Kingdom Collaboration Connects Two Canadian Churches in Unlikely Season
By Julie Campbell
In the middle of a most unlikely season, a kingdom seed is taking root in two Canadian provinces. What started as an idea has blossomed into a beautiful partnership between two Church of God congregations.
Southview Church of God in Medicine Hat, Alberta, has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. Like many churches in Canada, the congregation was unable to meet in person for a length of time. When the church finally did open up, mask mandates caused some to not return. With about fifteen senior citizens left as the active congregation, Southview needed a partner to come along side them in their time of transition.
Enter East Side Church of God in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, pastored by Kevin Snyder. For several years, the church had the idea of developing satellite congregations (house churches) in their own province, never dreaming that the Lord would call them to minister in a neighboring province.
Snyder admits he was a bit hesitant when district director, George Lutzer, approached him. Snyder said, “In the midst of COVID [he] asked us if we would consider coming alongside our sister church in Medicine Hat. It was two hours away…. We had just finished an expansion before the pandemic…. COVID also raised concerns of what the finances would be like when people can’t come to church.”
Despite his concerns, Snyder brought the idea to the board.
“Our governance board responded overwhelmingly in favor. Four high-capacity leaders stepped forward…and the journey began,” explained Snyder.
After some major health difficulties prompted the resignation of the interim pastor at Southview, the team at East Side was challenged to provide Sunday services right out of the gate.
“Our four lay leaders—Henry Klassen, Doug Robertson, Perry Gryde, and John Peifer—stepped up and took turns driving two hours one way to lead and host the services,” said Snyder.
A search for a campus pastor led to Andreas Striefler, who grew up in Medicine Hat.
“Andreas is such a gifted pastor, and God gave him a heart for this city,” said Snyder.
On October 3, about forty-five people attended the formal installation service at Southview.
“We have had about four new family units who have indicated they want to come on board,” said Snyder. “We see the most immediate step of guiding a team around Andreas and providing an inspiring worship experience for the congregation.”
For the time being, Southview streams in the worship from East Side each Sunday. The church also streams preaching from East Side on most Sundays.
“My role in many ways is much like most pastoral roles,” Striefler explained. “I help facilitate Sunday gatherings, meet with congregants, and am a part of the board. The weeks that I do speak, it is connected to the current series that East Side is on.”
Striefler also joins East Side for staff meetings every few weeks.
“This allows me to be a part of a team, pray with other pastors, and encourage them as well as they continue to seek God’s kingdom for Swift Current.”
The hope for Southview, said Striefler, “is that it gets to a place where it is self- supporting, thriving, and healthy within five years.”
Both Snyder and Striefler agree that the example of two churches coming together during a difficult time is sure to encourage the body of Christ.
“Far too often we have focused on our own success without recognizing we are part of the same team as part of God’s kingdom,” said Striefler. “The hope is that this also sets an example to both of our churches as to what it means to see the kingdom of God as bigger than themselves.”
Julie Campbell is an editor at Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and a freelance journalist. A former city girl from Chicago, she enjoys country life with her husband, Russ, on a five-acre apple orchard in Madison County, Indiana. She is a blessed mom of three wonderful young adult children and one very spoiled white boxer.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) collage: Southview Church of God exterior (left), prayer for Pastor Striefler (right).