river park church
Medicine Hat, Alberta
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to
the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with
difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As
our case is new, so we must think anew and act
anew.” Abraham Lincoln’s words reflect the emerging passion of River Park Church in Medicine Hat,
Alta., to connect with its neighbours and to see them
become vibrant followers of Christ.
history becomes his-Story
This congregation, planted by German immigrants more than 100
years back and now with the Evangelical Missionary Church of
Canada (EMCC), experienced a gradual decline over the years. Not
long ago, members wondered if it was time to close the doors.
But more recently many are beginning to feel that “God called
us to this community for a reason.” The neighbourhood has many
low-income, high-needs people, many single parents, many
people receiving social assistance, some relying on alcohol or
drugs just to survive.
Over the past few years this faith community has been shifting
its mindset from “us” to “them” as the congregation follows God’s
call to be intentional about reaching out to their neighbours. Now
the congregation of 60-80 regular worshippers is experiencing
growth ( www.riverparkchurch.ca).
Willing to love. existing to Serve.
The private school across the street rents River Park’s basement five days a week and sometimes uses the church sanc-
Called to its community for a reason, River Park
Church recently hosted an on-site community BBq.
PHOTO: Larry enSLen
tuary for special programs. Collaborative conversations are
emerging around future possibilities for co-operative building
expansion. In the public school, where a couple of River Park
ladies help children learn to read, Pastor Larry Enslen was invited to talk with the school principal and social worker about
various approaches to community transformation.
As Enslen and the congregation refreshed their vision and
motivation, River Park has drawn alongside a larger congregation named The Dream Centre, which co-ordinates a co-operative food distribution ministry with other churches in The
Hat. Food from Calgary is distributed monthly to 100 homes
as relationships are building and family needs are revealed.
About 10 members from River Park participate.
Sixty families from the food distribution program were
invited to River Park’s Christmas Banquet, strengthening relationships between neighbours and congregants. Members
researched children’s names, ages and interests in advance.
Others shopped or assembled hampers; some cooked or
served meals; many visited with invited guests. Each guest
family received a food hamper, children’s gifts and additional
The church also seized the Medicine Hat Stampede and Exhibition as another opportunity. It invited neighbours in a several
block radius to a free BBQ. About 160 people attended, 75 per