Betty and Greg Fraser sit with Pastor Glen Forsberg during a special event honouring Fraser’s 10-year service to his church and community. – Stephen Dafoe Photos
by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Tears stream down Pastor Greg Fraser’s face as he stands side by side with his wife Betty and children Mitchell and Michala on the Morinville Community Cultural Centre stage. Fraser’s brother Doug has just told the story of how he broke his finger because Greg kept bashing his face against Doug’s fist. But it isn’t the story of childhood sibling fights that has the pastor shedding tears; it is the love he feels from those gathered on the stage and the love pouring his way from the roughly 400 who have gathered to surprise and honour the pastor after 10 years of leading his church, The Father’s House Christian Fellowship.
The church has come a long way over the past decade. Originally called Morinville Christian Fellowship, the church had a struggling congregation of 30 when Fraser and his family came from Fort McMurray to Morinville, a journey through which daughter Michala cried all the way.
But father Greg got his daughter to write out a list of pros and cons about the move. Though that list contained more cons than pros, the pros have come to outweigh the cons over the past decade, as the family has become an integral part of the community they now proudly call home.
It is that same gentle, fatherly approach and the same sense of family that has lead to the Father’s House growing over the past 10 years. From 30 faithful gathered in a small hall, to a larger number gathered in the high school gym, and presently to a thriving and expanding church that takes over the entire cultural centre each Sunday morning, The Father’s House is attracting people of all ages to Morinville, as well as Bon Accord and Rochester where the church operates satellites.
But while lavish praise was sent Fraser’s way Nov. 2 by his family, his friends and his church, the man was humbled by the experience. “I think I cried through half the worship,” Fraser recalled. “Honour is such a huge part of our church family … so for these guys to do what they’ve done and put this together – we had no idea. It’s quite overwhelming.”
Fraser said when he and his family came to Morinville the congregation was wondering if they should go on. But the church did continue on. “God just continued to do great things among the youth, among the children, among families, and we’re probably well over 400 people today.”
While Fraser and his congregation place credit for the success with the one they serve, the pastor also places the success at the feet of his congregation. “God’s kingdom is the only kingdom that the highest value is people,” Fraser said. “So the Kingdom of God is a family and that’s why we’re called The Father’s House. The truth is that none of this would happen without the people. It’s all about the people. Every person is a story. Every person is a minister. Every person has a ministry and a story of the things they have gone through, whether it be triumph or whether it be tragedy. We could sit and celebrate every person in that room for the influence and the effect their lives have had in this region.”
One of those stories is that of wife Betty, whom Fraser refers to as an amazing woman of God. “[She’s] very compassionate, very mercy-driven,” Fraser said. “She’s just an amazing support, an amazing example of Christ-likeness to me.”
The welcoming and open nature the Frasers bring to their church family has become the culture of the church, one that empowers the individual and keeps the focus on empowering the collective in doing so. It is a come-as-you-are attitude that manifests itself in greeters welcoming regulars and newcomers as family.
That sense of welcoming many feel when entering The Father’s House is something recent attendee Joe Gosselin has felt to the point where he said he was moved by the experience. “The Father’s House is unlike any [church] I have ever attended,” he said, adding he was invited by his daughter and arrived in a suit and tie because that is what he expected. “Well I was one of three wearing a suit. The other two were the pastor and some guy I didn’t know. People came in with their Tim Hortons, wearing ball hats, jeans, chewing gum etc.”
Gosselin said after the initial shock of realizing that perhaps he didn’t know as much as he thought he did, he came to realize the church is just happy people have come to share the Word of God. “How you’re dressed, what you’re eating or drinking, doesn’t matter, nor should it, I’ve come to learn,” he said. “The live band to sing the songs with will have you swaying back and forth as you sing.”
But it is the pastor Gosselin has particular praise for, as did the nearly 400 who attended the recent gathering honouring his 10-year commitment to his church and his community. “[He] has yet to fail to have me laughing out loud during his sermons,” Gosselin said. “I was sure this was the part to catch a few winks, but it’s hard to sleep while laughing.”
Having grown from 30 to more than 400 in 10 years is evidence the church or its congregation have not been sleeping. In addition to weekly services in Morinville, Bon Accord and Rochester, the church meets during the week for a prayer group, hold a popular Soul Café event for area youth, and have recently begun a series of monthly information sessions on parenting, marriage and personal finances that will run until next summer.
“We’re looking forward to the next 10 years,” Fraser said of continuing the Lord’s work in Morinville. “My famous phrase with the church is ‘What’s next, Poppa?’ As we continue to go forward I look forward to the stories and the families and the people that will be influenced for generations to come.”