Graham Singh isn’t your typical church planter. Pastor of St. James Montreal and Executive Director of Church Planting Canada, Graham seeks to restore the heart of cities by restarting churches in historic, yet abandoned church buildings. He and his wife, Céline, along with colleagues in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, recently planted St. James Montreal in one of Canada’s oldest historic church buildings.
“An empty building in a city is to the city like the empty palace of a long forgotten king,” Graham said.
Even with churches in Canada declining, Graham seeks to restore the King to His rightful throne by rebuilding the Church. With more than 1000 churches likely closing in the next five years, Graham’s heart burns for the buildings and the hope their restoration symbolizes, not only to the brick and mortar structures, but also to the communities.
As executive director of Church Planting Canada, he works to connect others within a learning community of more than 25 denominations and networks to plant a variety of new churches across Canada. Not only does he seek to help others plant, he celebrates revival and creativity in his recent church plant at St. James Montreal.
With an increased trend to repurpose old buildings, community members are interested in helping with restoration projects, even if they have little connection to faith. As they breathe new life into buildings, they themselves find new life in Christ.
“Folks in the neighborhood will tell you that this is their church, even if they’ve never been to the church, because it’s their family church,” Graham said. “Their granny was baptized there. They share ownership of the building for reasons other than faith.”
Within the church, Graham uses the Alpha course to allow new Christians and non-believers alike a place to explore or strengthen their faith. In a small group setting, the 10-week course encourages open and friendly conversation over coffee and bagels.
“Alpha is a place where I can see leaders who are Christian enter a leadership pipeline,” he said. “I watch their leadership develop as they lead these groups, love the people and be patient with their questions.”
St. James Montreal pre-launched on Easter Sunday. In the months that followed, they continued the Alpha groups, developing new members in a key formation time. When Alpha ends in June, those involved in the group will continue the planting and evangelizing efforts until the church officially launches in December.