The current religious landscape of Québec, Canada is one of duality, dominated by the historic Roman Catholic Church and the growing secularism that got its start in the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. 

Before this binary dynamic took hold, indigenous faiths were practiced first by the Kanien’kha:ka, Haudenosaunee, Anishinabeg, and Algonquin peoples living in what we now call Québec. Over time, other religions arrived in the province, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. However, the majority of Québecois today either identify as Christian or with no adherence to any religion at all.

Against this religious backdrop, a small, informal community of faith exists, one that serves young adults and students who are seeking a meaningful connection with God – and it’s right in the heart of Québec’s largest city, Montréal.

Chapelle Ste-Marthe (St. Martha’s Chapel) is an emerging place of worship, one that is marked by deep Christian spirituality and a passion for God’s love and justice, that you can support this year during the Pentecost Offering.

St. Martha’s Chapel has its origins in the ecumenical chaplaincy at McGill University and regularly hosts events in partnership with the institution, such as interfaith text studies or the annual Discover Spiritual McGill Fair.

“The chapel’s name was inspired by an earlier iteration of the ministry called ‘St. Martha of the Basement,’ highlighting the centrality of hospitality and inclusivity to the mission,” says Rev. Jean-Daniel Ó Donnċada, the former director and chaplain now serving as the Canada region’s national pastor.

It has been a shared ministry between the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada for decades, with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada becoming a sponsor in 2015.

In 2020, the ministry changed its name from McGill Ecumenical Chaplaincy and evolved its direction to be a young adult-led organization open to working young adults and students attending other universities with most members being professionals in their 20s and 30s.

One such student turned professional is Sarah Wicks-Potter, who became the interim director and chaplain last summer. 

“I moved to Montréal when I was 18 for university. My aunt and uncle set me up on a friend date with the one person they knew in the city, and she invited me to Bible study. She brought me to St. Martha’s and I’ve been there about every week since,” she recalls. “I met my roommates, some of my best friends, my husband, and a couple whose son I’m now a godmother to at the chapel.”

In addition to providing pastoral care in both English and French (with help from Rev. Jean-Daniel for the French speakers), Sarah is now the one leading Bible study for her community of faith. This weekly event is open to adults ages 18 to 40 and provides time to engage in spiritual practices and share a meal. 

“It might be hard to see young people in the church without St. Martha’s,” she explains, “and you can really see that at Bible study.”

The chapel also provides evening worship services on the first and third Sundays of each month in cooperation with Cathédrale Christ Church (Christ Church Cathedral), which donates two rooms in its lower level for the ministry to use. St. Martha’s services are casual and are open to all who wish an evening time to pray. 

“Wherever you are on your journey with Jesus, whether you’re doubting or angry, the people at St. Martha’s are always there to accompany you, not convert you,” clarifies Sarah. “Even when you graduate and move away, that doesn’t change.”

Sometimes this support can be joyous, too. When a member was baptized in February, all the people from St. Martha’s showed up. In June, they plan to attend a play written by one of their members and be that “obnoxious group of young people in the audience.”

The community even provides more “logical support,” as Sarah puts it. Last fall, one of its members was recovering from surgery, so they put together a meal train. Whatever way this support looks like, it ultimately depends on what people need and how they need it. 

The chapel is also LGBTQ+ affirming and an incredibly vocal space for queer rights within Christianity. While Montréal is safe for the LGBQ+ community, not all churches in the city are.

“Part of my job is to figure out how to connect the puzzle pieces that keep our community strong,” Sarah finishes, “I like what I do a lot.”

To ensure that faith communities like St. Martha’s Chapel can continue to provide radically accepting places of worship in their neighbourhoods, make a gift to the 2024 Pentecost Offering. Received in most congregations on Sundays, May 12 and May 19, this Special Day Offering is equally divided between the region in which it’s collected to support local new church development and New Church Ministry, which trains, equips, assists, and multiplies emerging and affiliating leaders and their congregations. Thank you for your generous support.

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