Florence Bukam is leading services at Mission protestante francophone de Longueuil in Longueuil, Que., just outside of Montreal. The church is an offshoot of a Francophone church in Toronto.
The Evangelical Church of Cameroon, where she is from, is a close analogue with The United Church of Canada. Her community of faith currently worships at a seniors’ centre in Longueuil, but would love to expand. She is also an admittand for ministry in The United Church of Canada.
Emma Prestwich: Can you tell me more about the Montreal church?
Florence Bukam: The Montreal church started in April of this year. The people who are there are Cameroonian, but it’s open to every African Francophone who immigrated to Canada coming from central Africa.
The people of the Montreal church are the people who listened to the church online by the community of Francophones of Toronto. But when they arrive here, they cannot see the Evangelical Church of Cameroon, and they ask their pastor, like Isaac [Kamta, who leads the Toronto church] or like me — they know us in Cameroon — where am I going to worship in Canada? And we show them The United Church of Canada, that is open to all people who look on Jesus Christ like their Saviour and their God.
During COVID times, it was not possible to go to worship in person. They listened to the Toronto church online. After COVID, the church is open, and those who live in Montreal or another place would like also to return in person. So during April of this year, I decided to go to Montreal with them and we chose the place where we are now and we started the church there. We have not only Cameroonian people, we sometimes have Malian and Congolese people… It’s open to every African who speaks French. And not only Africans. If you are a Francophile and Protestant, the church is open for you also. But the majority are coming from Cameroon.
EP: How many people would you say are part of that church?
FB: About 30. Every Sunday, I have a new person because when a person arrives in Canada, some member brings them to show them the community.
EP: Have members of the church told you what it means to have it there?
FB: The thing that they said to me about the church is that they are very happy to be there because it is like the person who lost their church and they found it. “I found a place where worship is like in my country. [I found] my culture. [I can] dance and use the balafon and the tam-tam.”
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EP: Are there other activities besides Sunday worship?
FB: Only the church service, but the time is small (two hours every Sunday). If the church helped us to have a building, it would be good for us, because it makes the church credible.
You have only two hours. You don’t have any space to sit or to drink something together. If we have a place in a church building, I think it would be better, because now, you cannot have children’s church. Parents asked me: what can we do for the children?
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EP: What are you looking forward to in the future?
FB: I want it to be a big church, whose door is open for all Francophiles or Francophones. So it is not only Africans, but all people who speak French and Protestants who like to worship God, to adore their God in French. Also, to dance with us, to sing with us, to use the balafon and tam-tam like in Africa. So my dream for this church is like this, and to be also a community charity that is open for everyone who needs help in society.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Emma Prestwich is Broadview’s digital and UCC in Focus editor.
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