The Birth of the Virden Alliance Church
VAC started with a small group of people that got together for Bible study around 1979. This group of people that got together was diverse including new and mature believers. They had a strong desire and vision to study the word of God and care for their community. Their vision was to have a good ministry and to have an outreach to bring salvation to new people. They were out to help people, whatever the need was. Tremendous things happened and it worked. As they continued to meet together for a year or two and as it grew, they contacted some denominations to explore the idea of initiating a church plant.
After the small group contacted the Alliance, a District Superintendent from the Eastern District came out to Virden, sized up the town and decided Virden could use another church. And so it began, using the gymnasium of a school and without a pastor, this faithful Bible study group took some foundational steps forward by faith.
Rev. Dennis Hansen came and he was their first pastor. It wasn’t easy getting off the ground. This group bounced around from one school to another and then to the Youth Training Center. While meeting in the Youth Training Center, this small group Bible study became an Alliance church and it became obvious that they would not be able to function in this facility for much longer. They decided to find their own spot. Soon after, property was purchased and eventually a doublewide trailer was supplied through the Alliance. This trailer, supplied by the Alliance, was an excellent temporary home for the church until they would be able to start a building project some years later.
After nine months without a pastor Arnold Downey, the District Superintendent, and Dexcom called Karl Munchinsky to the work in Virden which began in 1982. With its first Alliance pastor and double wide trailer, VAC began to take the shape of an organized church. They began the Awana program, Alliance Women’s Ministries (AWM), Young Peoples group and a Young Adults group. At this time membership included 21.
The Awana program played a central role in the ministry of VAC. A rep from Awana came out and presented the program to the church and they chose to go forward with it.
AWM also became part of the DNA of VAC. Their goals were very clear: “1) To reach our unsaved friends with Christ. 2) To pray effectively for each other and for missions of the C&MA Church. 3) To help those of our church in need. 4) To get to know our district missionaries better through letters, support, etc.” (1982 Annual Report).
Rev. Eugene McKenzie came to Virden as interim pastor. During this time members of the congregation stepped up carry the light of this young church.
In 1986, Dallas and Donna Sylvester, son of Mel Sylvester, answered God’s call to VAC. Pastor Sylvester noted that “You people know how to love… I see [marks of love] in our local body. Your love for one another and this community is one of your greatest strengthsHis vision for 1987 was to have a year:
“Lord willing, as a year of continual growth both in our spiritual lives and in the numbers witnessed to and won for Christ. I forecast that by the Lord’s will we will begin a building program to eventually bring us to erect a sanctuary, Christian education and fellowship facilities for the glory of God. A new structure that would: be a place to worship god more pleasingly, a home base for the training of disciples from the word of God, a sending place of evangelism, and a haven of spiritual rest and renewal for God’s people to edify and encourage one another in the Lord. A new structure that will be used like our current structure is only in a greater way.”
“I also trust that God would lead us and enable to be debt free by the beginning of the summer, as to our general fund deficit, and to continue our generous support of missions.”
“If one word marks the ministry of this church in 1986, it is busy.”
“We believe in Purpose (save us), Plan (saved to share), People (faith that our service will build each other up.”
Pastor Dallas’ ministry came at a crucial time in the church’s history. In November of 1988, the church began meeting in its own permanent building. The church’s financial goal is, “not equal giving but equal sacrifice” (1988 Annual Report). With momentum building, and a new facility, Sunday School attendance was on the rise from 35 to 56 (1989 Annual Report).
The ministry of VAC continued to press on to share the Gospel with the community of Virden. In 1990, 10 people confessed faith in Christ as their Savior, 187 people attended the Christmas program, and average attendance was 67 people. The Young Peoples group continued to flourish as their objectives for youth activities were: a healthy social function; outreach; and a time in God’s Word. Family Night transitioned from weekly times, to monthly meetings designed for recreation, fellowship and outreach. The year also included visits from CBC and Dr. TV Thomas (1990 Annual Report).
In 1991, Pastor Dallas resigned (1991 Annual Report) and VAC was without a pastor. This period of time without a shepherd would not last long as Pastor Brent and Charlene Reimer accepted God’s call to VAC.
In the church’s continuing effort to disciple and care for the community, they chose to partner with and support Turtle Mountain Bible Camp (TMBC) in 1999. TMBC was a place where children and families could retreat to spend time with God and learn about Him. This partnership is vital because of the focus and care that is given to those who are spiritually mature and those who have never accepted Christ as Savior.
With everything going well, this passionate and active church wasn’t content with the status quo. Some of the short term and long term goals that were mentioned in the 1999 annual report were nothing short of visionary and it is amazing how they would come to pass. Although it would take many years, all of these goals have been accomplished. What is amazing is that regardless of who brings the vision, the vision is God’s and He will carry out His plan. Included in this list of opportunities and aspirations were: The implementation of home Bible studies, establishing a board of management, involving youth in church ministry, and employing an assistant pastor.
In 2000, after approx. 9 years of continued service, Rev. Brent Reimer resigned. His leadership and care for the body of Christ enabled it to take a giant leap forward in caring for the community. In January of 2001, Rev. Darryl and Sandy McAuley were welcomed to VAC to join the work of the Lord in Virden.
Pastor Darryl would propel the church family forward into continued ministry of serving Christ and glorifying God. Under his leadership and guidance, the Board of Elders had a retreat to develop a mission statement and core values.
Mission Statement: To be an authentic and active church, reaching and impacting our community for Christ.
Values: Meaningful Worship, Firmly Grounded in Scripture, Evangelism, Training/Discipleship, Encouraging Family, Prayer Focus, Missions Emphasis, and Caring Attitude Towards All.
In his presentation to the church Pastor Darryl wrote:“through our mission statement and core values, I would hope we would have an understanding of how each of our ministries fit in to all of this. So that we can talk about why are we involved in TMBC or why do we have Sunday School or why we have Alliance Women and we would be able to see based on how these ministries fit to accomplish the mission and values we hold dear to our church.”
Children’s Church was established. In this ministry, the pre-school children go to a classroom during the sermon to learn in creative ways they can understand. A Church Secretary position has also been created to aid in some of the tasks of the church. Vacation Bible School was also established under the direction of Sandy McAuley. An Elders’ Retreat was also created to unify the elders and allow them a time of spiritual refreshment as they lead and assist the church. One of the other aspirations that came to life was the hiring of another pastoral staff member.
In early 2004, Pastor Darryl and one of the board members, headed to Millar College of the Bible to explore the opportunity of hiring an intern Pastor for Youth Ministries to carry on the vibrant youth ministries that was a part of VAC. It was here that they met Tyler Rody and invited him to Virden for a visit with the possibility of his coming aboard. After much prayer and consideration, Tyler came on as Intern Pastor in the fall of 2004. He served as intern for 18 months and was issued a call to be Associate Pastor. After dreaming of an assistant pastor back in 1999, it would finally come to be.
In the spring of 2010, Pastor Darryl resigned completing more than 9 years of faithful service in Virden. Over the next 20 months, the VAC search committee looked hard and prayed hard for God’s provision in a new Lead Pastor. On March 2, 2012, after looking for a church to lead for about 20 months, Dr. Simeon Norton accepted the call to serve as Lead Pastor of VAC.
Pastor Simeon came from the small Caribbean Island of St. Vincent with his wife Beatrice. Prior to arriving in Virden, Simeon was director and teacher at the Winward Islands School of Evangelism, as well as pastor/church planter.
After 8 years of service, Pastor Tyler resigned as Associate Pastor in August, 2012, to take on a new position with new opportunities and closer to his family. Two years later, in August, 2014, Ryan Guenther, a recent graduate from Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, began to serve in the Associate Pastor role.
Through the over 30 years of history in the community of Virden, there have been many changes. Changes in attendance, leadership, ministries, buildings and many others. But there has been a common thread of vision that has penetrated and been carried through: individual and corporate caring for the community to bring God the glory. This is a vision that is present today as “we desire to be an authentic and active church, reaching and impacting the community for Christ.” As the church looks ahead, may it continue to look to its roots and the roots of the C&MA towards a united effort to keep Christ central as the church continues to be growing and transformed by Christ to transform the world to bring Glory to God.