On any given Sunday, you will find more people at the beach than in any church on a typical sunny, summer Sunday in Canada. As a new pastor of Glad Tidings Burlington, Tim Woodcock and his team realized that if people are at the beach, you should go to where the people are, and that's how the church at the beach was born in August 2022. Encouraged by the imperative given in Jeremiah 29:4-7, Pastor Tim and his team wanted to reach out to their city to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city and to pray to the Lord for it.” They chose to express their love for their city by holding a worship service on the beach, followed by a baptismal service in which 21 people were baptized in the first year and 40 people were baptized in the second year.
At the recent event in August, it was encouraging for the church to see all those who came to support the ones who were being baptized, including the number of spontaneous onlookers who cheered and clapped for those who had made this public confession of faith and commitment to follow Christ. The evening ended with a time of prayer for those in attendance and for the city—including prayer for education, families, first responders and government leaders.
In addition to the worship service, there was also an open invitation to join in the fun and fellowship which included sand sculpture contests and volleyball games.
Never having put on an event like this in the community, Pastor Tim and his team did not know what to expect. They were pleasantly surprised when 200 people showed up for this event in the first year. This year it was even more surprising when 400 people showed up in addition to onlookers who seemed to be interested in observing what was going on. Those who were baptized felt that they had a newfound courage and boldness to share their faith in such a public way. Many people said the public declarations made it more meaningful for them.
A moving moment occurred when two young women approached the leaders and asked if they could be baptized. They had once belonged to a church but had turned their backs on their childhood faith. On observing the service that day, they felt compelled to recommit their lives to following Jesus. After speaking with a leader who ensured that they understood the significance of their request, they were baptized. They also connected with their parents on FaceTime, and they were crying tears of joy on the other end of the phone.
Each person who was baptized had a story of their faith journey with Jesus. One young woman who had been baptized as an infant wanted to personally proclaim her faith in Jesus publicly through the sacrament of baptism. This was especially meaningful for her because she was dealing with a life-threatening illness without any hope of recovery. However, our wonder-working God in his mercy healed this woman from her disease! This was confirmed by her doctor a couple of days after her baptism.
Church at the Beach will continue to be an annual event for Glad Tidings Burlington with the agenda being simply to love their community and proclaim Jesus in an open-air venue, and pray a blessing over their city and civic leaders. Pastor Tim believes that God is at work and the Spirit is on the move, and it's up to the church to follow His lead. He sees an incredible spiritual hunger among people of all walks of life. The Good News is for everyone and Glad Tidings Burlington is inviting all to “come and see”!
“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But— When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7, NLT).
Photos courtesy Glad Tidings Church.