Paris Presbyterian puts their mission in to action and creates a stronger community
The majestic Presbyterian Church has been a prominent landmark in Paris for nearly 125 years.
The Paris Presbyterian congregation undertook a period of reflection to discern how they could best use their physical resources to serve the broader community in a tangible and meaningful way. As a result, beginning in 2009, they began to intentionally turn their worship focus outwards, seeking opportunities to intersect with their community.
The transformation began with the hiring of a half time children’s minister, a half time youth minister, as well as a quarter time community outreach coordinator. In 2010, they completely renovated their basement spaces to create space exclusively for kids and youth, designating congregational reserve funds to do so.
In May 2014, two congregants – Colleen Graham and Rebecca Sherbino – noted the number of people in their community on social assistance due to a variety of factors that made it hard for them to maintain ongoing employment (mental health concerns, disabilities). They set out to provide them with meaningful employment/training, launching The Raw Carrot in September of 2014 as a ministry of Paris Presbyterian, operating in their church kitchen. In the first year they made $20,000 worth of soup, or about 140 litres, of soup per week.
Other ministries that connect them deeply with the broader community include:
- Monthly free dinner
- Weekly drop in lunch, in partnership with Family and Child Services, Brant Housing and the Salvation Army Food Bank
- Provision of back-to-school backpacks and supplies for needy families annually
- Support to the local pregnancy resource centre through an annual fundraiser
- Partner with Meals on Wheels volunteering weekly to deliver meals
As a result of these missions in action, Paris Presbyterian attracted more members and grew its congregation substantially to a current membership of 300.
As the congregation sought for ways to connect they discovered their callings individually and collectively in their community. This action-led approach brought attention to the work of the church and attracted new members inspired by their social enterprise based mission work. The ability to be responsive to their community in this way directly led to increased membership. Their keys to success were:
- Children and youth based programming with space designed for it
- Listening to the community’s needs, and adjusting to meet them
- A willingness to take action in their community