The congregation of Ascension Lutheran Church has been temporarily worshipping in Rosemont Elementary while their new location is being constructed. In the meantime new pastor Katrina Vigen routinely meets her parishioners in unorthodox locations, including the shopping mall food court.
“I’ve been having some office hours in my home, and some out in the community. For me it’s important to spend time out in the community and be accessible to my parishioners,” Vigen told the Star.
She said anyone in her congregation can make an appointment to “drop in and hang out,” and to talk about how best to serve the needs of Nelson.
“Our congregation is passionate about caring for our neighbours in Rosemont and we hope within the next six months to be in our building and offering quite a few more services.”
That means they’ll have women and men’s showers, laundry facilities and community meals.
“We hope to be a space where we can provide for more people in our community and take part in more activities. Part of my role is shepherding that, encouraging people to share their gifts with their neighbours and finding more ways to serve our city and our world. That means we’re literally clothing, feeding and loving our neighbours as best we can.”
Vigen’s roots with the Lutheran church go back generations and she comes from a line of ministers. She grew up with her missionary parents in Madagascar.
“When you grow up in one of the poorest countries in the world, you get a real sense of how much responsibility we have, especially those of us who have more privileges and are rich in so many ways people in Madagascar are not.”
She knew growing up she wanted to be part of the solution, after witnessing people still suffering from the plague and leprosy. And now that she’s seen the power Christianity can have in places like China, she feels she has a responsibility to do her part here in Canada.
“Even though Christianity is a minority religion in China, if you look you’ll see the church provides most of the social services the government doesn’t provide.”
Vigen, who has previously worked in the United States, said she’s been impressed with the resolve shown by Ascension’s members and feels welcomed by the community. She recently joined the congregation with her husband Ryan Smart and four-year-old son Emil.
“It speaks to how passionate they are about that kind of ministry. It shows that a church isn’t a building. That’s been proved for the last three years, because we’ve continued to play a large role in the community.”
They’ve looked into how they can help with the Syrian refugee crisis, they’re participating in Nelson’s Gay Pride events and they’ve been working with the street population.
“We believe the church is for all people,” Vigen said.