‘Best of all possible worlds’

This piece was also featured in: Waterloo Region Record
Published: Aug. 18, 2012 | [ WEB ] | [ PDF ]

KITCHENER —

It’s rare to have a community where children attend the same school their parents did and neighbours all connect at Sunday worship, but for one neighbourhood this has been the norm for generations.

“We have the best of possible all worlds, a village atmosphere with complete security and this feeling of one large family . . . and that’s completely keeping back (with) 1892,” said Reinhold Kauk, 75.

Kauk is one many members of the Carmel New Church and School located in the south Kitchener neighbourhood of Caryndale. The unique community follows a century’s old tradition of offering Christian education to its members’ children and providing a space to explore their faith.

“I think it really is tying together around a common faith,” said pastor Brad Heinrichs of the Caryndale community which he moved to in 1999.

This September, Carmel New Church marks its 120th anniversary since first being established in Kitchener and 50th anniversary of moving the church to its current location.

The vision for the current church community came about when young families could not afford to buy houses close to the original location on King Street West across from Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute.

When church member John Evens put his farm property up for sale in 1960, the congregation was able to purchase the property, move the church and divide it into large lots for families to build their homes.

With two-thirds of the homes surrounding the church still owned by members of the congregation and new generations enroll in the school each fall, the community continues to thrive.

“The plan has worked out as the dreamers, if you would call them that, thought it would,” said Kauk, who bought the original farmhouse on the property in 1969.

The monumental anniversaries are also met with two others: ten years since the addition of the school was built on the church and five years since the church developed a high school program.

To commemorate the dates, the church is holding events on Sept. 14 through 16 and inviting back former pastors, their families and others who have moved away over the years.

A wine and cheese event will welcome everyone Friday, followed by open houses and historic tours around the original church location and a banquet on Saturday. A video version of the tour has also been compiled for the community.

The celebrations end with a pancake breakfast and worship service lead by Heinrichs.

At the centre of all the celebrations is the reflection on the church’s history in the community and how its families have grown and moved with it.

The theme of renewal, Heinrichs said, will be incorporated in the upcoming school year so that the children can learn about where their parents and grandparents came from.

“I think it’s one of those things that each generation needs to do, to reconnect with their past and see what was important in the previous generations and hopefully the core principles are still important to them and they will put their own twist on it and take it forward,” said Heinrichs, whose grandfather was an assistant minister at Carmel.

The school remains a major factor in connecting the present with the past, as parents hope their children can have the same safe and positive experience they did while obtaining both secular and spiritual education.

While the future may pose challenges from the increasing costs of running a school to the affordability of buying homes near the church, the doctrines of the New Church and focus on living good in the community are often maintained by their members even when they move away.

“Religion is something that’s supposed to be engrained in everything you do and that’s what makes faith living,” said Heinrichs.

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Linda Givetash

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Linda Givetash is a Canadian-South African freelance journalist based in Vancouver, B.C. Her work has appeared in print, digital and broadcast media outlets around the globe.