"Look to the Cross for Victory" – Punk Church in Edmonton, AB.

A few posts back I mentioned that there have been other new and evolving forms of church coming out of the woodwork since the film was published.

Below I’ve posted the story of one such church in the very words of one of its founders.

I wish I had known about them when I whipped through Alberta for the doc. I found the pickings to be slim in Alberta (I have a theory about this that I may share at a later date), plus the one church I did film, the sound was so poor that I couldn’t include it in the final cut.

Anyway…enjoy and be encouraged…

Shawn and I are from Lethbridge, a small city in Alberta just south of Calgary. Well… I’m actually from Tennessee and Shawn is originally from Vancouver, but that is another story in itself. Before we got married in 2004, Shawn was in leadership at a church in Lethbridge called The Gate, and had the vision or a calling or whatever you want to call it to plant a church, out of The Gate, in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city. He told me he’d move in a few years, and the church would be for people who were misfits or outcasts and artists. That was the gist of the vision at that time. We were dating at that time, when he shared with me this calling, and it resonated with me. I loved misfits and outcasts and artists. I understood them. I was one. Another idea he had, that at the time seemed to be separate from the Edmonton church plant idea, was to start a drop-in sort of a thing at the Gate for the punker high school kids downtown… …The ones with the mowhawks and black leather jackets who hung out at the bus stops, even in the dead of winter, and swore and spit at people as they walked by. He figured they should be in the church building where it’s warm and where people would appreciate their spit and swears and friendship more than the pedestrians did. (Cos Christians have Jesus in them, and Jesus loves people who do those sorts of things.)

We got married in late 2004, and that is when I came on the Lethbridge scene.

In February 2005 we opened up The Gate on Tuesday afternoons with punk shows and pizza and such, and invited the punkers to come. People from the church community were there, and joined us in loving these “kids”. We called it the After School Special and put “Punk A.S.S.” on the posters and handbills, along with a picture of a donkey rockin’ out with a microphone and a mowhawk (cos donkeys have mowhawks, ya know.). Shawn and I liked to quote an old southern man who used to be my Sunday school teacher, “If God could use Balam’s ass, surely he can use ours” (…The After School Special was named after Balam’s donkey.)

Through hosting these events, Shawn and I were introduced to the punk community. We loved them a lot. We shared life with them, good and bad, tough and easy. We fell in love with the music we heard at shows and learned about just how many wonderful kinds of punk music and fashion there are. And after a couple years, we looked down at our steel toes and realised we had turned into punks too.

We started visiting Edmonton about a year after the After School Special started, so February 2006. We wanted to build relationships with the Christian communities of Edmonton, so we started where we knew people, and just followed the bunnytrail from there. Some of our Christian friends from camp who lived in Edmonton were doing this funny experiment of living in community in a house in Chinatown, sharing life and possessions in common. Shawn grew up with the Jesus People and so still today carries a fascination with their history, so he’d heard of this sort of thing being done back then, but it was pretty awesome and crazy to witness first hand. We’d also experienced Christian community life at a camp in the mountains where we volunteered during the summers. But it was while watching this Edmonton Inner City community house have a go at community living that we decided we wanted an element of that in the church plant.

We visited Edmonton more and more frequently over the few years in between then and now, hitchhiking between Lethbridge and Edmonton. Our life in Lethbridge slowly tapered off as we turned the leadership of the After School Special over to a team of volunteers from the Gate, and our life in Edmonton blossomed.

In May 2007 we were walking down Whyte Ave in Edmonton and met a couple of street punks. They were sitting on a bench outside Mac’s and asked us for some money for food, so we went and got some pizza for them. As we said goodbye and were walking away, we realised how stupid we were for passing up an opportunity to meet some of our community in Edmonton, so we turned around, got some pizza for ourselves, and joined them. The following weekend we went back up to Edmonton and found the street punk friends again and also met a ton of people in the anarchist community that we’re still hanging around with now. That was May-long weekend, and that was the beginning of that.

Shawn and I moved to Edmonton in September of last year, 2008. There were six of us who came to Edmonton from different places and at different times between September and November, and we all moved into the house we’re in now at the beginning of November. It was a tough start, but I imagine that these things usually are. There are five of us now in the house: Joshua, James, David, Shawn, and me.

We began gathering as a church community regularly right away in November. We enjoy meals together often, cooking lots of food and inviting lots of people to come share it with us. On Saturday mornings, people come over and we enjoy brunch together, we worship together, we share in communion, and we share stories of our lives in Christ with one another. The form of this sometimes looks different from one week to the next, but the basic elements are almost always the same.

As individuals in the church, we minister in the communities God has called us to and planted us in (like little juicy fruit-covered seeds of God’s love). Shawn, my husband, works a day-job at L’arche, where he loves on his friends with disablilities. I love the anarchist community here in Edmonton. I love their children and their creativity and their music.

When we come together as a church, part of our reason for gathering is to encourage one another to go out with the “love we received through salvation” and share of Christ’s redeeming act of love with those who don’t know it or believe it. We share this both in action and in word. For a while, our name was a description of this, the Monk part being the “being”, and the Punk part being the “doing”. Like lungs or a heartbeat. We are filled with Christ, and we give Christ.

We recently changed our name to “Look to the Cross for Victory”. It now seems that the original name we gave to the church community was a working title. (We were called “Monk Punks Christian Community”.) This change in name has been very good for us, turning our eyes to what is most important, and is a constant reminder of God’s grace and love.

So that is some of our story. …It’s funny that you asked for a story, because our community loves to hear and tell stories. This one is just from my perspective, with a little bit of Shawn’s because we’re always hanging out and doing the same stuff. If you ask the other people in the house and in the greater community, you’ll hear their weird and interesting stories.

Thanks for listening, this was fun to write out.