Norwood Festival is Telfer’s last as the local pastor

Norwood Wesleyan Church is getting ready for a change in the new year. After seven years, pastor Phillip Telfer is stepping down.

“I’m not sure what the next step is, I just knew it was time [to move on],” says Telfer.

Telfer was born in the United States and attended Indiana Wesleyan University, obtaining a degree in sports ministry. Knowing he wanted to help those in need, he traveled to Africa to build connections through sport. It was there he met one of the teachers, who was from Edmonton and working with the same program. They married and returned to Edmonton. He took the job at Norwood Wesleyan Church, knowing it was a community that had unique concerns. 

Phillip Telfer is stepping down as pastor for Norwood Wesleyan Church. | Victoria Stevens

“There’s a lot of brokenness in the area,” he says about the surrounding community. Telfer’s goal was to offer stability for people in an often unstable environment.

Telfer has seen his role in the church as one of service to those around him, and for him to be a safe person for people to approach. He says that he may not be the destination for many people, but a safe stop on the way. His vision of the church has been one that sees the church as a physical home for healing, family services, healthy family growth, and meeting the community’s needs. This includes both physical and emotional needs such as the need to be fed, the need to be clean, the need to be useful, and the need to belong. 

For the past seven years, Philip Telfer has seen his role as a safe person for community members to approach. | Victoria Stevens

The church includes spaces such as a dining room where a family meal is hosted most Sundays, an accessible washroom, a family room, and a “laundry room”, which allows people to “air their dirty laundry”; a place where people can speak and be heard without judgement. His view of the church is one of a wheel, with the church providing a place for people to have their needs met, heal, and eventually complete the wheel by giving back to others. No religious affiliation is needed to use the church’s services.

Telfer was instrumental in creating the annual Norwood Festival, which takes place in August. The festival includes services, entertainment, and family-friendly activities. This year, these activities included an aerialist, donkey rides, and live music. 

He says he began the festival to celebrate Norwood, to let people in the area know the church is there, and of course, to have fun. The festival helps fight the isolation many people in the community feel. Low income, addiction, loss, and trauma all lead to increasing isolation.

Norwood Festival helps to bring community members together every August. | Victoria Stevens

“It’s important to meet people with love and compassion,” Telfer says about why he started the festival. “To meet people where they are.” 

Telfer hopes the festival and the work the church has been doing over the last seven years will continue after he is gone, but that will be up to the next pastor and the community. 

Although he isn’t sure where he will end up next, Telfer is looking forward to his next adventure and will be greatly missed by the community of Norwood and the congregation of the church.

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