An interdenominational, citywide church service aimed at enhancing Christian unity and community building drew nearly 15,000 believers at a downtown hockey arena in the Canadian city of Winnipeg Sunday morning.
The city’s MTS Center was packed with members from at least 62 churches who worshipped together at the third annual “One Heart Winnipeg” mega-service Sunday.
“Today we are telling everybody, including the city of Winnipeg, that we are on the same team,” the Canada Broadcasting Corporation quoted co-organizer Pastor Bruce Martin as saying. “We are not in competition. We are not threatened by each other. We work together.”
Martin is the lead pastor of Calvary Temple Church.
The service comprised of leaders and members from various denominations, including Presbyterian, Baptist, Mennonite, Pentecostal and Anglican, and some nondenominational churches in the city.
The service included a mass choir and local pastors, but no “celebrity” preacher. “This is not … Billy Graham coming in and everybody gets together because some celebrity’s here,” Martin said.
There was one “celebrity” though. Internet star Sean Quigley, who’s known for his YouTube performance of The Little Drummer Boy, did the opening musical performance.
Ron MacLean, another co-organizer and pastor of the Gateway Church, said a key purpose of the event was to help the church love their city. “There’s crime, social issues, there’s family issues, there’s poverty,” he said, according to Winnipeg Free Press. “I think the things we see in the media all the time are things we’re trying to help with.”
It’s a change that starts from the inside, MacLean stressed. “When somebody’s heart can change, their life can change.”
The participants got the message right. “There’s not enough love in Winnipeg,” a 21-year-old participant, Abby Craig, was quoted as saying. “There are definitely some organizations and some people aiming to [improve] that, but I think we can do a lot more.”
Small things, like buying a stranger a coffee can go a long way, said Craig, a member of House Blend Ministries in West Broadway, which helps strengthen community relationships.
“There are a lot of people on the streets, around here especially, that people just walk by and don’t pay attention to,” she said. “It’s not about giving them a bunch of change, but acknowledging they exist. Saying hello and asking them how they’re doing. People don’t want to be ignored.”
The first “One Heart Winnipeg” service in 2010 had 25 churches and over 7,000 people. Last year, it had 50 churches and more than 10,000 people.