Horizon Weekly | 22 October 2020
By Victor Somers
MIRAMICHI, NB — The early August weekend started out very much the same as most other weekends in the Somers household. Friday evening hanging with friends and family, Saturday morning running a few errands and then Saturday evening preparing for our Sunday morning worship service at EastSide. How could I have known that Sunday, August 9, would change everything for our little congregation and possibly send the ministry in a brand-new direction?
In 2012 we answered a call to start a new church in my hometown of Miramichi, New Brunswick. Even though I was very familiar with the city and the culture, I knew that we would need to work hard to establish ourselves in the community. After a number of months of meeting with the core group in our home we moved to a public gathering in a storefront downtown. We would meet each Sunday night at a little café and enjoyed being together, hearing God’s Word and were encouraged as others began to join us.
|Victor Somers (Pastor of EastSide Church) with his wife, Jodi|
After our Sunday night Bible studies, I would usually walk home alone and had made it a habit to take a different route each week. I used this time to pray, assess the outcomes of the meeting and get to know my streets. One of my regular paths would take me up Cunard Street, past the old Vogue Theatre, an abandoned movie theatre that was once a hub of the city. I had come to learn that since the early 40s it was a daily run movie house, shuttered in early 2000, and had sat silent ever since. I began to wonder what it would mean to the city to have that community space revived and if God would use EastSide Church to make that happen. A few short months later, after an amazing turn of events, we had the keys to the building as the new owners and began renovations in earnest.
After thousands of man-hours (many of them volunteer), and tens of thousands of dollars (much of it donated), we opened our doors to the public. EastSide Church met at the Vogue each Sunday morning for our worship service and played host to all kinds of entertainment throughout the week. Live music, drama (both professional and community theatre), family movie nights, stand-up comedy and public meetings were all welcomed at the Vogue. The renovation of the theatre kicked off a resurgence of development in the downtown area, bringing with it new businesses and encouraging upgrades to existing establishments. Those who for years thought the building lost loved being back at the Vogue. Right in front of their eyes the community had witnessed what a small group of volunteers could accomplish with heart and love for their community. And we gave God the glory.
Everyone loved this old building again, which made the fire that much more devastating for everyone.
In the early morning hours of August 9, a fire, which was intentionally set at an adjacent property, eventually spread to the Vogue theatre. The building was completely consumed within a few hours and by early evening was reduced to a pile of rubble.
Throughout the following days and weeks, hundreds from the community reached out to share their condolences for our loss, many of them adding that they felt a great loss themselves. The fire, which had consumed three different properties, had not only changed the landscape on Cunard Street but had left a figurative hole in the hearts of many in our city. A lot of them then turned to me for answers, asking “Why?” and “What’s next?” And I turned to God with these same questions. The feelings of sadness, guilt, regret and anger have been an ever-present, albeit unwelcome, guest in my mind for weeks. So many, including my own family, had given so much over the years to make this project happen. And we were just getting started, it seemed. We still had so much to do. There were still so many that I thought we could connect with through the Vogue.
I know that God still leads, and the effort put into this project is not yet lost. How to leverage what has been done up till now is the question that needs to be answered. Pray with me about how God might continue to use us here in the city. Pray that God would make our next steps clear. I am convinced that our best days are not behind us but ahead of us and we are believing God for greater things.
I don’t have any more answers as of this update. The community patiently waits for word about the future of the property that now sits as a grassy field. There is a lot of energy around the idea of rebuilding, but I’m not sure I have it in me to do it again. We continue, of course, to minister to our city both through our weekly worship service and outreach events. We continue to operate our beloved little café which serves thousands each week and has become a community hub and “bumping in” space for the city. I believe God wants us to continue to be involved in the Arts community. It is likely one of the most unreached subsets of our society. They are very broken and are in many ways far from God. EastSide Church was, at one time, strategically positioned to have great influence and I’m asking God for more: more influence, more conversations and more open doors for the Gospel.
One Day·One Focus
One Day·One Focus is an exciting new virtual training event for women in ministry made possible by the unique circumstances of 2020! As colleagues from several conventions discussed the challenge presented by having to cancel in-person trainings this fall, the idea for OneDay·OneFocus was born.
CNBC Women Team Leader, Kathy Morales will be presenting one of the breakout sessions, Awkward to Awesome: Taking Uncomfortable and Fear out of Witnessing
Click here for more information...
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