Harvest Christian Fellowship Update
Monday, February 6, 2017
Posted by: Vanessa van Klaarbergen
Harvest Christian Fellowship was planted in Cornwall, Ontario back in 2003, when Roy and Christina Stephenson were sent out from New Testament Church in Massena NY to return to Canada.
God’s hand and favour was evident from the very beginning of this young church plant. In 2005, a mere two years later, their modest congregation of about 90 people took a courageous step of faith and purchased a former Catholic Church building which had closed its doors years prior. The 50 year old facility was over 25,000 square feet and had amazing potential. It was however, in desperate need of renovation in order to be used for its newly envisioned purposes.
Renovation projects to update the facility went on over the years as the old building slowly began transforming to meet the vision of the leadership. God however must have felt that the vision was too small - and decided to shake things up.
On a crisp November day in 2013, the steam boiler that served as the primary heating source for the building exploded… literally. The loss of the church's primary heat source, paired with the grueling Canadian winter, forced the congregation to move into their lower auditorium (read: basement) which was a much smaller space used primarily for youth services at the time.
The necessity of moving the location of Sunday services came at the same time the Harvest team was re-evaluating their values and mission as a Church. Using the MFI materials from the A2 conversations, specifically The Gospel Centered Church and Creating a Compelling Church Model, it became highly evident that “how” they did church was actually hindering people from attending weekend services and discovering God’s love.
A decision was made during the early days in the lower auditorium that the architecture in which Sunday services were structured and designed should be focused on the primary target demographic; those who don’t know Jesus. Harvest wanted people to know that they could belong even before they believed.
Months passed while the boiler went through a number of repairs. The congregation adapted to their new surroundings. In fact, the layout of the room encouraged a closer and more intimate atmosphere that resulted in an amazing transformation of the hearts, minds and spirits within church. The change was so profound and recognizable, that many were declaring and confirming that God blew up the furnace!
Harvest was growing, thriving and learning so much about themselves as a church that even after the heating system in the larger auditorium had been fully repaired the decision was made to stay in the smaller auditorium – in fact they stayed downstairs a full TWO YEARS longer!
In those two years, the leadership team focused on building a church model that they could bring to their larger auditorium, knowing that they could not return to their old habits. As changes to structure were rolled out, a second service was soon required to accommodate the growing congregation in the smaller auditorium. The team also realized that in order to maintain the changes that God had made in their direction as a church, a renovation of the upper auditorium was imperative.
The renovation, once underway, took nine months to complete. It was less a renovation and more a complete transformation! Harvest was excited and proud to host its first service in the new space Father’s day weekend 2016. Pastor Dennis Lacheney had been the guest speaker at Harvest the weekend that the furnace originally blew up, and had been hugely instrumental in the following months mentoring Pastor Roy and the leadership team in the changes that they were making in becoming a Gospel Centered Church. Harvest truly has a great deal of gratitude towards Pastor Dennis and his team. In light of his enormous contribution, Pastor Dennis and his family were invited to come and to speak at the “soft opening” of the newly renovated space. Harvest also celebrated the generosity of God’s people as they were able to complete the renovation debt free!
After a few extra months of tweaking the new systems, both hard and soft, Harvest was finally ready to present their labour of love to the City of Cornwall and surrounding area! The aptly named “Elevate Weekend” occurred October 1-2, 2016. Hundreds of hours of trades and labour that were graciously donated by people from Harvest were celebrated and recognized by the congregation and by the community at large. Pastor Frank Seixas and the dedicated people of Oshawa Community Church also partnered with Harvest throughout the process by sending teams of skilled volunteers to help complete the renovation. OCC demonstrated serving and blessing others at its best! It was therefore fitting that Pastor Frank act as the keynote speaker at the Elevate Weekend services.
The story of the renovation and transformation of the building and people that comprise Harvest Christian Fellowship is a prime example of how God works through people, places and circumstances to accomplish His goals and to see His vision for His people realized. So many lessons were learned along the way and it can be absolutely stated that the people and community of Cornwall, Ontario will benefit from the changes - hopefully for eternity!
Click here for before and after pictures of Harvest Christian Fellowship!