Both Beaurepaire United Church and Union Church have long and distinguished histories in their respective communities. Union Church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013 and Beaurepaire United celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2014. But with the changing demographics of the West Island and with the trend of decreasing resources that affects all mainline churches, both congregations began to seek new ways of being faithful to the church’s mission and new structures to promote the well-being of the congregations.
Deliberations, started several years ago, as the two congregations considered their long-term financial and ministerial viability. The representatives from each congregation approached the initial discussions with mixed emotions. Even as visions of new possibilities emerged we grieved the loss of traditions, and dreams that would never be. Our ‘assessment of needs’ was a process of searching for a future that, as much as possible, remained faithful to the past and present.
Beginning in March 2012, the congregations of Beaurepaire United Church and Union Church began discussing the possibilities of cooperation for ministry and mission on the West Island of Montreal. To this end, the two congregations agreed to work towards forming one pastoral charge with two congregations, two buildings and one full-time minister. Each congregation appointed six persons to serve on a Transition Team to develop a ministry plan and a financial plan for the future of Merging Waters Pastoral Charge, which was approved by Montreal Presbytery on November 30, 2013. This Transition Team became the Joint Needs Assessment Committee.
Both communities are vital. And in both, the vitality is at least in part vested in physical facilities. Beaurepaire has been engaged for several years in a senior’s housing development (Villa Beaurepaire) on what was previously their land and which has a direct connection to the church; Union has been developing musical and visual performance space and has been engaged for many years in musical and other community-based services. It was difficult to see how the congregations could be divorced from their buildings without significant detriment. Thus it was concluded early in the process that the buildings should, if at all possible, be maintained. Music is central to both communities, supported by well-respected and admired musicians. Maintaining ongoing relationships with these music leaders was seen as essential to the missions of the congregations. Reducing music to gain ministry was not seen as a way to maintain the base of congregational support.
A Vision for Ministry
During our work together, we became aware of some trends in the communities of Beaconsfield, Baie-D’Urfé, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, and the off-island communities of Vaudreuil-Dorion and Pincourt. The communities of Beaconsfield and Baie-D’Urfé are projected to have the highest number of seniors in ratio to the population over the next ten years. Also, the off-island communities of Vaudreuil-Dorion have the highest number of young families moving into the neighbourhood, to the extent that the English language school board cannot keep up with the influx. There is no other United Church in the area to serve these new families. Therefore, we see a great need to maintain a United Church presence in these communities.
The two congregations started getting to know each other better and held a joint activity each month, from worship services to social activities. We realized that by coming together and cooperating in a variety of ways, we are both enriched and energized. As our committees begin to work together we have a new synergy for outreach and ministry; as our numbers increase for worship we have new vitality from a joint choir and creative worship.
In June 2015, after consulting with both congregations and voting separately, it was decided to alternate Sunday worship between the two churches. This decision was for a one year trial period. In the Spring of 2016, both congregations voted overwhelmingly to continue alternating services
We realize that this coming together as a new pastoral charge is a work in progress. We are learning as we go. However, we have already come to the realization that in union there is strength and we are looking positively to the future as we jointly continue to serve God.