Thursday, July 11, 2024
Highlights 2News

A Compliment to community

by Glen hartle
Shawville
Apr. 8, 2024
The Bethel Pentecostal Church in Shawville sits on a town artery – Centre Street or Quebec Route 303, depending upon where a journey starts.
Whether travelling the corridor from Portage du Fort to Otter Lake, heading to the Shawville hospital, or taking the kids to either Pontiac High School or to Dr. S.E. McDowell Elementary School, Bethel Pentecostal Church is likely en route.
It also sits squarely within the identity of the community as somewhat of an icon, thanks to the signboard on the lawn. Whether one is going to any of the aforementioned destinations or just passing by, that signboard has draw.
Each Sunday, the church doors open and a somewhat anonymous figure issues forth. The letters on the board are rearranged, with some letters added and others removed. Always, a new message, and one that offers itself as part of the community portrait for the ensuing seven days until another Sunday arrives and the anonymous figure issues forth once again, the letters back in play.
The messages, while sponsored by Bethel Pentecostal, are at times faith-driven and at others seemingly inspired by the human condition to which we all can relate. In all cases, they have become part of the fabric of town.
“I love that sign,” said Shawville resident Carole Valin. “It always has very interesting messages – makes you think.”
The inspiration for the messages comes from within the anonymous figure who arranges them, referred to here as the Messenger. While his identity may not be the best kept secret in town, he expressed a desire to have it remain unknown in the story told here, to preserve his presence as a member in a community picture rather than one isolated in a portrait.
“Sometimes people send me things or I see something on Facebook or Instagram,” the Messenger told THE EQUITY, offering insight into the process behind the final words that end up on the signboard. “Some weeks I can have 15 or 20 to choose from.”
The signboard isn’t huge and so messages are concise. Biblical references are shortened and inspirational phrasings are succinct. In both cases, curation is key while over-thinking has, historically, led back to messages of faith.
“I try and put words up there that mean something and sometimes I doubt the message,” the Messenger said. “Most often, just as I’m wondering if it’s right, someone will contact me saying that the message meant so much for them and I know, in my heart, it was right.”
The simple aesthetic of the signboard is the thread that binds it all together. There is no pomp, no herald. It is humble while having worth. Simple white letters are fastened to a flat black board. It is akin to that soft voice which doesn’t speak often, but when it does, everybody listens.
“The community needs to see a positive message that all can relate to. We want to give words of hope and encouragement to everyone in Shawville,” said Edwin Valles, current pastor at Bethel Pentecostal.
Pastor Valles has been with the church since late last year and said already, “I have met many people telling me that they look forward to reading the sign every week.”
For an organization that celebrates 100 years next year, staying relevant and connected to the community in this way is invaluable.
“I live near the high school and drive by Bethel multiple times per day and it’s always interesting to see what’s on the sign,” said fellow clergyman Pastor Stuart Marples of New Hope Christian Fellowship Church. “The messages are mostly insightful and encouraging and well worth the time to slow down and read.”
Terry Burns, the principal for Pontiac High School, has also noted the significance of the messages outside the church.
“On my first visit to Shawville, one of the things that caught my eye was the sign on the lawn at Bethel Pentecostal Church,” Burns shared. “I thought to myself, ‘What an awesome thing to see a message of encouragement each week in a world that really needs encouragement.’ Many of those messages are so spot on that they make their way into my daily conversations and a few of them even into the morning announcements.”
Reaching people of diverse backgrounds and various faiths, the Bethel Pentecostal Church signboard is community outreach at its best.
It works to make the world a better place and reminds us of the very fabric that brings us together at a time when the world around us invites discord. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the Messenger has in store this Sunday.

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