Photo: The worship team. (Photo provided by The Westside Gathering)
The story of The Westside Gathering’s transition from church plant to established church is one of perseverance in spite of challenge.
Located in Montreal, one of the most secular cities in Canada, Westside faces the stigma of being a church in a largely-post Catholic society. Pastor David Manafo and the church members work hard to break down both religious barriers and religious ignorance.
To recalibrate and prevent burnout among its members, the church took a month-long Sabbath in 2008. Now the vibrant and growing community encourages members to have “church at home” throughout July every year. To a conventional church this might seem unusual, but to Westside it’s simply part of creating sustainable ministry.
“We’ve realized that it’s a way that helps us trust God,” says Manafo, “to realize that if God’s talking about rhythm and rest and Sabbath then let’s figure out how to do it corporately.”
Drawing inspiration from Ecclesiastes, Westside pursues its seasons of Sabbath and ministry with equal dedication. The church runs a breakfast program at a local school, feeding 35 to 40 children every day of the school year, as well as organizing a monthly outreach to students and their families. Westside also partners with Canada Revenue Agency to operate a free annual income tax clinic for immigrants, people on welfare, and underprivileged individuals in the community
The focus “is not [just] the taxes, it’s [also] the volunteers,” says Manafo, “Half of our volunteers aren’t Christians, and Revenue Canada now sends volunteers to us. So when we interact with them, orient them, spend a day together, and then two weeks later have a volunteer appreciation dinner, it’s a neat mix of our own church people and unchurched people who are serving together.”
Westside Gathering and Pastor Manafo request prayer for:
- Spiritual conversion. People have been coming to faith within the community, but Westside is still fervently praying for God to show himself to the people of the West Island.
- Greater courage among church members to share their faith both through actions and words.
- Growing community groups and spiritual communities. “We want to multiply into neighbourhood churches,” says Manafo. “Our desire is not to grow big in one location, so our desire right now is community groups saturating the West Island and the rest of the city.”
Visit The Westside Gathering online at: www.westsidegathering.com
Paul Esau is a communications intern with CCMBC and the MB Herald.