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News and Events

New Beginnings at The Bridge

The United Church Foundation is mindful of our partners who support new beginnings.

Bridge House is a transition home in downtown Hamilton, Ontario, for up to six men who could otherwise be homeless when they finish serving provincial sentences in jail.  In the following blog post, James Bowen, former Bridge executive director, reflects on what happened when the Bridge offered more evening social and educational programming.   

The Bridge’s ministry is unique in being the only local organization that works specifically with men leaving provincial detention centres.  While there are multiple organizations in Hamilton that offer educational programs to the general public, there are certainly no organizations that reach out to offer educational help to this population.

These men may be caught in a cycle of criminal behaviour, incarceration and homelessness, and may not have the ‘pro-social’ skills required to achieve their educational and occupational goals.  They are vulnerable to homelessness, poverty, abuse, institutionalization and isolation, and need ongoing support beyond what is currently being offered.  

Substance abuse, relapses, and acting out seldom occur in a vacuum, but they are rather the buildup of emotional stresses such as grief, anxiety, shame or other emotions. When clients have someone available to talk to, or alternate activities available, they receive the means to deal with these stresses in a healthy way which can lead to alternative decisions.

Our Bridge Education and Social Time (BEST) project enabled us to offer more evening programs and supportive services to build skills and meet particular individual needs. 

We found that more often than not, clients would come foremost for the social relationships that they could develop with each other, staff and volunteers.  Then, they would stay for the educational opportunities…rather than the other way around.   

In this way, we found we are stronger together. We learned in new depth the value of our clients’ abilities to educate each other.

Our clients benefitted tremendously from education and support by Bridge staff, but also from the strength of other community resources in The Bridge’s neighbourhood such as by Mohawk College’s CitySchool and Mission Services.  

Two clients began full-time programs at Mohawk College [and both] intend to move on to McMaster University. Another person participated in his first university course for credit, while two other people took individual courses at Mohawk College.

Five clients attended structured weekly addictions support resources. Seven clients got support in writing resumes and eight found computer support, improved their typing, or learned new internet skills.

One participant embraced this project upon its inception. He helped create its name and

attended faithfully. He enrolled in his first post-secondary program.  Simultaneously, this same person has been enjoying the recreational activities during evenings, particularly developing his passion for board games. He decided to launch Barton Village Games, a weekly Friday night community games night.

We would tell others: make space for people who are ex-offenders to share their gifts and experiences!  

The Changing Shape of Rural Ministry

What will be the new shape of rural ministry?   Rev. Ursula Wiig traveled to an international conference in New Zealand recently to explore this question.  She serves in ministry about 130kms south of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at Elbow/Loreburn/Strongfield Hawarden United Church.  The United Church Foundation was pleased to support this experience through The Ann Jentzsch-Bill Bursary for a woman active in lay, ordained, or diaconal ministry.  The bursary supports studies, education, or professional development enhances the applicant’s capacity to provide ministry. 

The financial assistance from the Bill and Anna Jentzsch Bursary to help with the costs of attending the 2018 International Rural Church Association Conference in Christchurch, New Zealand is very much appreciated.

The week-long conference was a tremendous experience.  Nearly 100 people attended.  Most participants were from New Zealand and Australia, but every other continent was represented except for Africa and Antarctica.  Four of us were Canadians, all United Church, and as two were also on the planning committee.

In addition to the theme presentations, worship, and cultural evening s organized by different regional groups, we had tours to local rural churches and farms or agricultural enterprises.  Over and above all this, it was just good to have the opportunity to share experiences, hear some inspiring stories, and pick up helpful resources. 

Despite the geographical, cultural, and denominational differences, it is clear that most rural churches are having to find new ways of doing things.   Increased ecumenical collaboration is one option.  [Churches are] often functioning without the denominational support on which they’d previously relied. 

For example, a Uniting Church minister in Western Australia is concerned that her church will discontinue funding a resource person for the rural churches in that huge region, none of which have paid accountable ministers any more. 

Here in rural Saskatchewan, many rural appointments are only part-time and even pastoral charges seeking full-time ministry personnel are unable to attract them. 

This situation is not unique to Saskatchewan or the United Church.  According to Dave Ruesink from the Rural Church Network, USA and Canada, this is a common trend among mainline denominations in North America; rural ministry is becoming increasingly marginalized with the governing bodies providing fewer and fewer resources.

Those of us in rural ministry know we can’t go back to the “old days,” but hopefully the new structure will include rural and small Church Ministries and innovative ways will be found to support these ministries.  Catherine Christie and I both returned from the 2018 IRCA Conference with a resolve to raise the profile of this type of ministry in our presbyteries, Saskatchewan Conference, and, as of 2019 [when changes will be implemented in the current United Church of Canada national organizing structure], in Region 4.

270 New Relationships

At the United Church of Canada Foundation, we are honoured and inspired to hear how our partners use Foundation grant resources to change lives.   

In Peterborough, Ontario, a small group of dedicated people are heading into year two of a Building Bridges Out of Poverty project.    This fall, five individuals living in poverty (who’ve named themselves “the Awesome People”) will continue to journey with mentors towards a more stable life.   As project co-coordinator Rev. Lynn Smith-Reeve shares, all participants are being challenged to grow and learn in community:    

“[We have learned that] change moves at the speed of relationship.

This project recalls a time when neighbours were able to cross class and cultural barriers in order to share stories and support one another.

In our modern day, people from all walks of life suffer from social isolation, excess consumerism, and a growing gap between rich and poor.  Our communities cry out for ways to reclaim what it is to be a neighbour.

[Our Bridging Teams project] addresses the. . . 11 essential resources required to overcome poverty’s tyranny of day-to-day crises. By creating a social network of middle-class mentors, the Awesome People have expanded their resources and supports to deal with poverty’s complex challenges.

Brenda Steele, one of the Awesome People, says ‘The Middle-class doesn’t seem to understand people living in poverty – they understand a little – but not fully. We had to help them understand what poverty really is and how we live in poverty.’ 

This past year, the five Awesome People and ten Mentors came together to meet weekly for three hours in a Bridging Team.  

By far, the most positive aspect of the work is our success in creating a safe non-judgmental space for mutual learning among people from different socio-economic cultures or classes.  Our focus includes three key elements of food, fun, and storytelling.

Each of the fifteen participants has created 18 new relationships including staff (15 x 18 = 270 new relationships!). This new social network has the potential of affecting the lives of every participant in significant ways.

Mentors were challenged to learn, through training and extensive practice, how to become allies beyond their habitual desires to help/fix/advise.   Some things they shared:  

‘…greater awareness of real-life challenges of people in poverty.’

‘I am less judgmental, and I am in awe of how resourceful these awesome people are.’   

Here is a sample of what the Awesome participants said:

‘…allowed me to find a career direction after many years of uncertainty. Now I can move toward a new goal.’

‘…wonderful sense of belonging.’    

 ‘…helped me see the strength in myself…more self-confidence with speaking in pubic, self-esteem, leadership roles, and having fun.’”

This autumn a 2nd Bridging Team will be based at The Mount Peterborough, an innovative Hub of affordable housing, community gardens, and social enterprises. Their long-term vision is to see Bridging Teams hosted by congregations, agencies, and neighbourhood groups all across the city.    

Learn more about how United Church Foundation resources could animate significant change in your community!

United Church Health Services Society

After more than a century of providing health care services in the Central Coast communities of Bella Bella and Bella Coola and Hazelton located in Northwestern British Columbia, the successful transfer of United Church Health Services Society (UCHSS) facilities and services to respective the health authorities is complete. It is now appropriate for UCHSS to wind up the organization.

It is with some sadness that UCHSS announces its intention to wrap up the organization. The United Church’s Health Care mission, its doctors, nurses and other staff were part of the British Columbia communities from a time when there were no public funded health services. After years of dedicated service UCHSS has accomplished the mission and the transfer of Central Coast hospitals and medical services in Bella Bella and Bella Coola to Vancouver Coastal Health Authority was completed in 2014 and the hospital, medical services and health care programs in Hazelton were transferred to Northern Health Authority in 2016. The retail pharmacy in Hazelton was sold in 2016. The dedicated staff in the facilities and the health authorities made the transition a success.

After working to meet UCHSS liabilities and making provision to meet potential liabilities any residual funds will be transferred to the United Church or Canada and the United Church of Canada Foundation to eventually support to healing ministries, scholarships and grants for health and spiritual care in the three communities.

For additional information please contact The United Church of Canada Foundation by email  or by phone at 1-866-340-8223.

Thinking of making a real difference? The feeling is mutual

Read through the most recent copy of Fairlawn United Church’s annual report and two names come up again, and again… and again. Greig Clark, Chair of the Governing Council… Carolyn Clark, team leader of Girls Night Out…. Carolyn is also a member of the Helping Hands Lay Ministry Team; Prayer Shawl Ministry and is the Advent by Candlelight team leader. Greig is also chair of Lay Leadership Development; past chair of Property Council; and Stewardship Development team leader. Greig–who was also a trustee– plays with the Fairlawn Basketball boys in his spare time.

Additionally, both Carolyn and Greig are founding members of The Fairlawn Legacy Circle; members of the Outside Welcoming Committee; and the Christian Resource Centre (CRC). It’s through the CRC that the church supported those living in Toronto’s Regent Park who are less fortunate, providing men and women with more than 800 pairs of underwear and raising $3,316 to buy a closet-full more. Who organized the 4th annual Christmas campaign? Why, Carolyn of course!

Active in their church, Greig and Carolyn are also hugely involved in their community Toronto Christian Resource Centre where Greig was Board Chair and Carolyn started a much-needed clothing bank.

The Greatest Joy

Read through every annual report of any United Church and you will ¬ find similarly involved members. Perhaps you’re one yourself, or you were at one time. So what words best describe the Clarks, and equally committed Christians like you? Words like ‘membership,’ ‘fellowship’ and ‘stewardship’ immediately come to mind. And so does our highest calling: the call to ‘discipleship.’

People like the Clarks give of their time and talent and treasure in equal measure. Greig remembers when he was a teenager that someone told him “the greatest joy in life is giving.” Although at the time he didn’t believe it was true, he now realizes this is the highest order of calling and is much more satisfying than earning money. Carolyn nods her head in agreement and echoing these sentiments adds that, living a life of privilege, “how much money do you need?”

Matching the gifts their six children give to charities, Greig and Carolyn choose to give through shares and mutual funds because “it makes sense” and because they get a sizable tax benefit enabling them to donate even more. (The Clarks intentionally choose to give their annual gifts early in the year in order that organizations don’t have to wonder and wait; they can put the gift into action without delay).

When they revised their Wills the Clarks realized they also wanted to give generously while they were alive. Since then, they have wholeheartedly become involved with the causes they love, inspiring their kids to do the same.

Making a real difference starts with a simple decision:
How will you give thanks fort he blessings you have received? Join the Clarks and others like you; make your gift today!

Fall Events You Won’t Want to Miss!

Friends, there are two events in Ontario over the next month that we want to highlight and make sure that you know that you have a special invitation to:

Naming Ceremony & Feast

Date: Sept. 23rd, 2018

Time:  10:30 am service 

            Noon: Naming Ceremony and Feast

Place: Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, 427 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X7

Details: We are so pleased to announce a new endowment fund that will benefit The United Church of Canada’s Healing Fund and Anishnawbe Health Toronto.  Traditional Healer James Carpenter will lead those gathered in a naming ceremony that will also be attended by United Church Elders Gabrielle Lamouche and The Rev. Lawrence Moore.

 Canadian Boomerfest

Date: October 17-19th, 2018

Time: October 17th 5pm-9m

           October 18th 8:15am-9pm

           October 19th 8:15am -2:45pm

Place: Siloam United Church 1240 Fanshawe Road East, London, ON  N5X 3Z8

Details: There is an important connection between baby boomer parents and grandparents, young people, and the church. Canadian Boomerfest, coming to Siloam United Church in London, Ontario this October, explores this connection. This first-of-its-kind event will bring together community members, faith leaders and experts in spirituality and the second half of life to talk about and celebrate all the ways in which the church can connect with baby boomers and their families. Topics will include caring for yourself while caring for others; building bridges between older and younger generations; and navigating transitions (like retirement, illness and loss) with grace. Watch this video to learn more about the important connection between baby boomer parents and grandparents, young people, and the church. If this topic interests you, you won’t want to miss Canadian Boomerfest, coming this October to Siloam United Church. Register today at http://canadianboomerfest.siloamunitedchurch.org

 

We hope to see you at one or both of these events!

Have you heard about Canadian Boomerfest?

The United Church of Canada Foundation is pleased to support innovative programs, projects, and events created by congregations and United Church organizations across Canada. Canadian Boomerfest is a great example of the kinds of unique events the Foundation supports.

There is an important connection between baby boomer parents and grandparents, young people, and the church. Canadian Boomerfest, coming to Siloam United Church in London, Ontario this October, explores this connection. This first-of-its-kind event will bring together community members, faith leaders and experts in spirituality and the second half of life to talk about and celebrate all the ways in which the church can connect with baby boomers and their families. Topics will include caring for yourself while caring for others; building bridges between older and younger generations; and navigating transitions (like retirement, illness and loss) with grace.

Join United Church people across the country in supporting First Nations students this summer

Alvin Dixon, a respected Heiltsuk First Nation Elder, worked all his life to improve the lives of First Nations people.

Torn from his home near Bella Bella, also known as Waglisla, along the east coast of B.C.’s Campbell Island at the tender age of ten and robbed of the loving care of his family and community and forced to attend a residential school, he didn’t let it break his spirit.

In spite of his earlier traumas, he fought the odds and pursued a degree at the University of British Columbia, as one of only six First Nations students at the school.

He served as a role model and advocate, working with the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, and the United Church, where he was a member of the general executive council.

And he was one of the founders of the Native Ministries Consortium and the Native Ministries program at the Vancouver School of Theology.

Dixon worked to raise awareness about the residential school system, First Nations youth and First Nations fishermen and women.

Sadly, his life was cut short in 2014, when he died of cancer. But his legacy and work live on through the Alvin Dixon Memorial Fund, which supports initiatives that focus on education for Aboriginal students.

The fund, along with the Endowment Fund for Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education, supports First Nations students who are fighting similar battles as Dixon did, becoming role models to the next generation.

Both are part of the United Church of Canada Foundation’s support of the Church’s work towards truth and reconciliation and serve as a way to put the values and words of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada into action.

The Foundation is a registered charity with tax receipts available. Donations can be made through our safe and secure website.

This July, a run/walk in Dixon’s memory provides a fun way to show support by lacing up your shoes. You can join in Oshawa on Sunday July 22, or organize a run in your own community. All fitness levels are welcome and you can either run 5km or walk 1km.

Fraudulent Email Concerns

We have become aware of a very clever but fraudulent email targeting some of our contacts. Please note we have not sent out any personalized solicitation emails for funds recently. Don’t open any attachments or links.  Delete the email. For best practices, we also suggest you change your password for your email account. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-866-340-8223.

Good News for the New School Year

Does back-to-school mean back to hot meals for students in your school community?
It does in Sarnia, Ontario, thanks to Grace United Church’s Lunch for Learning community-school partnerships.

Here’s how it works: Lunch for Learning provides a hot lunch to 450 students every month at Landsdowne, Queen Elizabeth, and High Park public schools. More than 40 volunteers supervise older students with preparing fresh fruits and vegetables: students both learn food preparation skills and forge inter-generational connections. Older students help younger students get their meals. At the respective sites, volunteers, staff, and students together sit down to eat communally.

“Key to the program’s success is the dedication of the volunteers, the continued fundraising, and a receptive school atmosphere,” says program co-ordinator Pauline Henderson-Ferguson.

“Staff and students recognize the program coordinator and volunteers. They greet us in the hallways and are disappointed if it’s not their turn to attend. They want to know what’s for lunch.”

L4L launched at High Park Public school in 2016, after expanding from Grace United’s existing L4L project started in 2014. High Park food costs were funded by a grant from the United Church Foundation. Volunteers served 16 hot lunches between October and school end. Now, efforts are underway to raise more revenue so the vital program continues.

To raise funds for L4L, on Sept. 24th at Grace United Church, volunteers will prepare and serve a country ribs dinner: $15 for adults or $17 at the door; free for kids under 12.

Henderson-Ferguson shared some of the children’s comments from last school year:

“Thank you for helping me and my classmates learn how to clean and cook.”

“We were the lucky school that got chose to have a great time chatting, eating, getting to know each other and having fun.”

“Wonderful food and hope that we can have it again. You made us make food and some people feel more comfortable around knives.”

About seven local Sarnia bodies have also contributed funds to L4L.

If you have an idea for responding to community needs through partnerships, please review The United Church of Canada Foundation’s granting programs  and contact us at grants@united-church.ca or 866-340-8223!