Parkdale United Church
Unbinding the Gospel The story of a transformative journey undertaken by Parkdale United Church
Phase 1: Unbinding the Gospel
In the fall of 2011, Parkdale embarked on its Unbinding journey with a pilot group of nine participants, most of whom were experiencing various levels of reluctance. We set off on the road using Martha Grace Reese’s resource entitled Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism (UTG). Evangelism was a scary word for most of us, but we agreed to give it a try.
More than eighteen months later, most of the original pilot group has been convinced of the incredible power of small group meetings and of prayer in terms of building stronger relationships with God, with others in the congregation and with the outside community.
After the initial pilot group study of UTG for eight weeks, we spread our wings and led another five groups, comprising 44 Parkdale members studying UTG together. The groups met weekly during the spring of 2012 and we soon realised that something quite transformational was underway at Parkdale.
Phase 2: Unbinding Your Heart
So we agreed to embark on phase two: Unbinding Your Heart – a six-week congregational study, consisting of 13 small groups led by 18 graduates of Unbinding the Gospel. Aiming for 85% of our average weekly church attendance, we fell slightly short of our goal, but enrolled 134 members of the congregation in this study and for 40 days people reflected on that day’s scripture reading, prayed, and worked weekly with a prayer partner. Sermons, music, testimonials and prayers during the worship services centred on the chapter that the small groups were studying that week. We were supported throughout by a powerful prayer team of seven wonderful women, who met weekly to pray for the Unbinding process and for individual requests relayed to them by small group leaders.
At the end of our six-week session, we celebrated with an Open Doors Event in early December, inviting members of the community to join us for worship and for lunch as we thanked God for His hand in saving Parkdale from a potentially devastating fire in May and for the tremendous community response to help offset costs of the fire in recognition of the important difference our community neighbours said that Parkdale makes in the neighbourhood.
Phase 3: Unbinding Your Soul
Given the positive response to our Unbinding experience to date, and realising that it would be important for the small group prayer effort to continue, we continued our journey with Unbinding Your Soul in the Winter of 2013. We adopted a hybrid approach to this ‘Year of Invitation’ and encouraged Unbinding alumni who were ready to do so, to invite a friend or family member to join in the study of Unbinding Your Soul. In recognition of the many who felt that they were not yet ready to extend an invitation, we opened the study to those who felt that they needed to gain a bit more confidence in sharing their faith experiences in small groups and in developing a more consistent prayer practice before extending an invitation to others. We hosted eight groups totalling 91 participants, including 11 leaders. Approximately 30% of the participants were new to the Unbinding series and many of these were newcomers to Parkdale or invitees.
Please check out the ‘Testimonials’ section of this webpage for more information on how Unbinding participants were blessed by the experience. You will find first-hand accounts of strengthened faith, changed habits, and more disciplined prayer. You will hear that participants – even those who were reluctant participants at first , who had their ‘exit strategies’ planned in advance – came to realize that there is something extremely powerful about the small group experience, where there is an opportunity to share faith stories and to express doubts and concerns in a safe environment, to pray daily and to discuss the prayer experience weekly with a prayer partner, to meet as a group to talk about the highlights of the week, to grow closer to God and to each other, and to walk more faithfully in the way of Jesus Christ.
It has been a truly remarkable journey. Over 200 people have participated in the Unbinding series to date. We thank God for the experience and we don’t intend to lose the momentum. Small group opportunities to share life and faith will continue and the Unbinding Your Soul resource will be used in future as a faith formation resource for potential new members. In addition, small group initiatives catering to various interests will be offered on an ongoing basis with a view to growing our confidence and our ability to reach out to the wider community with a message of hope, faith, joy and justice.
If, after checking the Testimonials section, you would like to talk with someone about the Unbinding experience at Parkdale, please contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-728-8656. We would be happy to listen to and respond to your questions and share our experiences with you!
For more information about Martha Grace Reese`s Unbinding series, visit her website at: