Some of the people involved in The Bridge, a church plant of the Christian Reformed Church in Niagara Falls, Ont., are living out their mission by purchasing homes in identified neighborhoods. It is another venue for building relationship while rebuilding floors and walls.

“I think it’s setting a precedent of what a missional community really looks like,” said Rev. Allen Kleine-Deters, pastor at The Bridge.

Bridge participants Phil and Leanne Korten relocated to a fixer-upper in Niagara Falls from nearby Fenwick, Ont. “In the process [of renovations] they’ve developed a friendship in particular with one neighbor across the road . . . [and] this really cool friendship has developed that now has encompassed more of the Bridge people,” Kleine-Deters said.

“[The neighbors] have been more than generous with lending a hand in our renovations, whether we asked or not,” explained Phil Korten. “Even though we have only known them a short year, Leanne and I had the honor of signing as witnesses for their recent marriage. They also have offered us the use of their hot tub for baptisms, which is so amazing since they have no Christian background. I see a great opportunity there to show them what it is all about.”

Deliberately engaging neighbors at barbecues, open houses, or while walking the dog is written into the blueprint of The Bridge. “Neighborhood life is an intentional focus to be present in our local neighborhoods, to come alongside the people who live around us and be the solid connectors for people within the community,” Kleine-Deters wrote in one of The Bridge’s defining documents.

The vision is to replicate missional communities in other parts of the city, which is why Karin Vermeer and Cathy Benjamins, previously of Grace CRC in Welland, Ont., bought a house in another neighborhood.

“Since nothing has been done to the house in 40 years, we saw that as an opportunity to gut the entire house and create a space that will be inviting to friends and neighbors alike,” Vermeer said. “It’s so important to leave margins in our lives so that if someone wants to chat or needs a hand, we are always available.”

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classis Niagara.