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The Day We Cancelled our Sunday Service

Over the years, God has placed ministry to and with the First Nations peoples on the hearts of several people in our congregation (Emo Christian Reformed Church). As a direct result of our involvement with God’s Great Outdoors, three men from our congregation asked the question, “How can we have a shared ministry with the First Nations people living all around us?” Last winter, Larry, Richard, and Dan contacted Adrian Snowball, one of the Elders of the Naicatchewenin people, living at Northwest Bay Reserve. Adrian is also a lay-leader of the faith community living at the reserve.  At that first meeting, it was decided to try to have a joint worship service, hosted by the faith community of Northwest Bay Reserve. There were several hurdles to overcome, but through faith and some hard work the service was held on July 5.

Our regular church service was cancelled by Council, and the congregation was loaded up on donated buses for the drive up to the lake, as parking was limited. Another member brought along a golf cart to transport those with mobility issues from the busses to the beach. The local hardware store donated generators so that we had power for the mics and music. Food was donated by members of the church, members of the First Nations community, and the local feed supply store.

The location was a beach on the shore of Rainy Lake. A makeshift dock was put in position so that those who wished to arrive by boat could do so. Lawn chairs were placed in rows up and down the beach. Childcare was at the water’s edge, as the little ones played in the water. Larry’s wife played an electric organ from the front of a pontoon boat, and I brought God’s word while standing on the dock. This was a wonderful combined service, as approximately 200 of us gathered together for worship. The service was followed by a shore-lunch on the beach. Scattered in groups, CRC folks and First Nations people sitting side by side, we enjoyed fresh walleye, baked beans, deep-fried bannock, and potato salad.

We sang praises together, prayed together, gave our gifts and heard God's word together, followed by a time of fellowship and food. This service had all the elements of a typical service, but it was not 'typical'. This was the result of the work and prayers of many people; I just had to bring God's word.

At the end of it all, Adrian and I agreed that many people had told us that we need to do this again, at least once a year. In light of this, I look forward to Church on the Beach next July. We are currently in the planning stages for this years combined service at the lake.


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