Cameron Fraser finds that church growth is all about building trust and friendships.

A group of young people from Madagascar playing volleyball in an indoor gym. Cameron Fraser is in the left corner, preparing to hit the ball
United Church Director of Growth and Ministry Development Cameron Fraser and the FJKM Montréal Volleyball Team
Credit: Emmanuel D. Tehindrazanarivelo
Published On: October 25, 2023

We play volley ball on Wednesday evenings, you should join us!

This seemed like a pretty simple request so I said, “Yes, oui, absolument c’est mon plasir!”

I’d just been introduced to the Faniry, president of the Young Adults group of FJKM Montréal, who was eager that I meet more of their members.

FJKM Montréal is a French and Malagasy speaking congregation of Fiangonan’I Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar) whose worshipping life is in space shared with St. Jean United Church and Camino de Emmaus, on rue Ste Catherine in downtown Montréal.

I imagined I was going to a pretty casual friendly sports night in a church gym somewhere, and since I’d brought a pair of sporty type pants and a pair of Converse I figured I was well geared up. I also thought that my Grade 6-7 volleyball skills (which had last been used at a UCC Summer Camp in 2013) would be good enough to have some fun.

I started to feel that what I was expecting and what I’d be experiencing might be a bit different as we pulled up to the Dorval CGEP athletic facility, along with the FJKM leadership, Rev. Emmanuel Tehindrazanarivelo (Responsable des Ministères en français), and his wife Danielle.

Cameron Fraser looks up for the ball while playing volleyball in an indoor gym.
Cameron Fraser prepares for an incoming volleyball during a game with the FJKM Montréal Volleyball Team.
Credit: Emmanuel D. Tehindrazanarivelo

We were led inside by the Young Adults group vice-president, and from the sounds coming from the gym I could tell that the level of play was going to be surprising!

I quickly learned that this was not a casual weekly sports night—this was a group of very skilled players. They were preparing to represent FJKM Montréal at the annual Malagasy sports competition, where FJKM communities from across Quebec, Ontario, New York State, and as far as Washington, DC compete at a pretty high level of play.

I assured everyone that I was more than happy to stay on the sidelines and watch, but when the current game ended, I was gently ushered on the court…We’ll play a quick game to 11 with you and then go on to practice. I managed to touch the ball five times, and four of those times it went where I’d meant it to go, and I was feeling pretty pleased when they decided a few points in that we’d play a full game instead of the mini-game they’d originally suggested. Not that it matters which team won—but I will say that the other team came second!

The rest of my time was spent chatting with members of the group about their young adults ministry (mostly grad students and young professionals), their upcoming Sunday service (the youth choir was singing Ave Verum in Malagasy), and what a French/Malagasy community meant to them. Many were the only member of their family in Montréal; one had just arrived a few weeks ago and was grateful to have this space to land.

A group of young people from Madagascar sing in a choir at the front of a church.
FJKM Montréal Young Adults Group are prayed for as part of Youth Brunch Sunday.
Credit: Emmanuel D. Tehindrazanarivelo

FJKM Canada and The United Church of Canada are in conversations about a partnership agreement. Growth Development and Ministères en français are working with seven different FJKM groups around Montréal to help them establish their communities and explore if the United Church is a good connection for them.

This is what growth looks like: building trust…building friendships.

The group of Malagasy- and French-speaking young adults spoke with excitement about meeting young people from the United Church, and perhaps joining in National gatherings. Checking in with each other, praying for one another, and worshipping in Malagasy brings them such joy and strength. They love the idea of sharing this with new connections.

Is this part of the future of United Church’s Youth and Young Adults Ministry? If so, we’d best all start practicing our float serves!

 — Cameron Fraser, Director, Growth and Ministry Development



The views contained within these blogs are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of The United Church of Canada.

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