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Published February 2022

Beneath the foundations of this octagonal Byzantine martyrium church at Capernaum, archaeologists made one of the most exciting Biblical archaeology discoveries: a simple first-century A.D. home that may have been the house of Peter, the home of Jesus in Capernaum. Photo: Garo Nalbandian.
And leaving Nazareth, He went and settled in Capernaum. From that time Jesus began to preach. Matthew 4:13.17

The house in Capernaum, Jesus’ home, is the first house church made note of in the New Testament. After Jesus had chosen His disciples, He went apart to spend 40 days and nights in the wilderness to pray. When he returned, He and His disciples left Nazareth and settled in a house in Capernaum, from where He began His ministry to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Jesus demonstrated to us the concept of house churches by starting them Himself. From the beginning of His ministry, in addition to going out with his disciples as an itinerant preacher, Jesus taught and attended to needs not from synagogues but from houses.

In Capernaum He preached and ministered to the people from all walks of life who were gathered en masse to listen to teaching and be ministered to. Although it must have been a large house, crowds pushed both outside and inside the house and on one occasion directly through the roof to gain access.

By definition, a house church or home church is a group of Christians who regularly gather for worship and teaching in private homes. The group may be part of a larger Christian body, such as a parish, or may be an independent group that sees the house church as the primary form of Christian community. This can be a developing church in a community or a Christian congregation that is banned from meeting such as in China or Iran.

Years later, near the end of His ministry, Jesus continued to use a home church, a cenacle or guest house owned by Nicodemus, to base His ministry in Jerusalem. The Talmud records that Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was one of the three or four wealthiest people in Jerusalem and that he was very generous. After his encounter with Jesus, he became a silent sponsor, who, among other contributions, lent Him his cenacle first as a place to minister in Jerusalem, and later after He was transfigured, as a place for disciples to meet. Because it was a guest house and had plenty of water, that is the place Jesus could perform the ceremonial washing of His disciples’ feet. And it was there too Jesus hosted the last supper with His disciples.

After Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples found each other again at that upper room where Jesus would meet up with them hours later.

The disciples also experienced the Holy Spirit in that house church while celebrating the Day of Pentecost from that upper room. It was the first time the disciples experienced God without the bodily presence of Jesus through the baptism of the Holy Spirit where tongues of fire were seen on the roof top. God respects home churches.

As the disciples’ ministry grew, some of the growing church met in the house of Priscilla and Aquila, a married missionary couple thought to be part of the original 70. Romans 16:3, 5. The church that met in the house of Nymphas is described as " brethren in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in her house." Col 4:15

The Beginnings Of House Churches In London

In London and area, home churches are part of its historic, established, and emerging development of Christian churches and community. Matthew Clarke, Director of Communications at the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, researched Roman Catholic churches in and around London that were started as house churches in the mid 1800’s including St. Michaels in Dresden (1872) and Holy Angels, St. Thomas (pre-1842). The first Mass celebrated in Port Stanley was in 1852 at the home of Colonel Bostwick, the first settler in the town, and the first Mass celebrated in Port Burwell was in 1937 in the home of a Catholic family.

London’s Christian church and religious community began in 1827 as a Roman Catholic house church in London Township in the home of London settler Michael Flood. Bishop Alexander MacDonnell and Fr. James Champion officiated. Two baptisms, the first Catholic wedding and the first funeral were held in that house church.

The first diocese, now known as St. Peter’s, was established in 1856. The first Catholic church building in London was constructed of logs at the southwest corner of Dufferin Avenue and Richmond Street in 1834. Over the next 60 plus years the church experienced a series of milestones and setbacks in fires and political interference.

In 1868 Bishop John Walsh thought the diocese should have a cathedral and work on St. Peter’s Cathedral, a 13th century French Gothic Revival style, was begun. The cathedral was dedicated in June 1885.

The first stained glass windows were added in 1889. The interior decoration including installation of a Casavant organ, was complete by 1926.

In 1961 St. Peter's Cathedral was raised to the status of a minor basilica by Pope John XXIII. This year St. Peter’s Cathedral and Basilica, 198 Dufferin, Avenue, is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Amazing what God will do with a few settlers who believe in Jesus and make worship, prayer, and Bible study a priority.

Open Door Christian Fellowship Growth
From Bible Study To House Church To Brick And Mortar

In that same spirit of commitment to the Word, prayer and worship, 24 years ago structural engineer and Messianic Jew, Howard Katz experienced a life changing encounter with God. He heard a prophetic Word from God to start a Bible study in his home that would quickly grow and become a church.

Katz invited a few Christian friends to come to the first Monday night Bible study in his home. “I was quite pessimistic about what the results might be. I thought that either no one would show up or those who did come would come once and never return,” wrote Katz on his Open Door website. “But I resolved to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit even if it meant failure.”

As Katz prayed about that first Bible study, the Lord spoke to him the order of service. “First there would be a time of worship. Then I would teach the Word. And then the Lord spoke to me clear as a bell. After the teaching, call the people up for prayer. I spent much time in prayer as I prepared the message based on some Biblical teachings I had studied. Both the Bible study and Open-Door Christian Fellowship were founded on biblical principles of how a New Testament church should function.”

On the first Monday night of the Bible study, Katz was astonished when 25 people came. “The Holy Spirit anointed the entire meeting. At the end of the meeting, many came forward for prayer and to my amazement, God gave me a prophetic word for each person.” This first meeting lasted close to four hours.

The following week God gave Katz another message and about 35 people attended. “Week after week the meetings continued. Week after week the Lord gave me a fresh message. And week after week more people came. Soon we were averaging 60 to 80 people in our home. Sometimes it would top 100. I was grateful to my dear wife, Lena, for supporting the endeavor although our house was overrun with people.” In the winter, the banister was covered with coats several layers deep, and the foyer was a sea of boots.

As the Monday night meetings continued, months turned into years. “What may have appeared to be lack of progress was really part of God’s plan for shaping not only me, but those who would become part of the church and part of the team of elders. God matured me and those who attended the meetings.

After three and a half years of faithfully leading the Bible study, the Lord again spoke prophetically. It was now time to meet in addition to the Bible study, as a church. When the pastor of the local church the Katz family attended was told of the planting of the new church, he had his entire congregation pray for the family and for Katz. “He released us with his blessing.”

Church services would include praise and worship and solid teaching in a family and church environment. But it would be several years before the newly named Open Door Christian Fellowship congregation would be led to a permanent home. Located, in a former Anglican church at 940 Dundas Street.

God has been faithful to the Believers. From the first prophetic Word about starting the Bible study to years of serving, hearing, and obeying, Open Door Christian Fellowship is a Bible-based Spirit-led ministry that serves a congregation of over 600.

Pastor Howard Katz passed in 2020. His brother Harvey Katz stepped into the position of Pastor working with the same Spirit led advisors, elders. directors, and support staff who served with Pastor Howard.

Despite Covid the Open Door continues through live stream services and events. Registration is sent out Monday mornings services and children's ministries. For more information contact the church office at 519-438-6005 or email