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“We need to engage with the culture and the best place to do that is in the city.”

David Kitz
Spur Ottawa Correspondent

It takes an extraordinary level of faith and courage to buck the trend and swim against the current. But that’s exactly what three young pastors are doing as they plant churches in Ottawa.

At a time when many aging congregations are dwindling, and churches are shutting down, these enterprising men of faith are doing just the opposite. They are starting thriving young congregations that are impacting their neighbourhoods for Christ.

Jon Ruby

Jon Ruby speaks at Union City Church. Photo courtesy of Jon Ruby.

These church plants are also bucking another trend. Rather than starting churches in the new and growing suburbs, they are setting up shop near the urban core.

“Really for generations now, the church has been fleeing to the suburbs,” says Jeff Scott, pastor of the newly planted WestVillage Church. “We have been living in our Christian bubbles. But that’s not what Christ called us to do. We need to engage with the culture and the best place to do that is in the city—in the urban space. This is where the influencers live.”

The WestVillage Church held its first public service at Notre Dame High School on January 17, with about 240 in attendance. Since then, their Sunday attendance has consistently been in the range of 200.

“Unfortunately, many of these new believers didn’t feel at home or particularly welcomed in most of the churches around the city.”

Scott freely acknowledges the help he received from the Metropolitan Bible Church.

“A lot of research, vision casting, and ground work took place before our launch. The Met is really our mother church. None of this would have happened without their support.”

Before launching the WestVillage Church, Scott participated in an intensive two-year training program for church planters called C2C Network. One of Scott’s C2C training partners was Jon Ruby.

Ruby also recently launched a church in the urban core called Union City Church. While the WestVillage Church is geared more to urban hipster, Ruby’s aim is to reach those who have fallen through the cracks—addicts and those in trouble with the law.

Ruby’s passion for this demographic group stems from personal experience. Though he was raised in the Church by loving Christian parents, as a young adult he became trapped in a world of drugs and crime.

In 2006, after his turn around, Ruby began working at Jericho Road Ministries, where he developed an addiction treatment program. Consequently, he has seen many lives transformed by the grace of Christ.

“Unfortunately, many of these new believers didn’t feel at home or particularly welcomed in most of the churches around the city,” he explains.

This need led Ruby to found Union City Church.

“We need to be present here, living locally.”

Union City Church is currently meeting at the Bible House, but they are in negotiations to relocate to the Hintonburg neighbourhood. If that relocation occurs, they will be near neighbours to a third church plant, Resurrection Church, which meets in rented space at the Orpheus Theatre on Fairmont Street.

Ben Jolliffe is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church. In March 2014, he moved here from Toronto with his young family and a goal of planting a church in the city. Today the church has outgrown its space, with regular Sunday attendance approaching 100.

Jolliffe attributes much of that success to a very purposeful engagement with the people of the neighbourhood.

“We need to be present here—living locally—meeting with our neighbours.”

When asked why he planted a church in this urban environment he say, “It’s actually quite simple. There are more lost people here, per square foot, than anywhere else. We need to engage with them. Many of them don’t have cars. They’re not going to come to our churches in the suburbs.”

Resurrection Church is part of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is doctrinally conservative and evangelical. Sunday services follow a liturgical format. Jolliffe draws inspiration from the work of Tim Keller and his urban-centric church in New York.

There are those who would say churches are dying in the city. That may be true, but right here in Ottawa we have three churches proving that after death comes resurrection.