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Aug30TueA simple Bible verse about love transformed a corps in Montreal. August 30, 2011 by Ken Ramstead
Captain Pierre Croteau was in rough shape. The corps officer of the Centre Communautaire Chrétien in Montreal had been laid up for weeks, after a freak gym accident in February 2010 fractured his big toe in five places.
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As a result, Captain Croteau's doctors forbade him to do any of his customary activities, such as visiting sick members from the corps.
Essentially confined to his office while his wife, Captain Claudine Tardif, dealt with the day-to-day business of the church, Captain Croteau had time to think, and there was much to occupy his thoughts.
A Frost in the Winter
The Centre Communautaire Chrétien is situated in the east end of Montreal. From meagre beginnings in 2007 of less than three dozen parishioners, by 2010 the congregation had grown with its members representing 23 countries.
“I know, because I have to find and purchase the appropriate flag every time we welcome someone from a new country!” laughs Captain Croteau.
While the congregation seemed outwardly content, there was a malaise that occupied his thoughts.
“Many of the parishioners from different nationalities were not talking to one another,” says Captain Croteau. “Many families had separated. There was a frost on many of the relationships. Plus, my corps had merged with another and there was a tension that I didn't how to resolve.”
A Plan is Born
All through that winter and spring, Captain Croteau read Scripture and focused his thoughts in prayer, seeking guidance from God.
The more he prayed, the more he realized what the answer to his corps' problems was. He found himself focusing his reading on John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
While there was no doubt in his mind that the Lord was speaking to him, revealing his will for the congregation, it took him months before he unveiled his plan of action.
“I thought it would sound pretentious,” he says. “But week after week, this inspiration kept coming back and I had no other alternative but to proclaim it to the church members in order to free myself from the idea.”
When he did, it took the form of weekly sermons that concentrated on the theme of brotherly love, as highlighted in Psalm 133. Week after week, Captain Croteau concentrated on this, using other verses in the Bible to support this theme.
“When you get down to it, it's really not such a burden to preach on brotherly love.”
Words on a Wall
The theme of brotherly love fostered an atmosphere of unity that bound the different nationalities and cultures together. In addition to the weekly sermons, the theme was reinforced in Sunday school, Bible studies and all other corps activities.
Slowly, the congregation began to embrace the concept in their own lives, and many confided that their thoughts had also been directed along the same lines.
“It seems that God had been speaking to all of us,” says Captain Croteau.
The campaign has been going strong now for 16 months, and the corps has even printed John 13:35 on the walls of the centre in huge letters for all to see. New members have flocked to the corps. In fact, it has doubled its numbers.
“It's just amazing what happened in the hearts of our members,” reports Captain Croteau. “We've seen children making up with their parents with whom they've had problems in the past. Old friends or acquaintances have buried their differences and grievances and we've seen couples reconciling. We are a happier church family, stronger now than we have ever been.”