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Schomberg United sold, congregation thrives

March 16, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Rev Sheilagh Ashworth of St. Mary Magdalene in Schomberg has offered the United congregation a place to worship. Schomberg United minister Brian Nicholson will be retiring.
By Mark Pavilons
We take each new step with a certain amount of trepidation and cautious optimism.
There is strength in numbers and there’s certainly strength in faith within the congregation of Schomberg United Church.
The church building has been sold, but it will remain in use for its intended purpose as a place of worship by a new congregation from Aurora. The church, built in 1948, will enter a new chapter in its history, as will the small but resilient group of parishioners.
Plagued by high overhead costs of maintaining the building, they made a difficult decision. Both the local board and the United Church of Canada wanted to ensure the sustainability of the local congregation. With the sale of the property, the congregation can now more fully concentrate on its outreach programs and use its volunteer force more efficiently.
An important component of their new vision is that the congregation is allowed to invest the proceeds from the church building sale and use the investment income to help fund their choice of community outreach projects. One example of this is a new Seniors’ Ministry that could help provide social connections, meal programs, transportation for shut-ins, etc.
It will also be joining with others, just down the road on Church Street in the village. St. Mary Magdalene, led by the Rev. Sheilagh Ashworth, has welcomed their brothers and sisters with open arms and open hearts. The Schomberg United Church congregation looks forward to renting space from the St. Mary’s congregation for Sunday worship services as well as for special events such as fundraisers.
It’s a bold, new move by United Church officials, but it was spawned out of necessity.
The United Church cares about Schomberg and has an obligation to have a presence in the community.
The decision, voted on by the congregation, was “incredibly hard,” according to the minister, Brian Nicholson. They’re leaving the building behind, but walking a new road, and heading in the right direction.
Collaborating with one another is a “golden opportunity” to share space and get to know other members of the community.
Nicholson said the important thing is retaining the meaningful aspects of faith itself. Rev. Ashworth agreed, noting the back-to-basics approach to worship is what matters.
“It makes sense to do ministry together,” she said.
Things that bind people together is caring for others, for the poor and less fortunate. This fundamental passion drives most congregations, regardless of denomination.
“We want our towns and villages to be places of compassion,” she added, noting Schomberg and King need local churches.
Ministering to the people is vital, Campbell noted. For the past year or so, Schomberg United has been holding a monthly service at the Kitchen Breedon Manor, nearby on Main St. just next to the village library. They also have grown a very strong youth group, which meets out of Schomberg Public School. The “Schomberg Youth Club” has been meeting weekly for almost five years now, offering free recreational programming for local youth on Friday nights for ages 10 to 16. The success of the program can be chalked up to understanding the needs of the community and providing strong youth leadership.
The move, he said, will also free up valuable volunteer time. Volunteers have spent an incredible amount of time on maintaining the church building.
Sunday, April 10 will be the last service at Schomberg United. It will be a time of celebration and paying tribute to the people who have helped keep things going. They are encouraging past members to return and join in this final celebration together.
The “stars have lined up for us,” Campbell said, offering praise for Nicholson, who provided exceptional leadership and “stick-handled” them through this latest transition.
Rev. Ashworth is confident there are a lot of good things to come.
Nicholson said he’s delighted about these next steps in the journey, but admitted there is some sadness. He’s spent the past eight years in the charge, a time he thoroughly enjoyed. He’s heading off to retire in Australia.
Schomberg is a thriving community and the congregation has taken hold and embraced this new chapter, this new reality.
Campbell said they’re looking for community support through this evolution.
The congregation will still be associated with Nobleton United. The two congregations, who are a joint charge,  are currently in a search process for a new minister and look forward to moving on with their vision by hiring someone who shares the same passion and values as the retiring Rev Nicholson. Both Nobleton and Schomberg United Churches will continue to work closely together, sharing staff and resources.
The first service for the Schomberg United Church congregation at St. Mary Magdelene will be April 17. Services will be at their usual Sunday 9:30 a.m. time and St. Mary’s Anglican parishioners will continue to meet at their regular 11:15 a.m. service time. The suggestion has already been made to have the two congregations share a refreshment and conversation time between the two services.
Coming to the community will be Saint I. Tesviteanul Romanian Orthodox Church, which was established in Aurora in 2009. The Romanian community in Aurora has roughly 700 members.
Ashworth noted King’s early settlers worked hard to create a community church.
In fact, roots in the community date back to the Union Sabbath School in Brownsville, that began in 1856. The well known Methodist Church followed in 1881 and closed in 1901. In 1925, the Methodist Church joined with the Congregational Church and many Presbyterian churches to form the United Church of Canada.
That strong spirit still permeates the community.
And that’s a very good sign for the congregation’s sustainability.

         

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