38 Aldborough Avenue, St. Thomas, Ontario, N5R 4T1
United Church of Canada
Rev. Jim Phone: 519-860-1161
Church Phone: 519-631-5705
Minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care:
Reverend James (Jim) Evans, B.A.A., M. Div.
Parishioner Elaine Catchpole, left, Rev. Jim Evans and parishioners Margaret McKnight and Amy Nickson stand outside the future home of New Vision Community Church, in St. Thomas. New Vision will be created when the congregations of Grace United Church and St. Mark's United Church merge on Jan. 1. The new church will be housed in the current St. Mark's building.
Two St. Thomas congregations merge as New Vision Community Church
ST. THOMAS - Rev. Jim Evan likens the merger of two United Church congregations in St. Thomas – Grace and St. Mark’s – to a marriage.
“When two people come together – two families come together – there are things like closet space issues,” said Evans, who is a pastor to both congregations.
“But everybody is attending these things with a good spirit of cooperation, of fun, of good humour, of mutual respect, and with a sense that we’re really building something important here.”
Grace and St. Mark’s are set to merge on Jan.1, forming New Vision Community Church in the current St. Mark’s building on Aldborough St. The new church will worship Jan. 5 for the first time.
The congregations had worked together through the years, sharing worship services and doing projects together, Evans said.
But they had also been in discussions to merge for seven or eight years, in part because of structural issues at the Grace United Church building at 18 Balaclava St.
That building was sold and mostly demolished, though its former gymnasium is still standing.
“We knew that there were going to be major repairs needed on the building, and our membership had done a terrific job down through the years of working hard to keep it going,” Evans said.
“It was starting to become so tiring and exhausting to maintain a building and at the same try to do their ministry and their mission work and the membership knew that change was needed.”
Margaret McKnight, who attended Grace for about 50 years, admitted she was sad to see the church go.
“But looking at the shape of the building, it was a wise move and St. Mark’s extended their hand of welcome and we accepted,” she said.
Amy Nickson, 16, had been attending Grace for years and said she had many memories of growing up there.
But she’s happy with the merger, in part because there will be more children in the new congregation.
“It’s a new building, new friends, new faces and it’s more sound, structurally,” she said.
St. Mark’s parishioner Elaine Catchpole said she’s delighted with the merger.
“We knew we wanted to join with Grace because we are looking forward to our new goals in life and we could only accomplish that by providing some integration with United Church members in St. Thomas,” she said.
As for Evans, he said the people of Grace decided they had a vision of who they were that was going to carry on.
St. Mark’s also had a vision of something new.
“Their new name reflects that: A new vision for our community, and that’s a new vision for the community of St. Thomas as well,” he said.
“As we move forward in the new year and in the coming years, the congregation will be articulating and sharing and speaking to that new vision with our neighbours here in St. Thomas and around the world.”
By Ben Forrest, St. Thomas Times-Journal
Friday, December 27, 2013 9:30:50 EST AM