A little church that could. They started almost seven years ago when an ad hoc bible study got too big for its living room. With a vision to reach out to the community, the group of mostly seniors formed a church in the Mill Bay Community Hall—and were not unaware that five churches had previously been started there, yet only one remained.
“We are determined to change that statistic,” says lead pastor Norm Sowden. Looks like they’re doing it too. A few years ago they bought a pie-shaped piece of land beside the famously steep Malahat Highway, and this August began construction. Norm hopes to be celebrating Easter in their new home. Yes, Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship is here to stay.
“We’re a very active church family,” Norm says. “One member likes to say that while most churches follow an 80:20 rule—where 20 per cent of the congregation are involved, and 80 per cent benefit—here, the numbers are reversed.”
Mill Bay Baptist was the first church on Vancouver Island to sponsor a family of refugees from Syria, who arrived one year ago. “The whole community jumped in to help. All the Cowichan Valley, including people who don’t go to church, got involved,” Norm says. They’re also supporting Grace Cowichan Church in a church plant with the Malahat Nation near the new church home.
The church was started by mostly seniors, but has grown younger and younger every year.
“Thankfully the board had the vision to invite Tammy Klassen to be our Pastor of Family Ministries, and she’s been amazing at helping us do intergenerational things.”
The first thing the church did with their pie-shaped plot was to build a playground. The second thing they did was to plant a garden.
“The seniors, teenagers and kids all work together on the garden, planting seeds and weeding and harvesting,” says Norm. “It’s so great to see them all doing things together. Neighbors have dropped in for veggies and lots have been donated to the food bank in Mill Bay.”
But with their growth in families, they’ve more than maxed out their current rental space: two-year olds and 12-year olds have Sunday School in the same room, and there’s no nursery.
“It’s really difficult to reach young families when we don’t have a great space for their kids,” Norm says.
The small community of Mill Bay is growing around them, and Norm and the church want to be able to welcome people in. That’s where the new building comes in. True to form, the Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship family is heavily involved in the construction. One member is the General Contractor, several members with construction experience are on the team, and a small hired crew works alongside volunteers.
Prayers for safety and cost control are appreciated as increasing timber prices and uncertainty about the North American Free Trade Agreement have driven up cost of materials. Anyone in the area keen to help church construction can get in touch with Pastor Norm for more information. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re extremely grateful to be part of a wider church family, both the churches on the Island and the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, the CBWC Foundation and Canadian Baptist Ministries,” says Norm.
“We’ve received lots of feedback that people are praying. We really love being part of this church family.”