Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking three times on the occasion of the 153rd anniversary of Côte des Neiges Presbyterian Church in Montreal. I suspect that, while I was there to provide spiritual encouragement to the church and to call the seekers to faith, I probably got more out of being among these people than they got from me. Let me tell you why.
In that congregation I saw a snapshot of the Kingdom of God, and it was beautiful.
The congregation is reflective of its neighbourhood in terms of its ethnic makeup, and there are people from – quite literally – all over the world who worship God in that community. To watch them in praise, and then in fellowship over meals, was truly a delight.
One incident that stood out for me involved a young Brazilian couple who had just moved to the city for school. Neither spoke English, but at least one of them spoke Spanish, and serendipitously, a Spanish-speaking woman in the congregation sat with them and translated the service after they wandered in for worship (intentionally seeking a Presbyterian church, since that is their background). Then, at lunch, she introduced them to the Pastor of the congregation, and he asked if they had any needs. His desire for these folks, along with welcoming them into the faith community, was to make sure that their physical needs were met – something this congregation has become known for, even among government social service agencies, which are often suspicious of churches.
The young Brazilian couple was then escorted into the church hall to enjoy a great meal, with 150 other people of all ages. And I’m assured that they will have been given a doggy-bag of leftovers, as happens with several people each week when the church sits down to a meal. For some in the congregation, that meal is their biggest of the week, and a highlight of their lives.
At both worship and meals, there were children roaming around, making sounds, and what did the church do? Nothing. Why? Because having children roam around, making sounds, is normal. We can rejoice when these things happen, because they are signs of life. It’s great to see a growing church in this day and age, and that one is growing!
Somehow, I suspect that when I enter the great marriage feast of the Lamb, it’s going to look a lot like Côte des Neiges Church. And that will be wonderful!
Why am I telling you this? The hope is to encourage you, that there are churches being effective in doing God’s work. I hope yours is one of them. When we visit other worshipping communities, we have the opportunity to learn things that will help us make our own churches into little snapshots of the Kingdom of God.
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133.1, NRSV).