The letters of OADAC stand for the Orillia And District Association of Churches. It is not a council, nor a federation, nor a ministerial. Rather, as the title suggests, it is an association of churches and congregations from the City of Orillia itself, plus a number of smaller communities scattered around Orillia from sixteen to twenty-five kilometer radius.
Membership is open to all denominations of the Christian Faith, which affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and their representatives who desire to serve and glorify Him in fellowship with others who share the same basic belief.
Dinner meetings are held bi-monthly on the last Monday of the month in various host churches. Each meeting begins with prayer, a fellowship meal, followed by a devotional and business meeting, concluding with a special program of general interest.
Historically the Orillia and District Association of Churches grew out of the Orillia Ministerial back in the 1960's. Even then various clergy and their congregations actively engaged in planning and carrying out joint events to celebrate the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January and a series of Lenten gatherings which climaxed in Holy Week. Those involved saw clearly that they could accomplish much more for the larger community in general, and for the Faith Community in particular, if they did things jointly.
In early 1967, at a special meeting in the Shangri La restaurant, The Interfaith Council began. Membership consisted of all interested Orillia clergy, plus one lay member from each congregation. At that point, "The Big Four" put their respective energies into the project wholeheartedly: viz. Guardian Angels Parish, St. Paul's United, St. James Anglican, and St. Andrew's Presbyterian. The first executive was small, but dedicated. President, the Rev. Eric Beggs of St. Andrew's; Vice-president, Robert De Sormeau of Guardian Angels; and Secretary, William Hume Senior, of the Salvation Army.
The Interfaith Council structured a special ecumenical service for Easter Sunday night that same year, and to everyone's pleasure, St. Andrew's was packed to the doors, with standing room only. This enthusiasm created a tremendous out-reach in the direction of social service. The Council purchased four houses for the disadvantaged and homeless, and then made it their responsibility to administer and staff them. With the passage of time, awakened government agencies took over these homes.
It wasn't long before the Council wished to emphasize it was a Christian organization and thus its name was changed to The Orillia and District Council of Churches. However the word "Council" wasn't accepted by some members who lobbied strongly for the name to be changed to The Orillia and District Association of Churches and this is the name accepted right up to the present time.
The Reverend Earl Gerber has contributed most of the information for this early history of OADAC He mentioned that the Association sponsored a special evening of Christmas Carols early each December in the Orillia Opera House, which lasted only two years owing to Christmas overload.
There was also the annual "Praise in the Park" each June in the Aqua Theatre of Couchiching Park. This was on a Sunday evening. It featured worship, special Gospel music and personal testimonies. Often the local Salvation Army Band would join us to give leadership in the singing, and the park echoed and re-echoed with the strains of pure brass, a real treat! We derived a good deal of joy and camaraderie through these get-togethers, which were open to the general public as well.
In those days, before commercial interests took an axe to religious broadcasting, OADAC was responsible for organizing and running the Sunday morning broadcasts over the C.F.O.R. radio station. It was a fine opportunity to reach out to the sick and shut-ins in our area.
In the early 90s OADAC approached the Managing Editor of the Packet & Times with a proposal/request to provide a weekly column (Saturday issue) entitled "From the Pastor's Pen". This column is still being published. Articles and broadcasts alike came from various clergy of the Association.
We were also represented on the Pastoral Care Committee of the Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.
When a local High School desired a pastor to offer the Prayer of Invocation at the annual Commencement exercises it would usually approach O.A.D.A.C. for such a person.
During the three year period that Reverend Gerber (1988-1991) was the chief representative of the Association, he was involved in the dedication ceremony of the newly-opened municipal offices (e.g. Orillia Township as it was then known) and also offered the Prayer of Blessing at the sod-turning of the huge Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.) complex at the south end of Orillia.
When the "March for Jesus" (2000, 2001) took place in Orillia OADAC was there. Another project was the provision of a Wheelchair Service for Handicapped Worshippers on Sunday mornings.
OADAC was responsible for building up a good foundational Church mailing list which finally took the form of a publication listing all the churches who wished to participate indicating their service times, address and phone numbers. This Directory of Churches was accomplished in 2003-2004 and has been revised several times since. These directories are available at local Churches, Bed and Breakfast, Hotels, Motels, Libraries, Hospital, Book store, Tourist Information Bureau, the Newcomers group, Information Orillia, Jubilee House, and Vicars, etc.
Under the auspices of O.A.D.A.C., an inter-denominational faithful group gather for prayer. It is known as "Pray Without Ceasing" and meets monthly at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 99 Peter St. N. in the Coffee House. Presently (2008) it meets on the third Thursday from 1:30 - 2:30 to intercede for the needs of the larger community, as well as the Faith Community.
"More things are wrought by prayer........"
"Pray Without Ceasing," under the direction of the Rev. George Cunningham, spearheaded a project called "Proclamation" in which a large number of Christians from many churches took part in reading through the whole Bible in 10 days, 14 hours a day. This took place at St. James Anglican Church in 2002. Fourteen different languages were heard over that period and the whole project was sponsored by the Canadian Bible Society.
OADAC provides the churches of our community a free communication tool in the form of a website www.oadac.org. Church events and activities can be posted here enabling the community to keep in touch with each other. Churches also have the opportunity to tell about their history, services and programmes.
For over a decade an inter-denominational Praise and Worship Service called "Gospelfest" took place once a year, usually in the fall. OADAC supported this joyous occasion as well as the annual "Prayer Walk" culminating with a "Prayer and Praise Service" at Orillia`s City Hall.
"Exalt Orillia," "Thank God its Friday" in the summer of 2007 at the Aqua Theatre in Couchiching Park, and the "Prayer Wave" (2005-2007) have also enabled local congregations to join together in adoration and prayer. Another inter church activity was the annual "Love Orillia" project where Christians took one day to creatively perform deeds of kindness throughout the city.
The Orillia Square Mall had been most generous in providing OADAC with a venue for its "Faith Fair". This Fair held in the spring, enables participating churches to greet the community at large and tell their stories using displays, handouts, activities, and Gospel focused entertainment.
The Orillia and District Association of Churches continues to encourage our diversified faith community to work together in oneness of spirit and, through united efforts, show forth God's unconditional love and compassion with those around us.