In March, The Salvation Army’s Hope Church and Community Services in Ajax, Ont., celebrated the grand opening of its new building after more than a decade of planning, fundraising and construction.

Since the church opened in 2000, the congregation has been using rented space for worship, from school gymnasiums to local movie theatres, making it difficult to establish a consistent presence in the community. Discussions about a new building began in 2012, and in 2015, a generous local builder, Jerry Coughlan, took interest in the project and stepped in to give his expertise and a generous $2-million donation. This initial contribution kickstarted community support and other fundraising efforts from the congregation, and by 2019, Hope Church and Community Services broke ground on its new building.

“It’s a unique project in the sense that our community services is the landlord, and the congregation is a renting tenant,” explains Major Jason Sabourin, corps officer, who serves in Ajax with his wife, Major Tammy Sabourin, community ministries director. “Walking through the building, we’re able to show people that the dollars are being stretched as far as they can from a stewardship perspective.” 

Ribbon cutting ceremony at Hope Church, Ajax, Ont.
The ribbon cutting at Hope Church and Community Services in Ajax, Ont.

The new property allows for expanded programming and endless opportunities for community outreach, according to Major Jason Sabourin. The building is designed for multipurpose use with three floors and more than 1,800 square metres of mission space, including a café, food assistance program, meal programs and a commercial kitchen, and recreation areas with pickleball, badminton and various sports courts.

“We don’t have a traditional sanctuary, but we have a gym that we use for worship,” he says. “Other than our administration area, most of the spaces can be used for multiple things, such as youth programming, adult learning classrooms and more. It’s a much more dignified environment for our services.”

At the end of March, congregants and the community gathered for the official grand opening with Colonels John and Lani Chamness, chief secretary and territorial secretary for spiritual life development. Army personnel and government dignitaries participated in an open house with tours of the facility and a ribbon cutting, and the following day, Hope Church celebrated with its congregation during a Sunday service and reception.

According to Major Sabourin, the project has been embraced by supporters and members of the corps, and requests are already coming in for use of the space by the community.

“The floodgates are opening with more opportunities for programming, but we are grounded in the fact that we’re still doing the same ministry that we always have—still loving people, caring for them, meeting needs, and trying to transform communities by the love of Christ. We just have a better tool to do it now,” he says. “We want people to come to know the love of God, and to know what that means. We can use this new space to provide needed services, but also to connect—creating relationships with people and with God is top priority.”

Photos: Willia Miejer

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