Who is Our Church?

Adults, Children, History

Adults – January 27, 2019 If Our Church Were a Person

1. Which Gender? Picked PAT as name…no gender specified

2. How old?
‐Between 50 and 60 years od ‐Looking toward next stage of life ‐Still vibrant

3. What does he/she look like? (general appearance, clothes, style) ‐vibrant, active, involved

‐dressed “smart casual”
‐comfortable in own skin
‐have an updated wardrobe, but not on cutting edge of fashion ‐confident
‐put together
‐very intelligent

4. What does he/she do? (Occupation, hobbies, lifestyle) ‐welcoming

‐professional, with a large variety of skills ‐diverse interests
‐social/socially responsible
‐broadly based‐expertise, experience ‐philanthropist

‐expensive hobbies ie travel
‐would like to be more socially aware
‐financially secure at the moment but we need to plan

5. What is his/her state of health and fitness? ‐Healthy but declining in some areas ‐experiencing a loss of energy

‐on one type of medication ‐a few health problems ‐still active and fit

6. What is his/her life setting ?(recent events,new challenges,opportunities) ‐empty nester

‐have always been doing things one way (very routined) but are becoming lonely as a result

7. What is his/her favourite TV show? Music? ‐CBC/network tv

‐“wannabe Netflix person”, but haven’t figured it out yet ‐ecclectic music

8. What does he/she eat for breakfast? ‐oatmeal and a power smoothie

9. What does he/she do on Friday nights? ‐open a bottle of wine

‐dinner with family/close friends

10. If you had to introduce him/her to a friend, what would you say?
“This is a long time friend of mine, who is caring and interesting but is shy and would like to meet someone new”

*Also as a group we discussed what this persons flaws were …which were: Pat has an identity issue, and is also true introverted and routined.

Children – February 24


Here are some reflections on what emerged out of our musings on Maple Grove’s history.

The congregational story was somewhat arbitrarily subdivided into four “eras” or stages of congregational development: Infancy/Childhood (1955‐ 1972); Adolescence (1972‐1987); Early Adulthood (1987‐2002); and Middle Adulthood (2003‐2018). Alongside some details of what transpired, who was involved and when, several common strands emerged with regard to the focus and impetus of ministry at Maple Grove United.


Established as a satellite ministry of St. John’s United in a new subdivision where a number of young families had taken up residence, student ministers and the first congregational pastors made an effort to build a sense of “wider family” and community. There were door‐to‐door canvases which encouraged people to make a church connection. A number of families, some seniors and singles formed a dedicated, hard‐working, pretty generous congregation. Land was bought, funds were raised ‐‐ a building was erected in 1957 after two years of gathering in the local public school. In the culture in general church was highly regarded as a place where positive values could be learned and emphasized. Parents brought their children to church fully expecting their offspring to do the same when they got married and created families. Worship and music sought to inspire and instill “Christian” values alongside a Christian Education programme where Sunday School classes in the basement were full.

Internally, the new congregation set about creating a governing structure that focussed primarily on finance and fund‐raising (fertilizer sales started here), had visiting elders, and was virtually all led by male members.


During the adolescence period that followed, the congregation still sustained a ministry focussed on growth and building community. For many families, church was still sacrosanct as a regular part of life even


though Sunday shopping and Sunday sports had been made possible in the province, and divorce and remarriage rates in Canada were on the rise. The offspring of Boomer parents were having fewer children when they got married. Nonetheless, Maple Grove offered a wide range of children’s programming, parents often taught in the Sunday School, people still dressed up for church, youth choirs were formed. At one point there were still 190 children in Sunday School. Parents hoped children would be brought up “the way we were brought up.” Visiting elders remained active and initiatives in welcoming new members, a phone tree, and the START program all endeavoured to grow the congregation. When the outbuilding for church activities burned, funds were raised to build an addition for classrooms, new offices, and a gymnasium (1982). Near the end of this time Sandra Kerr took a leadership role in Christian Education programming and fostering a youth group. There were also frequent community building events other than Sunday morning worship such as concerts, muffin Sundays, and $2 lunches. Near the end of this time Bonnee Ware would be the first part‐time paid staff in CE.

During this time the lead ministers sought to bring matter of social justice into congregational consciousness with mixed success. One positive outcome was the beginning of an outreach ministry to “boat people” as Maple Grove United enabled a Laotian family to relocate to Oakville. A co‐ op nursery and a daycare programme were also initiated.

In terms of internal operation, founding members still held most of the power and women were just beginning to hold some offices. The move to create a Church Council was taken.


This was the first half of the long‐term ministry of Rev. Morar Murray‐ Hayes. Initially there was some resistance to having a female minister, but it didn’t last long. Some members left but those who stayed experienced strong ministry that had its own form of vibrancy, inspiration, and pastoral sensitivity. A vibrant musical programme was still maintained throughout this period, with an annual musical presentation. The handbell choir was formed in 1990.


Cultural impediments to congregational growth and well‐being included Sunday shopping, sports and recreation now in full swing; rising housing costs in the neighbourhood made home ownership difficult for many young families.

Support staff and volunteers enabled a continued focus on children and youth programming. At times the youth program was a definite drawing card. There were some large youth groups and one confirmation class (held jointly with youth from St. John’s United) numbered 51. Youth often took on leadership roles in the congregation.

The START program ended in 1990, but other new initiatives were begun, some of which are still ongoing. Among them were: the formation of a congregational caring team to take on pastoral visiting and prayerful support; lay‐led summer services and shared summer services with St. John’s United; congregational galas were held for special fund‐raising purposes; some efforts at congregational spiritual renewal were offered; different Outreach appeals were launched in support of the Canadian Food Grains Bank and Sleeping Children Around the World. Morar helped found the local Interfaith Council.

LGTBQ issues and movements for social acceptance and inclusion were high on the church radar throughout Canada. The United Church took on pioneering stances and initiatives.

All that was well and good, though as the millennium arrived both a decline in Sunday School attendance and a continually aging congregation were noticed.


Morar continued another fifteen years of ministry built around fostering caring, supportive relationships, and sense of congregational “family”. She would get a doctorate in ministry early in this period and a number of congregational members shared in her research project. She would retire in August 2018.


A number of support staff were hired to take on Christian Education and other responsibilities so that some focus on children and youth could be sustained. Messy Church worship on a monthly basis was started. The pastoral caring team remained in place and expanded its focus and energies. A strong music ministry continued to offer inspiration and spiritual nurture during Sunday services. Local lay leaders began Centering Prayer sessions on Tuesday evenings.

Maple Grove United was not immune to increasing social pressures being experienced on churches throughout Canada and North America: an aging congregation, declining Sunday School (down to 60 and dropping); few or no infants in the church nursery; grown children moving out of the community of Oakville; more retirees becoming “snow birds”. The local neighbourhood density rose along with the costs of housing and an influx of Asian residents was noticeable. A plethora of weekend activity options or other responsibilities made regular church attendance difficult. And … there was an increasing use of electronic social media in the culture.

Some of the highlights or deliberations during this period included:

  • –  A referendum: Stay put or Relocate? Maple Grove stayed put andrenovated her sanctuary and the kitchen. An elevator was installed.
  • –  Developing long‐term and short‐term rental agreements with othercommunity partners and individuals. Notably a Montessori School and daycare programme; a volleyball group; exercise groups and monthly community card‐playing afternoon; cubs and scouts; a Saturday morning meditation group; Chinese seniors’ group, and Chinese New Year’s celebration days.
  • –  In addition to operational funds, a number of special funds were created and supported by members of the congregation.
  • –  Outreach programs added support for Kerr St. Mission’s neighbourhood outreach programmes, assistance in relocating Syrian refugees, and an indigenous student scholarship.
  • –  There were a number of discussions and round‐table reflections on the congregation’s mission in the community including an Edge consultation in 2016 that resulted in an Identity Mission Needs Analysis exercise and report. Some felt there was more focus on


envisioning future uses of the church facility than on serving people out in the community.

For some, there are outstanding questions: Should there be succession planning? Can we bridge generational gaps if our church is not evolving?

Do you hear and notice what I hear and notice? (Harry)

Ministry at Maple Grove United has had a consistent (now somewhat dwindling) focus on faith as a means of upbuilding family and supportive relationships. She has always had dedicated, hard‐working lay members who find inspiration for their lives of faith in worship and music and Christian service both within the church and beyond the church. The Edge IMNA survey reported rather accurately: “Maple Grove United is a faithful congregation with strong ties to the local community and a culture of hospitality for people of all ages to find a place of belonging”. In her sixty‐ one years of existence she has always sought to supplement the nurture offered in worship with a variety of Christian Education offerings, an increasingly more active pastoral care focus now shared by laypeople, respected and well‐chosen local leadership (now more gender inclusive), reliable financial management and congregational giving for local and other purposes, and an openness to sharing her church facility with the neighbouring community.

There has been a gradual and noticeable shift in focus from being an inward‐looking congregation to seeking to be a more outwardly‐active congregation that is still in transition. As she heads towards the quarter‐ century mark of a new millennium there is mixed measure of anxiety as well as hopeful expectation and excitement. Her openness to newness and being adaptable will be a good ally on that journey. Her commitment to building life‐enhancing and faith‐fed relationships will serve her well.

Another overall general observation would be that when on occasion there have been times of tension in congregational life, none of it has boiled over into divisive conflict and much of it has been diffused or allowed to fizzle out in its own time. People in this congregation are quite good at still hanging together.