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Sep20ThuOutreach and community spirit are key to Meadowlands Corps’ success in Ancaster, Ont. September 20, 2018 by Ken Ramstead
(Above) Mjrs Beverley and Ken Smith host a packed house for the corps’ 135th anniversary in June 2017 (Photos: Shawn Washington-Purser)
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Meadowlands is one of the oldest corps in Canada and was originally situated in the city core of Hamilton, Ont. Like the populations of many large cities in Canada, much of the congregation migrated to the suburbs in the mid-to-late 20th century and it just made sense that Hamilton Temple, as the corps was then known, should move as well. Land was purchased west of the city centre in Ancaster, Ont., and after conducting services in a school for five years during the transition period, the corps moved into a brand-new building.
Explorers and Seekers
“There’s a sense that we started from scratch in this new community,” says Major Ken Smith, corps officer. “But we are still fortunate to have a lot of people who grew up with the old corps when we were downtown, so we brought those long-standing Salvation Army traditions with us.”
“At the same time, we’ve welcomed many families that have joined us since the move,” continues Major (Dr.) Beverley Smith, corps officer. “So there’s this wonderful mixture of old and new at Meadowlands, deep-rooted Salvationist families that have been with the corps for generations as well as new families who have just discovered the Army.”
“While Hamilton has always had a strong Roman Catholic presence, in this day and age, many in the community don’t have a church at all to call their own,” says Major Ken.
“What Meadowlands is trying to do is to be a bridge to the explorers and the seekers,” says Major Beverley, “as well as a home for those who already believe.
“Last summer, we mounted a ‘blitz’ around the neighbourhood,” she continues. “We went from house to house handing out copies of Faith & Friends, and some new families came to our summer day camp as a result. One older gentleman who would never darken the door of any church started subscribing to the magazine and regularly comments to his children on the articles he has read. He has a foot in the door now, so to speak, and we may get him into the building yet!”
The outreach program is helped by the size and setup of the building itself.
While Meadowlands has a beautiful sanctuary and offices, it also boasts a gymnasium as well as a kitchen, prayer areas and meeting rooms, not to mention ample green space, perfect for picnics and fun fairs.
“We have a number of events throughout the year that we open up to the community, and the response is overwhelmingly positive,” says Major Beverley. “In the spring, we have an Easter egg hunt for the kids. We host community barbecues, garage sales and car washes throughout the year. Last year’s Breakfast With Santa event had a record turnout, with more than 200 people.”
Meadowlands is particularly proud of its music programs, especially the junior and senior bands, and the corps hosts several concert events during the year. The corps’ efforts have been rewarded.
“If you pop in here on a Sunday morning, you’ll see more than 150 people worshipping,” smiles Major Ken.
Part of the Community
Meadowlands is not just limited to Army functions.
“We rent out a lot of our space to community groups,” notes Major Beverley. “On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, for example, our gym hosts two different ball hockey groups. None of the players belong to The Salvation Army, but they pass by our sanctuary and see what’s on our walls, so they know what we are all about. This plants a seed.”
Corps members a re involved in all sorts of activities during the week, from monthly visits to nursing homes to volunteer visits to Army facilities in the city such as Booth Centre and Grace Haven, as well as halfway houses and prisons in the Hamilton area.
Photographer Shawn WashingtonPurser has taken many of the photos on these pages. “They encompass all the joy of Meadowlands,” she says. “The multi-generational links, the multicultural discipleship and the love felt within the corps’ walls. Our youth are Meadowlands’ hope and future, and our seniors are their examples and mentors. These photos show all of that, and more.”
“Meadowlands is a vibrant expression of faith,” concludes Major Beverley. “We’re proud to be a part of the community in which we serve.”