With 300 regular attendees, averaging about 210, each Sunday, the Erickson Covenant Church congregation has been finding space rather tight.
But starting March 6, there will be a bit more breathing room, when the church begins offering two Sunday morning services, at 9:15 and 11:15 a.m., spreading out the members and allowing the recent increase to continue.
“It’s kind of like a family that kept growing and their house was never expanded,” said Pastor Tom Greentree, who has been with the church for nearly five years.
“Everyone sees the need, everyone feels the need,” added Jo-Ann Ewing, the children and family ministry pastor.
About 24 per cent of Canadians cited no religious affiliation in the 2011 National Household Survey — a significant increase over the 16.5 per cent reported in the 2001 census — so the Erickson church is bucking the country’s secular trend.
“It’s been steady, with a lot of young families, a lot of people returning to church after many of church not being part of their lives,” said Greentree. “We want to be the kind of church where when they do that, they’re surprised to find a warm, welcoming community to get engaged in.”
Adding a second service will make that possible — come March 6, newcomers won’t have trouble finding a seat.
“We don’t want to hang out a ‘no vacancy’ sign,” Greentree said. “The primary reason is to make room for people interested in finding out what their next step is.”
The church has been serving the community for over 75 years. Originally located at the east end of Erickson Road, it moved to its current home at 6017 Canyon-Lister Road in 1979.
Throughout the decades, family has been an important focus, and that held true for Ewing and Greentree, who found the church through their respective in-laws.
“It was just a natural fit to attend with the family,” Ewing said.
Adding the second service requires a greater investment of time from volunteers, about 30 of which are required for each session, including the adult service and children’s classes. Not all roles are doubled, though, as in the case of the church’s live band.
“The music actually is a pretty attractive part,” Greentree said. “People will go to a coffee shop or bar for live music, and that’s great, but they’re not expecting high-quality live music here.”
Members are always ready to give back to the community at large, whether through its annual family fun day or the fruit pickers’ lunch each summer.
“We’re pretty unapologetic about the fact that we want to help people find and follow Jesus,” said Greentree. “But we’re not hung up on the nitty-gritty pieces. …
“There aren’t a bunch of strings attached as to whether we will care. “Because that’s not Jesus. That’s not his heart.”