INNISFAIL – When Pastor Andrew Rilling arrived in town with his family in 1994 to play a key role in starting up the Innisfail Alliance Church he promised to do his best to make a difference in the community.
“We will be working to strengthen marriages and build up families, to provide Christian education for children and a ministry of encouragement and support for youth,” said Rilling in a commentary in the Innisfail Province on Sept. 5, 1994. “We will also work to provide a warm and friendly fellowship for singles and single parents in this community. All are welcome to attend.”
Twenty-four years later Rilling’s church, which started with just a dream to serve Innisfailians along with plenty of faith and hope, has become a beloved fixture for the community that has grown from its humble beginnings of holding services in the banquet room at the Country Lodge to its current spacious modern quarters at the Eastgate Mall, which opened in 2001.
However, while Rilling is proud and grateful for his church’s growth and success, it is now time to say farewell to the community. The 58-year-old lead pastor is leaving Innisfail with his wife Marnie to go to Red Deer’s Deer Park Alliance Church where he will serve as associate pastor of community care.
“We came to the conclusion that this was time to move on to another ministry. I am getting older and looking for a little change in ministry, and at the same time there was an opportunity to move to Red Deer,” said Rilling. “It is a mixed feeling (leaving) because we have a lot of good friends here, a lot of good connections. Our kids have been growing up here.
“All those things are going through my mind as I look to move on. Thankfully Red Deer is not very far so we will still have some connections here, but it is difficult to move on, for sure,” he added.
Rilling leaves knowing the Alliance Church has had an enormous impact for the entire community, not just for regular parishioners. The Alliance Church was created with a mission to serve all citizens, no matter what their faith. Inclusiveness was its driving mantra.
“To be a community church for sure. We wanted to do that,” said Rilling, noting his church still regularly opens its doors for the community to host special events, and lovingly invites whoever wants to come, notably kids for youth events and adults for counselling and fellowship. “We certainly want to see that carry on after we leave, reaching out to kids,” he said.
Rilling goes to Red Deer not as lead pastor but with a role that promises to be equally challenging and vital. As associate pastor of community care he will provide assistance to citizens getting connected to the urban community, and will provide counselling to any citizen, young or old, on any issue. He will use his vast ministry experience from Innisfail to make the lives of Red Deerians more fulfilling.
“Obviously we are here teaching the Bible, encouraging people to say, ‘Hey, this is how the Bible says how to live, how to follow God, relationships and family and marriages,'” said Rilling. “We are encouraged by God’s good work in people’s lives over the years.”
Church members and the Innisfail public will have an opportunity to salute Rilling and wish him well in Red Deer on Aug 19. There will be a farewell potluck for Rilling and Marnie at the church beginning at noon. Rilling begins his new ministry in Red Deer on Sept. 4.
“Marnie and I have really enjoyed our time here in Innisfail. It has been a great place to raise a family here. We’ve enjoyed a lot of good friends and neighbours,” said Rilling. “It is certainly a great community, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to serve it for the past 24 years.”