Rev. DeVries is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Wingham, Ontario, Canada.
As you may recall, the Wingham, Ontario congregation was admitted into the fellowship and communion of the Protestant Reformed Churches in January 2004. The congregation was organized in 1979 in the neighboring town of Listowel. In 1988 the congregation, with eight families, bought an old mechanic shop in Wingham. With much volunteer work, the congregation transformed it into a church building. A portable building was added on as a lunch-room/nursery. This building served very adequately for twenty years for the Wingham congregation.
In 2007 the congregation attempted to purchase a Christian school building near the neighboring town of Lucknow. This was motivated in large measure by the fact that a school society had been formed that desired to establish a Protestant Reformed Christian School in our area. This school building was of sufficient size to serve the dual purpose of church building and school. But in the providence of God our offer to purchase this facility was not accepted.
The Consistory continued to investigate other building possibilities as they came to our attention through the diligent labors of our Building Committee. In the spring of 2008 we focused our attention on the former Salvation Army “Citadel” property in Wingham. This building had been vacated a couple of years ago when the small Salvation Army group decided to reconstruct a building on Wingham’s main street that would serve for both their worship and their thrift store. By this time they were eager to get their former property sold.
On May 26 the congregation was invited to view the building, and on June 9 a special congregational meeting was held to consider a proposal to put in an offer to purchase the Salvation Army property. On June 26 another special congregational meeting was needed. On July 16, 2008 our second offer was accepted! The closing on the purchase of this property took place on October 8. That led to two busy weeks of cleaning at the new building. Moving to the new building was accomplished on Wednesday and Friday, October 22 and 24. Sunday, October 26, 2008 was an exciting day for the congregation, as our first worship services were held in our new building! On Friday, October 31, we held our Reformation Day lecture in our new church and hosted approximately twenty visitors.
Our new property is in very good condition. A few minor repairs have been made. We hope to do some painting in some of the rooms in the near future. The building itself is brick, constructed in 1963. It is centrally located in downtown Wingham, just one block west from the main street, directly behind the historic Town Hall. This is a much more prominent location, which will serve to make us better known in the community and, we hope, lead to more visitors at our services. It has a very nice sanctuary, which includes pews on the main floor. Very little had to be done in the sanctuary. The seating capacity is about 150. The acoustics in the sanctuary are excellent!
The building has a full basement, with a large fellowship room and kitchen, as well as a nursery. On the main floor, at the rear of the building, are several additional rooms that originally served as living quarters for the “officers.” It was suggested that the current pastor and his wife could be moved into this part of the building—but that notion was quickly vetoed! Some of these rooms we hope will serve as classrooms when the school is able to begin operation. On the south side of the church building there is an old white wood-frame building that served as Wingham’s “Loyal Orange Lodge.” This building was erected in 1873. It is reported that in the early days Wingham Orange Lodge had the best fife and drum band in western Ontario. In recent years the Salvation Army used this building as their donation drop-off and sorting center. Decisions have not yet been made with regard to this building. It may be torn down to provide additional parking and/or playground.
We are thankful that, in the providence of God, we were able also to sell our old property so quickly. Of course, the transition to our new facilities leaves us with mixed emotions. Many, no doubt, miss the coziness of our former building. Nevertheless, so far things are working out very well in our new building. We are thankful too for the wholehearted effort and cooperation that has been seen over the course of this project. The Building Committee and the Consistory have had a lot of extra work. Everyone in the congregation pitched in with the preparations at the new building and with the moving.
In our first worship service in the new building we were together reminded that the church is not made of brick or wood. It is not the facilities that are the important thing. We heard the Word of God in Ephesians 2:20-22 regarding “The Building of God,” God’s people being gathered and built up as living stones into a holy temple unto the praise of our God. We remain thankful for the solid foundation upon which we are built—the truth of God’s Word as we hold it dear in our Protestant Reformed Churches, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
We cordially invite you to visit us at our new location—292 Edward Street in Wingham, Ontario! It is our prayer that our new facilities will be used unto God’s glory and unto our blessing as a congregation. May Christ continue to build His church in Wingham!