Photo: Metro Community coordinates a number of social enterprises including a community garden. Art is created at community events and in the painting studio at Metro Central community centre. (Photos provided by Metro Community Church)
Every Sunday morning, an upside down kingdom takes shape in a rented nightclub in Kelowna, B.C. The ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in the city come together to serve each other at Metro Community, a Mennonite Brethren (MB) church dedicated to serving those who are homeless in the community.
Laurence East, Metro’s pastor travelled the world before being hired at Willow Park Church (Kelowna, B.C.). His global perspective led him to ask some unusual questions, including why, if “Kelowna has the largest homelessness issue of any city its size in Canada,” Willow Park wasn’t more actively pursuing its Biblical mandate to care for the poor?
Six years later, East is pastoring a downtown church which truly embodies the call to community. The church may meet officially on Sunday mornings at the nightclub, but the half of the congregation who are homeless, working-poor, or street connected see each other almost every day at the church-run Metro Central community centre. Metro Central is the primary place in the city core open to the homeless after the shelters close in the morning, and is equipped with a music studio, painting studio, community kitchen, computer lab, and living rooms.
Metro Community members also run several social enterprise companies, including a community garden, a laundry business, a coffee shop, and a moving company that has helped move more than 150 local families in the last 18 months. These companies all employ people who would be considered ‘unemployable’ by conventional businesses.
East was inspired to minister at a local gospel mission after hearing a friend point out “that all the evangelical churches in our city had left the downtown core” and moved to the suburbs. “Within eight months we didn’t have any room,” he says. “We’d gone from myself and fifteen drunk guys on tables to seventy-five people. So someone came up with this idea of moving to a nightclub across the street and doing it on a Sunday morning. And I said ‘no, that’s a silly idea, now we’re going to have to act like a proper church!”
One of East’s proudest moments was the official launch of Metro Community three years ago, which drew a bunch of curious middle-class urbanites. At first East was worried about their presence, but then he witnessed his congregation of underprivileged and homeless worshippers serving the newcomers.
“It was an incredible picture of the kingdom of God in its fullness,” he says, “where the ministers of grace who are the most vulnerable in our community open their arms to those who have everything and say ‘come, let me introduce you to the Lord of grace.’ Quite a profound reflection of an upside down kingdom.”
Pastor East and Metro Community request prayer for the following:
- A deeper connection to MB communities across Canada. East is eager to pursue the significant opportunities for inter-church partnerships, and perhaps even potential internships within Metro Community programs.
- Metro Community will never be a conventional self-sustaining community by virtue of its demographic. “We believe there is an opportunity here for the wider family of MBs to support the ministry that’s going on here,” East says, noting that the church only has two paid staff out of its seven full-time positions.
Visit Metro Community online at: www.metrocommunity.ca
Paul Esau is a communications intern with CCMBC and the MB Herald.