“Love Winnipeg” by David Kang
I’ve been to a few big Christian gatherings around Canada. These have been typically characterized by a lot of loud rambunctious singing, a great band, an even greater speaker, and plenty of spectacle. In this manner, our visit to Love Winnipeg 2013 was not different. In fact, it fit the archetype quite accurately.
‘Love Winnipeg’ is a gathering of dozens of churches in the city on an overcast, mid-spring afternoon celebrating their city. The purpose of this event is to unite the different denominational and ethnic churches of the city in a celebration of the God at work in the city itself and then “love” on Winnipeg in the weeks that follow. This year’s “Love Winnipeg” is the first official event in the brand spankin’ new Investors Group Field, the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The speakers did not fail to constantly remind us, that this was a BIG moment for the city. You could say Love Winnipeg was a housewarming party of sorts.
My first impression, after the shock of the shining steel stadium standing before me, was warm. Maybe it was endorphins, exhaustion, or the Holy Spirit, but upon entering the stadium I felt comfortable and welcomed. In a behemoth of a stadium filled by the thousands wherein I look like an objectified statistic, feeling welcomed is an unexpected experience indeed.
I mentioned that “Love Winnipeg” was similar to other large Christian conferences and this has some truth. However, I quickly noticed a fundamental discrepancy between this conference and others. Most conferences that I have attended in the past were all about God, me and God+me with a healthy dose of singing worship. “Love Winnipeg” added a new variable that put a unique twist in the equation: the city. Having a conference that wasn’t about the ‘me’ was refreshing and bold because this was about the ‘we’. The speaker (I can’t remember his name for the life of me) gave some nifty sports stories and analogies (because Go Blue Bombers and their new stadium!) that revolved around the concept of team. It was a corny analogy but the attitude it promoted completely shifted my perception of the mass of people before me. I felt that I was no longer an individual who needed to compete against thousands of others to take home his piece of God, but a member of a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team who could receive and commune with God as one. By setting the mutual goal of bettering and loving Winnipeg, I felt camaraderie with people that, otherwise, I would have no other connection. The more I think about it now, maybe that is the reason I felt so welcome when I entered the stadium, there was a ‘we’ attitude, not a ‘me’ one.
Makes me think what this might look like in Calgary…
For those of you who like details… by Beth McLean Wiest
The tagline for “Love Winnipeg” is “Impacting Winnipeg with the amazing, life-transforming love of Jesus”. Amazingly, for the Love Winnipeg has been going on for more than 20 years. Churches are encouraged to be intentional about going into their communities. This evolved to the point where four years ago, the churches began kicking off the Love Winnipeg period with a joint service called “One Heart”.
The event we attended was the “One Heart” service. The idea behind One Heart is that the churches of Winnipeg give up their individual Sunday morning meetings to join together to declare One Lord, One Church, One Harvest in the their city. In past years the service has been held in the morning. This was the first year that the service was in the afternoon with the idea that denominations who wished to still have their morning service could continue to do so and still participate in the One Heart service. This worked really well for us as we were able to attend the church service at Winnipeg Center Vineyard and then quickly drive over to attend the One Heart service. The program was from 12:00 – 2:30 pm and an estimated 15,000 people from over 90 different churches were in attendance. This was the 4th annual One Heart Celebration.
From the program we received:
“Jesus taught that we are all on the same team, with the same Coach, working toward the same goal: to love and bless and serve our city for the glory of God… We at One Heart want God’s love to be practical, so we are also joining together to launch Love Winnipeg. For the next two weeks, thousands of people of all ages will be mobilized into their communities and neighborhoods to share God’s love in practical acts of kindness and service. As well, we will be taking an offering today to cover any expenses not yet met and to bless some inner city ministries that work with the underprivileged. Last year we gave over $21,000 to three inner city causes…” – Ron MacLean Chairman.
I found it really powerful to be in a stadium full of Christians who had intentionally come together out of love and concern for their city. Singing together, praying together, was incredible- a glimpse of what heaven will look like. The event actually began with a Parade of Nations and as the various flags came into the stadium, the lump in my throat got bigger and bigger. And then we sang O Canada. I was teary and proud to be a Canadian and a citizen in a country where religious freedoms are protected.
The speaker line up was cool too partly because of the number of pastors they involved in it. There was a welcome by Blue Bomber V.P. Jim Bell, a welcome by Mayor Sam Katz, prayer for the city led by Pastor Bruce Martin, offering by Pastor Junie Josue, message by Pastor Mark Hughes, Benediction by Pastor Ron MacLean. And the most powerful message (according to HtH anyway) given by former Blue Bomber star player Milt Stegall. Worship was led by Derek Zeilstra and a big choir.
I was thankful for the big screens because I think the photos capture the power of the worship music and the moments. Imagine the sound!
I was glad we were in the city for this event. It was a great way to kick off our week in Winnipeg and our trip in Canada. I am thankful for the reminder of the immense privilege we have to meet freely and publicly about our faith, to pray together without fear of persecution or being imprisoned and to proclaim a bold message in a public venue. And the Winnipegers we prayed with thought it was pretty cool we were there to love their city too…
Please join us in praying for Winnipeg- in praise for events like this one and for the list they gave below.