In 2011, a group of churchgoers met in a backyard in Milton, Ont., to talk about how they could “do church differently.” Today, Faith United Milton is one of the few missional congregations in the United Church. The group devotes a full 30 percent of its money — $12,000 each year — to outreach.
“A lot of us had experience working in churches, and a lot of energy went to building issues or ministerial staff issues,” says Mavis O’Neil, Faith United’s chair of council. “The immediate needs seemed to take away from the energy that could be devoted to outreach.”
To accomplish their goal, congregants opted not to have full-time staff (they do pay guest speakers). They rent space for worship in Milton’s Masonic Hall to avoid maintaining a costly building. They obtained charitable status in 2012 and negotiated a missional status — rather than pastoral — with the United Church in 2014, though they still pay Presbytery dues. They are now 60 members strong.
They donate to a wide range of causes, including environmental organizations, global disaster relief and local programs for children in need. They sponsored a Syrian refugee family in 2016 and provide an annual $1,000 scholarship for Indigenous students at the University of Sudbury in northern Ontario.
O’Neil, a lifelong churchgoer who was involved in the group from the start, says that Faith United Milton feels different. “This experience has shaken me and revived and rejuvenated my faith, and makes a difference in the way I live my life on a daily basis.”