national church bodies. The partnership is considered to be breaking relatively new ground as Wesley member Ross Gowan says, “It’s not that common for different denominations to come together.”

Though not common, there is a guide book for United, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Lutheran congregations to follow should they consider joining together. The guide highlights the differences between each of the four denominations. When it comes to United and Presbyterian, Doug McBride of Knox says, “There is not a lot of difference.”

McBride explains that Knox actually started considering options for the future more than two years ago. A critical factor in their decision was the church building itself as meeting accessibility standards was a going to be a challenge. He says, “We’re looking for a future for our congregation, not our building. This is the best way we can see moving forward. Right from the start there was a real strong sense of wanting to stay in Jarvis. The sense of community in Jarvis is very strong.”

Gowan agrees that joining the two congregations will establish a stronger congregation that offers an ecumenical, shared ministry. He says, “There is a real spirit of working together in Jarvis.”

Both Gowan and McBride believe that the Jarvis Community Church will build upon the current community-based ministries including Seasoned Souls (monthly dinner program for seniors); catering for the Jarvis Lions Club; providing facilities for various clubs and organizations; supporting the Jarvis Caring Cupboard; and other community outreach activities.

As pandemic restrictions are lifted, they hope to re-        engage with community events such as the Jarvis Community Vacation Bible School and the breakfast program at Jarvis Public School. They also look forward to strengthening youth programming and McBride says, “We feel that so much good can be done with youth ministry.”

The Jarvis Community Church will begin to gather for worship on July 4 with an outdoor service at 1572 Haldimand Road 55 with Rev. Kim Shantz as the inaugural minister. Indoor services will resume at the former Wesley United Church on July 11. Further decisions on services and other church activities, including adherence to COVID-19 rules and guidelines, will be made by a new board of directors.

As these two long-standing congregations prepare to come together as one, the histories of the Wesley and Knox congregations, including anniversaries, will continue to be honoured. Gowan says, “We value that heritage but we want a new partnership to look forward together.” Whether worshiping, singing, or dining together, the Jarvis Community Church is welcoming to all for a fellowship that is shared with the church family and community.

For more information, visit the Jarvis Community Church Facebook page. Services will be live streamed on YouTube, except for the July 4 outdoor service which will be posted as a recorded service.