Above: Pastor Greg Fraser talks to his congregation on Father’s Day 2012 about the church’s new name and the new church they planned to build on property next to Heritage Lake.
Below: Heavy equipment stripped top soil and laid down two metres of clay to raise the footprint of the new building. A sign at the edge of the property announces the future home of The Father’s House’s Morinville location.
by Stephen Dafoe
It was three-and-a-half years ago that Greg Fraser’s congregation gathered in a Sturgeon County field on Father’s Day to hear the news The Father’s House was the church’s new name and the spot they had gathered to worship that morning was where that new church would rise.
Winter snow now covers the tracks of the heavy equipment that moved many piles of dirt between Oct. 19 and Dec. 11, preparation work for a 40,000 square foot church, gymnasium and school that will start to rise over the next few years on their property next to Heritage Lake.
The name of the church was decided in 2012 when 95 per cent of the congregation voted to take Morinville Christian Fellowship’s ‘Welcome home to the Father’s House” motto as the church’s new name. The congregation and their leadership regard the church as a church built with CARE, an acronym for Celebrate, Accept, Receive and Engage. But they have also taken financial care in planning the new facility.
Back in 2012, the congregation had raised almost $2 million in less than two years, enough to pay for the land the new church would rest on, and the preparation work to make the church a reality. The recent preparation work cost approximately $1.1 million.
Doug Fleming, one of the church’s building committee members, said the fact the church is outgrowing both the cultural centre and their Christian school is a good problem to have. “There simply is no place in Morinville for us to go, so we need to build our own church,” he said. “We were at the school location and outgrew that. We went to the Parish Hall and outgrew that. Then we went to the high school and outgrew that. The cultural centre is a big beautiful building, but for our children’s ministry, there is not enough room. We’re almost to the point of pulling the bleachers out on a Sunday service because we’ve grown that much.”
The new church will serve a present congregation of about 400 members, a solid growth from the 25 members who met in Cardiff 10 years ago when the church first began.
The first phase of the project will have room for all. It will include a school and a gymnasium/sanctuary, the latter forming the major block of the building. Fleming explained the church wants to use everything more than once. As such, offices will be ministries when the school is not using them, and the school’s gymnasium will serve as the room for church services as well as providing a venue for the community. A future commercial kitchen will open opportunities for other events, including weddings, and the gymnasium will be open to local and regional tournaments.
“It’s going to be for everyone,” Fleming said of the project, adding the timeline for completion is roughly two to three years, depending on monies raised. “That’s the interesting part because it’s all based on fundraising.”
The initial fundraising push ran from 2010 to 2013. That money was used to buy and prep the land. Fleming said the church will now reenvision fundraising to build the church. “The next portion has to be raised before we can build the building,” he said. “The next phase will be $4 million. Total project — about $7 million. Our builders are totally on side. They understand from day one this will go as far as our funds go. We’re a church. We don’t have a profit centre we can pull from, so when we run out of money, we hold off on building.”
Fleming said the church facility will be a two-floor building with a foyer leading to the sanctuary/gymnasium. The main floor will include a children’s ministry room, and the upstairs will house both church and pastoral offices as well as the Christian school. The building will be a basic square in the interests of keeping costs down.
It’s been an interesting learning curve for Fleming and the other six members of the building committee. “We’re just people in the congregation,” he said. “When you are people just getting together — this stuff is so big. The learning curve is huge. They’re a very committed bunch. We’re learning as we go and relying on the experts.”
The Father’s House are hopeful the community will be as excited about their project as they are. “It’s for everybody,” Fleming said. “It’s going to house our church, our school, anybody that needs to use our facility. It’s going to be accessible to the community.”