A few weeks ago Bishop Keith sent me an email suggesting I chat with some folks from Edmonton Free Methodist Church (EFMC), “It’s the story of how a dying church can turnaround. Ten years ago, we thought that this church was going to close, but today we see a story of the faithfulness of God to a few people who had vision and persevered through some pretty tough times.”
Eleanore Frend is one of those faithful visionaries. Eleanore has been part of the EFMC community for forty-five years. She has been active in Sunday school, she has served on the board and is a member of the worship team. She has worn many hats over the years and as she puts it, “I’m just a willing soul.”
Ten years ago the church hit a low point. The congregation consisted of eight or nine people, they were relying on supply pastors every Sunday and financially they were surviving week to week certain that they would have to close the church doors.
Eleanore recognized it would require someone with administrative experience to keep things going until they could get new leadership in place. She stepped up to the plate and became the liaison between EFMC and the Ministry Centre. At the same time the small congregation asked Patrick Lashley (one of the supply pastors) if he would consider hanging around for a bit longer. As Pastor Lashley told me, “I came in 2005 just to help out. We thought we’d stick around until the congregation experienced a turnaround. We didn’t envision being there more than six months. It’s now eight years later.”
The turnaround was a slow and steady process. I asked Eleanore what motivated her to fight so hard to keep this little church afloat and she told me, “I’m loyal as an old dog.” And her husband’s parents had a long history with EFMC so out of respect for them Eleanore felt she needed to give it a shot.
And so what has EFMC become? In Eleanore’s words, “A vibrant multi-cultural church.” The congregation is not only multi-cultural with several families from Ghana, Congo and the Philippines but it is also multi-generational. As Eleanore explains, “We need the experience of the older people and the older people need to accept new ways of doing things and change. The two have to work together.”
The face of the church has changed and as Eleanore told me the change has been embraced, “We decided at an early stage we wanted to celebrate the diversity in our church and take from each ethnic group the best of ourselves and celebrate.”
While there are still financial challenges at EFMC, they have come a long way in ten years and they continue to look ahead, “Our church will remain changed and it will change with each year that comes. And that is not a bad thing.”