| Jun 15, 2016

The congregation of Land O'Lakes Emmanuel United Church celebrated the dedication of their church on Addington Road 2 just north of Northbrook with an open house on Saturday, June 11. They have already been worshipping in the new space for over a year and a half. Before that they spent more than five years undertaking the arduous process of amalgamating the congregants who had been attending the Cloyne, Riverside (Flinton) and Harlowe churches.

The church, which had been a private home with a large garage before it was converted into a church in 2013 and 2014, features a 2,900 square foot room that is used for worship. Many of the key religious elements, such as crosses, the baptismal font, etc., as well as the piano and organ, came from the former churches, but from the start, the congregation and then pastor, Judith Evenden, felt that a new space was necessary for the congregation to come together in their own collective space.

“It also would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to bring the older church buildings to the point where they could satisfy not only our needs but the building code as well,” said Janice Andrew, the current chair of the church council, and one of the people who was involved in the amalgamation process since the start.

The renovations have been ongoing even after the church opened one and a half years ago.

“Let's just talk about walls,” said Andrew, to demonstrate how much work was done. “We removed the wall between the garage and the house, bedroom walls, the living room and dining room wall. We also put in a new floor, furnace, air conditioning system, new windows, paint, new stairways, a sound system, ramps. It was a lot of work, and there will always be more, but we are basically done now.”

The congregation decided not to put in church pews in their main hall, which gives them a lot more flexibility when it comes to how they worship together and how easy it is to use the space for other purposes.

Reverend D'Thea Webster came to Land O'Lakes Emmanuel in September.

“I've been here as we put the final touches to the space. Aside from the work on the space, what is really impressive to me is how much work has been done on a human level, to make sure everyone is welcome in that space. I couldn't tell when I came here who was from Riverside, who was from Harlowe or who was from Cloyne. It has been one unified congregation from the day I came in, and that is a tribute to all the work done before I arrived, and to Judith Evenden,” said D'Thea Webster.

Janice Andrew agreed.

“There were times, when we were going through the amalgamation, that some of us said we should go ahead and sell the three churches. We were anxious to move ahead, but Judith said it was important to keep hearing from people. She insisted that we give the time to people to discuss things very, very thoroughly and gently and gradually come to a decision. One of the things she kept insisting on was that 'everyone has to have their say' ” said Andrew.

“You can see why when you think about it. There is still grieving going on because people naturally have attachments to the place where they were married, where their children were baptized and confirmed, and married even. Spirits dwell in those rafters. There is still pain for some people who have not been able to come back, although there have been people coming back.”

Andrew was one of the people who first took note of the house that became the new church and she said that although it is not located right on Highway 41, which was what was planned, everyone who went to look at it had the same feeling.

“As soon as they got out of their car and walked to the building they could feel a sense of peace. We all knew this was the right place for us, and it is,” she said.

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