Central Baptist Church,
In 1927, when Victoria’s population was a scant 42,000, there were undeveloped lots within a block of city hall, and street cars trundled their way along a few Victoria streets, James
Rowell heard the call of God to reach this city for Christ. Eighty-five years later God’s presence continues to challenge Central
Baptist Church ( centralbaptistchurch.ca) to reach out to its
downtown community, and connect with those who may not
be drawn to church on their own.
Kevin Thiessen, pastor of missions and outreach at Central,
arrived there in July 2010 to facilitate the congregation’s desire
to engage the city yet again. Acknowledging the church is often
a “safe house for Christians,” Thiessen’s challenge at Central is
to raise up ministries using the unique gifts and abilities of current members to live out God’s truth in ways that reach others
who may be hurting, seeking and spiritually lost.
Christianity As a verb
As members at Central have learned how their community has
broken down, their desire has grown to add value to the community, meeting specific needs as God reveals them. They have
discovered their downtown neighbourhood provides many services for the homeless, but very little for low-income families.
One member of the Victoria Cool Aid Society (provider of
shelter, health and employment services) listened to Thiessen
explain this and suddenly responded, “So Christianity as a verb –
I love it!” Schools in such areas are increasingly becoming social
service providers in addition to educators, and alert churches
like Central are building trust and partnerships with them – in
Central’s case with George Jay Elementary School, representing
50 different cultural groups and 16 languages. Church volunteers
connect with staff and students, building relationships with families through lunch hour sports, choir and car clubs, one-on-one
reading, and a morning Toast Club. Through familiarity and trust,
parents and staff are realizing Central is a safe place to come.
walking the talk
A Harvest Party group from Central recently gathered 300 people
to carve pumpkins in families – two-thirds from the community.
Such activities are helping Central become known as more than
a building on Pandora Avenue – as a community of people who
genuinely care, who make a difference in their neighbourhood.
When Central floated the idea of a community kitchen,
parents said, “Host it at the church.” Community families now
connect there with church families as they learn new recipes,