*(Originally published in the May 2022 edition of Isien Usko. Used with permission.)
Over 85 years ago, Finnish immigrants to Timmins, ON, and first generation families gathered to formalize St. John’s Lutheran as a faith community.
Over the decades, the church was a bustling centre of activity as each Sunday they gathered for worship, taught the children about their faith and held language classes in both English and Finnish. They hosted many suppers, provided pulla bread for the community and were involved in outreach to the local hospital and other areas of need.
They were energetic in sharing their culture with the wider community around them and were willing to be part of cultural events in the city of Timmins.
The Finnish pastors who served that community were many, and they all brought their own character and vocational commitment. They led the congregation faithfully and with true zeal for Christ.
However, following the trend of many church congregations, attendance eventually started to decline. Families got older, some moved away and other members reached the fullness of their time on earth. An amalgamation with St. Mark’s Lutheran in Timmins brought new energy to the community in South Porcupine. For a period, the congregation was once again busy with community ministry.
In 2013, the congregation discerned that a full-time pastor was no longer financially viable for them. So, in 2014 they moved to part-time ministry as provided by an Anglican priest, the Rev. Patricia Dorland. They continued to meet and worship weekly and Finnish pastors sponsored by the Suomi Conference and the Eastern Synod came throughout the year, offering Finnish language worship services and pastoral visiting as possible. This was greatly appreciated by the congregation, as worshipping in their language of the heart was very important.
Finally in 2019 it was decided that maintaining the building was no longer possible for the congregation and the process began to put the building up for sale. In June of 2020, the building was sold to Access Better Living (ABL).
Since taking possession of the property, ABL has worked very hard to repurpose the space in order to provide three programs for their clients; The Respite Care program, the Adult Summit program, and the recently renamed Jr. Summit program (formerly Extend-A-Family).
The two stained glass windows that were given in memory of congregational members were kept in place and are a beautiful focus for spiritual calm.
A large mural, painted by the Porcupine Art Club, is a pastoral scene of mountains. This image is a visual affirming of the Centre’s programming goal for their clients. This is ABL’s explanation for calling the new centre, The Summit. “Life is all about learning. We are always learning new things, and facing new challenges. Here at The Summit, we encourage you to be a mountain climber, to set a goal and work hard to achieve it! You are unique and can do great things!”
The opening of the centre was on April 30 and in attending that celebration, it is very clear that The Summit is a wonderful re-imagining of the use of the building. Sometimes it is difficult to picture what we cannot see; to envision how God works in the community where we live.
Change is difficult if we are afraid, if we do not trust God’s plan for his people and if our faith falters. We give thanks for The Summit and pray that all who enter will continue to receive the peace of Christ.
God can do infinitely more than we could image. We could not have pictured this vision, but we believe God was at work!
At our recent congregational meeting it was decided that to be good stewards of the legacy left to us in the form of proceeds from the sale of the building, some funds could be used to support other ministries doing God’s work in the world.
Therefore, the congregation approved donations to the local hospital children’s healthcare, the local food bank, a group that provides hot meals to those needing nourishment, the Eastern Synod General Ministry Fund, and a donation to Canadian Lutheran World Relief.
We are very thankful to all the saints of St. John’s Lutheran who have gone before us and who had entrusted to our care their time, skills and resources. We hope that we have been faithful to God and to them.
St. John’s Lutheran Church congregation continues and is worshipping each Sunday at Kulta Koti, a senior’s residence, in a space that proves easy access and a whole new community to reach out to.
We continue to be a faithful people who follow Christ. We continue to gather to praise, pray and listen to Holy Scriptures. We come to Christ’s Table as people who have been saved by grace! Thanks be to God.—Rev. Patricia Dorland