The Journey of Shepherd’s Gate.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Is 43:19
The behind the scenes work of God is often more obvious in hindsight. At least, that is my experience with our new Church, Shepherd’s Gate. What really began with an idea bantered about among friends has become a larger than life miracle with open doors we could not have predicted.
Finding a Buyer
Our 15,000 sq ft. warehouse was home to Evangel Church for 25 years. We shared it with many community groups and we also rented space to local businesses. We dreamed that one day the building would be 100% used for the glory of God. We opened the doors to a new group in Calgary called Hope Mission. Hope does amazing work with families and they fit so well with what we were doing, we began sharing space free of charge. This relationship grew and eventually we offered to sell the building to Hope as their Calgary campus.
When Hope Mission decided to place an offer on the building, the Calgary market was strong. It was just before the oil price downslope of 2015 when the vacancy rate in commercial rentals began spiking. The price was right, and the buyer was a great fit for the community and the timing was perfect. Today the building is 100% used for kingdom work in our city.
Developed land in Calgary is hard to find for a Church. If there is any, it is usually expensive, around one million dollars per acre. We needed to find enough land to build but our budget was half a million dollars! We began to look on the edge of the city with the help of a real-estate agent. Strangely though, it was on Kijiji we first saw our lot. Four-acres of land next to Stoney Trail for $540,000, right on budget. We jumped at the chance and closed the deal even though there was a risk that the city would not approve the zoning.
Zoning the Land
The property is in an area of the city that is marked for future urban development. The city restricts all zoning applications for these areas and only makes exceptions in rare cases. Would our case merit city approval? At first the planning department tried to dissuade us from applying as the rules are such that they must recommend a refusal. We decided to progress with the application hoping that the city council would see the merits of the application. In a strange turn of events, the planning department changed their recommendation from refuse to approve. We presented our case to the City council in March of 2018. Not only did they approve our application but unexpectedly they wrote a special by-law to accommodate our project. It is practically unheard of that the city would write a by-law during a council meeting as they did for us.
When we purchased the land, we knew there were plans in the area for new housing. This is of course something we hoped for in moving to our new location. We are a community Church. Soon we heard that in fact as new community was already being proposed. Hotchkiss is a new project of 3700 homes by Hopewell that will be practically across the road from our Church site. The Hotchkiss application was a long shot, much like ours. The City is generally cautious about expansion because of the cost of services that new communities require such as fire, ambulance, libraries, schools and transit. Hotchkiss was also outside the 7-minute response time for fire and ambulance. Approval for Hotchkiss was delayed several times but amazingly, on July 31, 2018 the council at the last minute included Hotchkiss in a list of new communities approved for development.
One of the important milestones on our journey has been the willingness of the planning department of Calgary to allow us to defer over one million in future costs. Without these deferrals we would not have been able to complete our project at this time. These future costs are related to the road improvement requirements and land levies. Thankfully these costs are now defer up to 10 years or more.
An unexpected twist in the story took place when we heard that Avenue Church was interested in merging with another local Church. Their original plan fell through and they approached Evangel. With the support of our District on May 5, 2019, Shepherd’s Gate was formed. A relationship already existed between the two Churches and it was not a difficult shift to bring us together. We are grateful to Pastor John and Cheryl for making this transition so easy.
The moment I received the email, I was in my car and a wave of gratitude swept over me as I read, “approved”. That was July of 2019 and that was our last big hurdle in our Shepherd’s Gate vision. Now we await the timing of the Lord to begin our final push to build a great new worship space that will reach the growing SE communities with the love of God.
Shepherd’s Gate Center will be a unique community focused facility with a full-size multi-purpose gym with a capacity for 500. Our design features a great kid’s area that will be shared by a day care for up to 70 kids during the week. The patio hall with covered outdoor BBQ area and adjacent green space will be an amazing gathering area for families. A large soccer field that will be surrounded by the Celebration Garden walk will be an inviting family area. Here in the gardens people can walk and find space for quiet and reflection.
When this project is complete with all road improvements and site services, it is estimated that the value would be over $6,000,000. We give praise and glory to God without whom no one could have imagined this was possible.
Our goal is to open Shepherd’s Gate Centre in 2021.
You are invited to share with us in this miracle.
We are anticipating the total building costs to complete the building and land development to be $3,000,000 With $1,500,000 on hand to get started, we hope to raise an additional $400,000 over the next couple years to offset borrowing costs. Here are some ways you could participate in a miracle.
a) Plant a tree in honor of a loved one. We are creating a celebration garden and walkway. For $500 we will plant a tree in honor or memory of your loved one with a plaque.
b) Gifts in kind. We are able to provide gift receipts to businesses that are willing to donate some or all of their work.
c) Volunteer labor. Use your skills for the Lord. We will even train you so all we need is your willingness.
d) Donate. Please consider pledging monthly support of this unique neighborhood project.
e) Above all, please pray. Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. Ps 121:2