Emma Richardson has been busy since graduating from Redeemer in 2014 with honours psychology and honours religion and theology degrees. She and her husband, also a Redeemer alumnus, have had three children and planted Slate Church in Waterloo.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth. Oftentimes you hear that the church is dying, but we haven’t experienced that,” says Richardson. The 2½-year-old church sees an attendance of more than 700 each week at five services and three locations.
Their vision for Slate was to see a fresh expression of church. “Slate is a church for the generations that’s young at heart,” says Richardson.
For Slate, this includes a dynamic worship experience and preaching that brings vulnerability and helps to make Scripture practical and accessible. It also means being intentionally welcoming. Being in a university town, they see lots of students attending, but it has been exciting to also see everyone from young families all the way up to empty nesters.
But Richardson says the most rewarding part has been seeing people who are far from God coming into a relationship with him. “We see people every week choosing Jesus,” she says. “Having the structure in place to continue to support them in their walk with him is really important.”
As a counsellor, she sees this structure as foundational not only to seeing people get connected and thrive, but also to dealing with the mental health crisis that is gripping so many inside and outside the church.
“We’re just seeing people really struggling,” she says. “That’s probably been the case for a long time, but people are talking about it more now.”
So at Slate, they are intentional about talking and praying about mental health, connecting people with resources, creating opportunities for community and practising spiritual disciplines. Richardson says it is important for people to know that there are also times when you need to see a doctor or a therapist.
In her counselling practice, she values being able to make spirituality part of the conversation and praying for her clients. “By me being open to God using me, he does.” She says it is obvious that she could not do all that she is doing without God. “It’s about saying ‘Okay God, I’m going to trust you,’ and seeing him work through that.”
Richardson speaks fondly of her time at Redeemer and how it shaped her. “It was a safe place to work out our faith both in the classroom and in the community. We could strip things down, ask questions. It gave us a more holistic perspective on our faith.”
Looking back, she admits it hasn’t all been wonderful. “We’ve walked through tough places, but being able to lean on God has given me the assurance that he’ll be there every step of the way,” she says. “I’ve always been caught as I’ve jumped off the edge into what God is calling me to do. His burden is easy; it’s light!”