The very first concept of what would later become North Park Community Chapel (now Church) originated with a group of Christians who met together to bring honour to the Lord and to share His love with many who did not know Him. Methods and styles have certainly changed over the past 40 years, but the purpose has remained the same!
In 1963, a number of families from the then four London Brethren assemblies had a burden to reach Londoners for the Lord. The result was an evangelistic crusade held in the HB Beal Secondary School auditorium, assisted by Christians from other denominations. After this united and enthusiastic undertaking, the burden to reach non-Christians was still there, and now, combined with excitement. A new church would be the way to continue the outreach!
A year of intense prayer and Bible-study followed, combined with a thorough search of London for the right place to start a church. As North-London was growing rapidly and had no evangelical church, it was decided to focus on that area. Twelve families committed to being involved in this new church work.
On November 15, 1964, the first services were held in Northridge Public School. Mr Harry Morrison, with wife, Jean, was our first Pastor/Teacher and remained in that role for eleven years. Harry spent many hours visiting in the neighbourhood, teaching and counselling. Door-to-door surveys were helpful in assessing the needs of neighbouring families.
From our earliest days and continuing to the present time, our “non-denominational” concept has appealed to people of various denominational backgrounds. The Lord’s leading was obvious, as property adjacent to Northridge Public School miraculously became available. Price tag? $10,000! Could twelve families, many with young children, handle that huge amount? Just one year later, that mortgage was burned at a New Year’s Eve celebration! Children’s and Ladies’ programs were begun in the school.
Soon our first building project was underway. Opening services were held in our new church building on Glenora Drive in May, 1968. Five years later, this building was overflowing and we were forced to begin an expansion program. This addition — gymnasium, Sunday School rooms, and auditorium expansion — was completed in 1976.
Shortly after, Pastor Bill McRae and his wife, Marilyn, joined us. Bill’s superb Bible teaching and discipleship classes strengthened many Christians and resulted in great numbers coming to know the Lord! We were growing by leaps and bounds, and saw three daughter churches begin, in Granton, Byron and Thamesford. Even with many folks leaving to fellowship in these new churches, people hungry for solid Bible teaching continued to come to North Park. This resulted in the need for a second service, and then, a third!
In the beginning, music and worship were largely traditional, with piano, organ, song leaders, soloists, the King’s Messengers Quartet, (and an occasional guitar). Contemporary worship was introduced under the leadership of Youth Pastor, Dave Annunziello, in the mid-1980’s, and has been deeply appreciated by a growing number of folk. At present, we are blessed to have approximately ten worship teams, of various styles. A number of associate and youth pastors have also complemented the work of each senior pastor.
Richard Goetze was our next pastor. He and his wife, Peggy, blessed many over the years with their care and ministry. Richard challenged us to think through many spiritual issues. Even after his retirement in 1999, he continued to preach on occasion, both at North Park and elsewhere. During this time, the need for a larger building was soon evident, and, after property considerations, our present site was purchased, the building erected, and opening services were held in 1993. Even in this larger facility, two Sunday morning services were needed, as we grew steadily.
Terry Sanderson had worked with Richard, primarily as a College & Career and Life Group Leader, and Chantelle, his wife, with our youth. Terry’s excellent leadership and ministry abilities soon became evident. After serving for a number of years as Associate Pastor, Terry accepted the role of Senior Pastor in 1996. His dynamic messages and occasional dramatic monologues have resulted in spiritual growth in many lives.
Is it obvious that “history repeats itself”? In only five to six years, we had outgrown the new building. In the year 2000, construction crews were again at work, adding more space for youth, children, library, offices, and auditorium. The price tag this time? 2.33 million dollars! We wondered again, “Could we handle that?” With God’s help and leading, we could! We had grown to four services, one on Saturday night, and three on Sunday morning. Still another expansion was needed. In 2004, the empty space above the Youth Theatre was renovated, giving us much-needed, large classrooms.
With all these wonderful facilities, we now see God at work in various ministries: Alpha, Life Groups, Adult Electives, Friendship Club, Seniors, Junior High, Senior High, College & Careers, Children’s Ministry, Vacation Bible School, Musical Presentations, Humble Beginnings Nursery School, Ladies’ Coffee Hour, etc. Many have come to know Christ personally and many others have grown in their faith.
Our focus on reaching the World outside our church walls continues to grow, locally, nationally and globally. We are presently developing a “Community Outreach Ministry” in east London, where we will work with needy families. Our Missions Ministry supports over 30 missionaries regularly in national and international missions roles. We have just added a Compassion Project in Juan Tomas, in the Dominican Republic, and an AIDS orphanage in Zambia.
November 2004 brought many together to celebrate 40 years of God’s faithfulness to North Park. It was truly a wonderful renewal of friendships, praising God, and looking to the future. What next?
The strengths of North Park over the years have been: The non-denominational aspect; inspirational, Bible-based teaching; a caring, growing, Life-group ministry; an active interest in Missions, both local and foreign; and a varied music/worship program. From twelve families in 1964, to over 2,200 adults (plus kids!) in attendance weekly; from 3 teenagers in 1964 to more than 200 today; from one pastor in 1964 to 10 full-time pastors (plus part-timers), we humbly say with the Psalmist (115:1) “Not to us, O Lord, but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.”
By Norma Kennedy, Founding Member