All Saints', Waterloo: Exterior - View from southwest
By Rev. Marty Levesque
When designing the new church and community centre at All Saints' Anglican Church in Waterloo we began first by listening to the needs of the neighbourhood. We allowed the neighbourhood to heavily influence the design of the new facility. And to achieve this outcome we engaged in the practice of missional listening. But what is missional listening?
Well, it includes but is not limited to, listening to God and culture, observing your neighbourhood, asking questions and listening to the answers, asking more questions, doing research and following hunches where the Spirit will lead.
We intentionally observed our neighbourhood and walked the sidewalks each day from planned routes to observe seasonal changes but also deviated now and then to experience something new. We became aware of our local culture. Every neighbourhood is different, and every neighbourhood has its own culture. We read every local paper, blogs, and listened to podcasts. We followed closely local Facebook groups and when possible, we would chat and interview neighbours. We asked simple questions like, What brings you to the rink/field/church today? Name one thing that would improve the quality of your life? What can the church do to help you?
We sought out and interviewed community leaders and potential partners (other not-for-profits). We met with other local Christian leaders to understand their impressions of the mission field, and we had many meetings with our elected officials to gain their insights from a government perspective and leaders in the community.
We were prepared with many questions for our civic leaders, such as: What demographic shifts are underway? What kind of problems exist in this community? What divisions are there in the community? How is Christianity perceived in the community? How could the church assist? Who else can you connect me with?
We asked other Christian denominational leaders who are the different types of people living in our neighbourhood? Do people in the neighbourhood interact with each other? What is your prayer for those living in the neighbourhood? What do you think is on the mind of your typical neighbour?
And of course, we interviewed as many neighbours as possible asking them to tell us about their average weekday in their life. What is their average Saturday or Sunday like? What bothers them/ keeps them awake about their life today? How have they seen the neighbourhood change? What do they love about living here? What is their dream for the neighbourhood? How could we help them realize that dream? Where do you meet with people from this area?
Over many years and many conversations, interviews, and missional listening, the needs of the neighbour influenced and eventually drove the design of the new church and community centre. We are extremely grateful to each person who spent time with us and who helped us understand how best to serve the neighbourhood and we look forward to meeting them all again at one of the many programs that will be offered at All Saints’ Anglican Church and the SideWalk Community Centre.
Rev. Marty Levesque is the rector of All Saints', Waterloo.