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Creative Gatherings Lead to New Connections

January 27, 2021

Photo: Resonate Global Mission

The coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for churches to host Advent and Christmas gatherings, but with support from Resonate Global Mission, two Christian Reformed church plants have new connections in their communities.

Community engagement grants from Resonate helped make it possible for Bridge Church in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, and The Caledonia Gathering in Caledonia, Mich., to host creative and safe worship services in the midst of COVID-19.

A Christmas Eve Drive-In Worship Service

After more than 800 people attended an Easter Drive-In worship service hosted by Bridge Church in March 2020, the church plant decided they couldn’t miss the opportunity to reach people on Christmas Eve.

But the idea wasn’t originally on their radar, and it almost didn’t happen.

“What was amazing to me was how God inspired our volunteers at Bridge Church to make it happen,” said Pastor Ryan Pedde. “We prayed together for four days to seek God and see if we should do it. Every person … knew the time and effort it would take.”

In the end, the team pulled it off with less than 10 days notice.

They held the worship service in the parking lot of a community center so people could drive in, tune in through the radio, and worship from the safety of their cars. A community engagement grant from Resonate helped cover the cost of the venue, advertising, sound, and television screens.

Just like at Easter, Bridge Church hosted hundreds of people, and hundreds more joined online. News of the drive-in worship service spread quickly. The local radio station, newspaper, and even outlets in Edmonton—a large city nearby—covered the event.

Pedde said the event wouldn’t have been possible without support for Resonate—and definitely not without the work of Bridge Church’s committed members and volunteers.

“God brought together a wonderful group of women and men for Bridge Church,” said Pedde. He said they have passionately helped spread the gospel in their community through two drive-in worship services, community concerts, a #ForTheFort service campaign, discipling new believers, and so much more.

“One of the most exciting parts of church planting is to watch how God brings people together to build his kingdom,” said Pedde. “I am so thankful to be part of a community who wants to reach people with the gospel.”

Hope in the Dark

The Caledonia Gathering hosted a “Hope in the Dark” outdoor worship service where people could easily social distance.

“The lack of ability to gather as a whole church in person with our community since March 2020 has been difficult,” wrote Pastor Corey Van Huizen in the community engagement grant application to Resonate.

“It has slowed people's ability to invite their neighbors,” he continued. “While it’s all well and good to invite them to our online experiences, there's something special about gathering in person with others.”

With financial support from Resonate, the church plant was able to safely gather on a farm the Sunday evening before Christmas to sing carols and hear a hope-filled gospel message. December in Michigan is windy, snowy, and icy—and the grant from Resonate helped cover the cost of hot chocolate, face masks, and fire pits that the church plant can continue to use for future community events year-round.

Three new families joined The Caledonia Gathering for worship that evening, including a young couple that Van Huizen and his wife have been praying for and connecting with over the past two years.

“It was certainly an out-of-the-box way to gather people safely during these uncertain times and gave unchurched folks a glimpse of what our [church] cares about most: people knowing Jesus,” said Van Huizen.

Church plants are typically able to reach people in communities that established congregations have not been able to reach—and that’s why Resonate provides community engagement grants. The financial support helps make it possible for church plants like Bridge Church and The Caledonia Gathering to share the gospel with and connect with new people.