St. John’s United in Cardinal, Ont., has turned its old building into a new ministry
. The rural church recently launched First Responders United, a program for front-line personnel, such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). They will stay at the church for counselling and support during five-day residential retreats.
“At one time, there were over 200 children in our 10 Sunday school classrooms,” says Rev. Edward Murray. “If we were to bring back Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. on the same Sunday, I still don’t think we could get that many children in Sunday school again.” Typical attendance is now fewer than a dozen kids.
And so, with the blessing of the board and the participation of the congregation, the church renovated the unused space. Rooms that once served as classrooms were converted to sleeping quarters. Other areas became shared spaces, hosting retreat participants during the week and reverting to church use on Sundays.
“There are very limited programs in the country that are geared specifically for first responders."
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