By Wilma Handu

Portage la Prairie, MB – After attending an all-night wedding party then preaching a sermon on the beach, a local pastor has been fired and his church closed for good.

“This wasn’t the first incident.  He had been warned many times, “ Barry Dumas, Regional Director of The Domination, said.  “We’ve been dealing with numerous complaints about Reverend Kent McPhail and his followers.  Their behaviour and actions have been reckless and irresponsible.”

Pastor, Kent McPhail, was attending a wedding at Delta Beach on the shore of Lake Manitoba Saturday afternoon, and unlike most ministers, decided to stay for the reception party.

“It was shameful,” neighbour Judy Swallows said.  “They partied all night and I could see Pastor McPhail laughing it up with the drunks and having a good time.  I don’t think the people getting married even go to our church, or any church for that matter.”

Following the party McPhail reportedly held a church service on the beach by a bonfire and invited the rest of his congregation to join him via text messaging and social media.

“We don’t approve of the random and arbitrary moving of services from our sanctuary to the scene of a drinking party.  And we certainly frown on the use of social media and prefer a more religious approach to faith,” Dumas said.

The Reverend McPhail has been taking heat for a while from concerned congregants.  Complaints range from McPhail spending time with corrupt businessmen, foul-mouthed hockey players, the mentally ill, people in bankruptcy, to local prostitutes.  McPhail had also sold his home and was currently of no-fixed-address.

“Mr. McPhail chose not to heed our warnings about the type of person he selected to be around.  We had long-time church members going without visits and he was leaving discipleship meetings for others to run while he went to barbeques, golf tournaments and bars,” Dumas explained.  “He seemed more interested in spending time in the community than in the church.  Instead of church conferences Mr. McPhail would embarrass us and attend music festivals like Country Fest.”

“We would have preferred he spend more time modelling and teaching abstinence of every kind.  He insisted on taking a path that was dirty, messy and irreligious and he now finds himself unemployed.”

Claims McPhail and a handful of followers healed locals of cancer and diabetes was fuel for more complaints.

“It’s nice that some people were apparently healed of their chronic and terminal illness but why didn’t he heal everyone in the hospital?”  Swallows said.  “I think permanent cures would be far more helpful than these selective healings.”

McPhail was severely criticized for an incident where he claimed to have driven demons out of a local man into a flock of geese.  The geese then proceeded to fly into traffic on Crescent Road, killing over 20 of them.  This incident drew outrage from local residents upset about the senseless death of the geese along with concern from his own congregation he was taking things too far.

Church services became unpredictable and unruly at times.  Some sermons would last all day and McPhail was known to often preach outdoors in public places around Portage.

“He couldn’t understand that people want to come to church for an hour a week, sing four songs, hear a nice sermon and go home.” Dumas said.  “He was getting some people to meet with him every day and was more concerned about how they lived outside the church than inside.”

The local church has closed its doors and the remaining congregants are being encouraged to find churches that meet their individual preferences.  No verifiable stats were available but anecdotal evidence suggests the church saw many long-time members leave several months ago at McPhail’s suggestion that belongings be sold and their wealth shared with those in need.  Existing members of the flock are said to struggle with addictions, mental illness and poverty, leaving many to believe they will be unable to form a new church or catch on with existing ones.

The Reverend McPhail’s only response was “It is as you say.”  A quick search of his social media pages included images of the face of God appearing in unusual places with no accompanying explanation.

 

Wilma Handu is a first generation Canadian who’s family hails from India.  Armed with a degree in religious studies and a heart for religious unity, Wilma will handle The Hoop and Holler’s faith, culture and lifestyles beats.  Wilma Handu and her husband came to Portage la Prairie from Calgary.  They readily admit that if it had not been for the downturn in the oil industry they would have never left Alberta but are warming up to Portage despite its lack of Mexican cuisine.

 

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