The Ponoka Story

by Joyce Madsen

They thought it was about transforming their building - a sanctuary, two halls, and a meandering basement. Would they tear down the old hall and replace it with housing? Could they use the back of the nearly empty sanctuary for other purposes? Was there a way to provide better access to the Thrift Shop?

What they ended up with was Klaglahachie, a Ministry of Joy. This is a ministry that focuses on the arts - music and drama, in particular. The mission of the congregation, to nourish God's Spirit within each person, has led to the exploration of new ways to touch the lives of many. It is the intent that Klaglahachie will be the vehicle for connection to provide joy and wonderment to the lives of all those involved - whether performers or patrons.

The student minister working with them, Lyn Lamers, has an arts background and has provided much of the expertise needed to make this ministry work. It is all still under development, but a very successful event was held at the end of November. The December four-day dinner theatre run was a smash hit, every evening sold out - and people wanting more.

The people of Ponoka United Church have been on a journey. Beatrix Schirner, their minister, knew it had to be about more than the building and encouraged the congregation to consider hiring outside consultants to help them vision a future. Members of the congregation and Board met with us and explored what the process might look like. The contract was approved and a year-long process was underway.

The Transformation Team worked with us to plan and organize the process and events and met with us regularly to let us know what the heartbeat of the congregation was. The 20 to 25 people who attended the workshops and events were dedicated to exploring what the future might hold for them.

They had a dream of a full sanctuary, children in the Sunday School and a return to the days when the building was buzzing with activity. The realization that the decline had happened over a long time and it was going to take new initiatives to begin the recovery process was and is a hard reality to deal with.

Beatrix worked with us to create more energetic worship, identify new possibilities, and celebrate the changes that were happening. A mid-week children's group was offered with minimal response, but they kept trying new things and working to achieve the goals they had outlined.

What did happen is members of the congregation started to dream about how to share their gifts with others in the community. Out of those dreams came the seed of a new idea - a ministry of music. The passion was there - and God provided the support. The right people in the right place at the right time - and a leadership team that was open to trying new things.

How will this ministry grow? No one knows the answer to that, but without making the commitment to work together to explore who they were and what it was God was calling the congregation to be and do in the 21st Century this new initiative with all its possibilities could not have happened.

Congregational News January 2008 Vol. 14 No. 2

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