What is a Flatlander, I wondered as I read the title posted above the entrance of this converted old warehouse situated in the deteriorated urban core of the city. Ribbons of the CPR rail system funnel through a bridge to the south, less than a hundred feet from the building. To the north, blocks and blocks of dereliction and taverns, and smack dab in the middle: this thing. Big brooding old warehouse thing. Flatlanders thing.
It’s connected to a Church. Does that help? Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church. The main floor of the building is a Church. But above that is this Flatlanders thing. Maybe being a part of the Church is the reason for the Bible verse that appears on the walls inside:
“Every mountain brought low, every valley raised up” (Isaiah 40:4).
Even ground. Nothing to trip over. Nothing that needs grappling hooks to scale. Nothing to rappel down. Vistas so broad you can see your destination before you knew you even had one. That would make anyone traversing this stretch of open wilderness a “Flatlander”.
So who, exactly, are the “Flatlanders”?
We’re the ones that popped open our tents on this expanse in our wanderings, claiming a small stake here, for awhile anyway. We’re individuals and, in some instances, entire families calling this plain our home.
It’s a hospitable place; we have many visitors and invite many guests. They are well fed here before they continue on their own journey. Some even return. It’s a noisy place. There are children here squealing and stampeding at play down the hallways. It’s an unkempt place at times, our biggest concern being the plague of dirty dishes that revisits us often, growing towerlike beside the sink, which no amount of suds seems to render permanently clean and shelved.
It can also be a peaceful place, a place of solitude. Even though there are a lot of us here, there’s always a spot to squirrel yourself away to contemplate, think things over, read, and pray, especially in the middle of the day when the crowd’s the thinnest, and especially if you’re the one that works nights, like me. There’s an activity room on the second floor. You can use the treadmill when the weather’s in-climate or work out those biceps and triceps and get totally ripped for summer. Or you can crank up the tunes, belting out a song in a voice that’s cracking and out-of- tune, plodding away at a keyboard as you try to write a piece for the newsletter that’s taken waaaay to long to finish, like this one. Or you can go downstairs and help out at the drop-in which happens every Tuesday and Thursday, that some of us volunteer for. Then there’s the School of Justice that some of us attend. There used to be a yoga class, too.
So, in the most miniscule of nutshells, that’s Flatlanders, and its residents. A group of wanderers, not necessarily lost, occupying two floors of your church, right above your head when you’re here to worship on Sunday mornings. Which, again, some of us attend, but I’m not one them. I work nights, remember? I’m still sleeping. Keep that in mind when you raise your voices in praise. The Lord’s not deaf, you know. I mean, geesh, people.
Chris is a long-time resident here in need of good sleep therapist.