St. Columba House is a community ministry that is an important constant in the lives of those who are living on the margins in Montreal.
The year 2017 marked a very important milestone in the history of St. Columba House. Who could have imagined in 1917 that, a century later, the ministry would be celebrating 100 years of offering healing and hope to the most vulnerable members of the Pointe-Saint-Charles community?
In the Kalpakkam area of Tamil Nadu province, India, the local fishing community is dealing with a very different threat than the one it faced with the 2005 tsunami. A nuclear power plant became a death trap during the tsunami, with several workers drowning within its walls. No one knows how many died for sure, as the government never released a number.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support food, health, and wellness programs at ministries like St. Paul’s Family Resource Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We tend to think of food banks as something relatively new. This may be true in some places, but not in Halifax, where there is a long history of helping those who need support.
Bridges to Hope in St. John’s, Newfoundland, one of our community ministry partners, is committed to reducing the effects of poverty on individuals and families. The centre’s Community Kitchen programs are in great demand, with many individuals and community service and public health organizations signing up for four- to six-week sessions. In 2014 the Food Pantry served 8,200 people, 1,800 of which were children.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support displaced people in Canada. Dr. Kathy Yamashita reflects on what it means to be a Japanese Canadian in light of the Japanese Canadian internment camps during World War II, and the support of Mission & Service of The United Church of Canada that works with the small Japanese United Church to grow into the multicultural church it is today.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes about God empowering church leaders “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). What are the ways that a minister has helped this community of faith to equip the saints for ministry, or to build up the Body of Christ in this place?
Water is a gift of God and a fundamental human right. Getting water remains a gruelling chore for many in the Global South, who may spend much of their day hauling water from distant sources to meet their families’ needs. Access to water affects every part of daily life. Mission & Service partner People's Action Forum is working hard to address these challenges in rural Zambia.
Our gifts for Mission & Service offer hope for those taking chances on alternative forms of farming in areas of severe drought. One example is the work of the National Council of Churches of Kenya with the National Drought Management Authority.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support theological education in seven theological schools, including Emmanuel College in Toronto, Ontario.
Aside from The United Church of Canada ministry training degrees, Emmanuel College offers interfaith programs in Muslim studies and Buddhist studies. These programs have created a more enriched program of study and diversity in the student population. Here is the story of one of these students:
May is Asian Heritage Month. The month provides a continuing opportunity to prayerfully reflect on the contributions of Asian Canadians to our church and Canadian society and to honour and celebrate this important aspect of Canadian history.
In church and society, Asian cultures and traditions are broad and diverse.
Comprising many language groups, cultural traditions, histories, and ways of expressing faith, Asian Canadians have many ways of being.
In China, the Amity Foundation offers programs for people on the margins—people like Zhou Jian, a 34-year-old baker who has been working at the Amity Bakery since it opened in 2007. As a child, Zhou Jian was placed in an institution where he stayed until 2004, when he was given the opportunity to live at Amity Foundation’s Home of Blessings for those who are developmentally challenged. When he arrived at the home at age 21, he did not understand the concept of words or numbers.
Let us hear a story of how The Healing Fund is building resilience and hope in Indigenous children and youth.
Pimicikamak Cree Nation (pronounced as pim ih chik uh mak) is a Cree-speaking Indigenous community north of Lake Winnipeg in Cross Lake, Manitoba. Pimicikamak means “where a lake lies across the river.” The community initiated a three-day suicide prevention strategy by inviting Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to their community to create art with their children, youth, and families.
Fran Forsberg shares her experience of Camp Caterpillar on Candle Lake, Saskatchewan:
“Being a mom of three gender-variant children I was afraid to give my children the experience of camp. I was afraid that my children would be singled out as weird, bullied by staff and other children for the simple fact that they do not fit into the gender norm.
In 1987, while El Salvador’s civil war raged on, displaced villagers started to return home. People from the village of Santa Marta returned determined to live in a new way. They decided to share land instead of holding individual plots. Education became their top priority.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support work with parents and children on the autism spectrum, like Footprints 4 Autism. With programs located in Pickering and Whitby, Ontario, Footprints strives to provide respite care to as many as possible.
Our gifts for Mission & Service give children in war-torn countries a chance to be children in places like Palestine with the help of Defence for Children International. On a mural in Aida Refugee Camp inside Bethlehem are the words of Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The article states the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities, and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
It seems more important than ever for the Christian church to foster intentional ecumenical and interfaith partnerships. The Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA) is a pan-African Christian organization that was started in 1959 to build good relations between Christians and Muslims. It brings together communities of faith, in spite of their differences, to work together for justice, peace, and reconciliation.
Millie lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Today she is thankful to have a home, health, and one year of sobriety. Two years ago, Millie was facing eviction and homelessness. Without Bissell Centre’s hot meals, Millie would have gone hungry, and without help from their caring staff, she would have ended up back on the streets.
In Bethlehem, the largely Christian-Palestinian city of Jesus’ birth, Wi’am strives to build a just society through mediation, conflict resolution, and non-violence. Its premises are bordered on one side by Israel’s controversial separation wall (deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2005) and on another side by a street that often sees confrontations between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers.
Supervised ministry education is an intentional learning experience that enables people preparing for ministry to deepen their pastoral identity, reflect theologically, and enhance their ministry skills. Mission & Service supports supervised ministry education by providing a grant to a learning site, like a congregation, for an eight-month placement.
Kenji Marui travelled to Australia as part of the Moderator’s Dialogue on Reconciliation to consult and build a relationship with the Uniting Church in Australia, the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and Indigenous groups in Australia. He reflects on this experience:
Our global partner the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) works on gender justice, microcredit, sustainable agriculture, and programs to address the extreme hunger caused by drought. Listen to this reflection from a participant in the Mission & Service Global Pilgrimage to Kenya on the visit to an area hardest hit by extreme hunger:
The Ecumenical Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto has a presence at the university’s downtown Toronto and suburban campuses in Mississauga and Scarborough. Jeannette Unger and Ralph Carl Wushke are two halves of the downtown chaplaincy, which is a partnership between the Presbyterian and United churches on campus and are part of a larger multifaith network of chaplains.
Rob Dalgleish, Executive Director of EDGE, says the growth of Embracing the Spirit, a Mission & Service program, demonstrates that there is an appetite across the church to experiment with new forms of worship and ministry. Embracing the Spirit is a Mission & Service program, learning network, and innovation fund.
As a jazz saxophonist, Peter Woods knows that live music performances are spiritually moving events for both the performer and the audience. As an ordained minister, he has always wanted to connect his performances more overtly to faith communities and spiritual growth.
For several decades, Indigenous communities of faith have gathered nationally to discuss matters of self-determination, spirituality, and their relationship with The United Church of Canada. These gatherings are a forum for listening to one another and discerning Creator’s plan for mission and ministry.
In India, Mission & Service partner Human Rights and Advocacy Research Foundation works with fishing communities, urban poor, traditional farmers, prisoners, Dalits (people of low caste), and Adivasis (Indigenous people) in the continuing struggle for economic and social justice.
One of its programs helps children whose families cannot provide essential school supplies. In addition, it educates the children on their human rights. Here are two of the children who have benefitted from this program.
June 5, 2017 marked the 50th year of Israel’s military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. More than two generations of Palestinians have known no other reality than Israeli military occupation. Staff in the United Church’s Church in Mission Unit recently visited Palestine-Israel, where they were hosted by Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center.
Smallhold farmers are some of the most important growers of food in Africa. According to some estimates, almost 80 percent of food for African families is supplied by smallhold farms. The health of those farms is therefore essential to solving chronic food insecurity in Africa.
Globally, human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade. Close to 80 percent of human trafficking across the world is related to sexual exploitation, but exploited labour, sale of human organs, and forced marriages are also linked to trafficking. In Asia, India is considered the hub of this crime. In India, the national government reports that a child goes missing every eight minutes.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support education centres like Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre in Paris, Ontario that offer programs for children, youth, and adults that inspire and inform. The United Church of Canada Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre was the vision of Bev Oaten in the 1950s. The first programs began in the summer of 1952. Five Oaks has gone through many changes over its 67-year history.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support counselling programs like The Counselling Centre in Brandon, Manitoba.
The Mission & Service support provided by The United Church of Canada helps to fund Project Hope, a program that provides professional counselling free of charge to those who are economically impoverished, such as non-status Indigenous clients, children, and seniors, who make up roughly 40 percent of the city’s population.
We give thanks for over eight years of giving through the Gifts with Vision catalogue. Every gift is developed by one of our Mission & Service partners and each one truly makes a difference! As we look forward to the new Gifts with Vision catalogue, let us hear some of the amazing things that have been accomplished thanks to your giving through Gifts with Vision.
1JustCity at St. Matthews Maryland Community Ministry builds community well-being, works for justice, and nurtures hope in individuals and families in west central Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The program attempts to balance meeting basic needs, enabling personal transformation, and working for social change through a variety of initiatives. These include everything from offering an emergency food program for families, to small collaborative economic initiatives that help people learn employment skills.
Rhonda Johns, Program Coordinator of Nations Uniting on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ohsweken, Ontario, engages with a lot of seniors, many of whom are residential school survivors, and with youth who don’t know who they are and where they belong. Observing this intergenerational dynamic, she realized that many on the reserve needed to experience healing. She asked herself what she could do.
Every summer, United Church kids pack their hockey or duffle bags, backpacks or suitcases for a week or two in the Canadian wilderness. United Church camps offer a place of faith and fun. Children, youth, and staff gather, giving thanks to God for the beauty of creation.
Many United Church camps offer camperships, where campers are able to attend at a reduced cost so that those who wouldn’t normally be able to attend can have a wonderful experience in the Canadian wilderness.
From January 28 to February 10, 2018, a group of youth leaders travelled to Nepal to see Mission & Service ecumenical partner Canadian Foodgrains Bank at work. The Rev. Janet Jones was one of the United Church leaders on the trip. Here, she shares her reflection on the impact of support from Canadian Foodgrains Bank:
For more than two decades, food delivery tricycles supported by United Church Mission & Service partner, the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD), have carried meals to elderly and infirm residents in Cárdenas, Cuba. CCRD grows, prepares, and delivers food to more than 100 people every day.
Since 2012, Jordan has received over 1.5 million refugees. Large numbers of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have sought safety in the country. The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)-Jordan is part of the ongoing response to this crisis.
“The prevailing situation of the Philippine society is even worse when seen through the prophetic eyes of the church. There is major ongoing social unrest in our country today,” says the Rev. Jerome Baris of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
Founded in 1990, the Asian Muslim Action Network, or AMAN, has members from over 20 Asian countries. The network seeks active collaboration with other faith communities to promote the human dignity of all, regardless of religion. Its programs of training and capacity development emphasize creative thinking, right understanding of religions, respect for diversity, and service to humanity.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support the work of Iridesce: The Living Apology Project. This project was created to encourage storytelling around the 1988 decisions to welcome gay, lesbian and bisexual people into full membership and ministry in the United Church—a welcome that was expanded to include people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in 2009.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support the work of LGBTQ Two-Spirit justice and global partnership. Here’s a story from the shores of Lake Couchiching, Ontario, on the territory of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
In late 2017, about 40 LGBTQ people, Two-Spirit people, and straight and cisgender allies gathered from 11 countries to support one another and work toward the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in all parts of the world.
Jennifer left home at age 16 and quit Grade 12 with only two months to go. But she enjoyed life, held a number of jobs, and had two long-term relationships.
Turning 30 for Jennifer was a milestone, so she made a 10-year plan. First, she wanted to get her Grade 12, and she did at age 32. Then she wanted to become a continuing care assistant (CCA). Not in the plan—a single mom when Paxton was born in 2012. Jennifer says, “It was the happiest day of my life so far!”
The Rev. Bronwyn Corlett reflects on the experience of Maritime Conference becoming an Affirming Conference.
What does it mean to be inclusive? What does it mean to love your neighbour as yourself? What do you do with your concerns when you disagree with your neighbour? How do you live in a community with varying beliefs, understandings, and practices? And what happens when the rules change?
Migration touches all corners of the globe. Some people choose to move in search of jobs, opportunity, or education. Others are forced from their homes by conflict, poverty, inequality, and a lack of sustainable livelihoods. The United Nations reported 258 million migrants in 2017.
The safeguards and protections we afford refugees, migrants, and displaced peoples speak to the foundation of human rights. The strangers among us are God’s people in need of our hospitality and mercy as much as our advocacy for the justice they seek and human rights they deserve.
The work of Mission & Service continues because of us.
Support from our congregation and congregations across the whole United Church make vital ministry possible.
Our gifts for Mission & Service change lives daily. Because we give to Mission & Service, thousands of meals are served, unemployable people find new hope in work programs, and people in need of housing find places of shelter.
Have you ever wondered what Mission & Service really is? Where did it come from? Well, I am going to tell you!
Mission & Service wasn’t always called Mission & Service. Before 1925, the three original denominations that joined to create The United Church of Canada—Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists—saw mission as an important part of church life and supported it in many ways.
In these times of change, people are asking, “What’s happening with the Mission & Service of the church?”
Our congregational and our Mission & Service revenues are both declining quite slowly at this point—two to three percent a year—so we have time to make changes, and we have time to do things differently.
The good news is that together we are making important changes, and we are taking the time to do things differently.
In the beginning, some Presbyterian churches along with the Methodist and Congregational churches in Canada came together in Mutual Street Arena in Toronto.
Mission & Service has always been at the core of the denomination. It has had different names, but the function has always been the same: to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God to answer the call to mend the world.
Our gifts for Mission & Service offer students an opportunity to gather for a meal in a multi-faith, safe space at places like the large Halifax campus of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. If you visit Dalhousie’s Multifaith Centre on Monday night, you will be greeted with a free hot meal provided by United Church chaplain the Rev. Robyn Brown-Hewitt, and so much more!
We experience a lot of sharing when we gather in faith communities. Singing and playing music together builds community and strengthens communal bonds. Competent and confident church musicians are vital to that process.
We stand on the foundation of a great cloud of witnesses—faithful men and women who answered the call of ministry in an overseas position to preach, teach, and heal in places around the world. We are thankful for the ways they showed us what it means to love your neighbour around the world in loving partnership.
The Nebaj region of rural Guatemala suffered through three decades of civil war that ended in 1996. Here, the Guatemala Conference of Evangelical Churches (CIEDEG) is training more than 400 Indigenous women in human rights, citizen participation, and economic empowerment through farming.
The air was filled with excitement at Oak Table Community Ministry in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as guests who signed up for Beach Day confirmed the details. “What time should I be here?” “How many are going?” “What time does the bus leave?” “What are we having for lunch?” were common questions. A few guests were anxious, wanting to know how their ID would be safe if they went in the water, or how they would get breakfast that morning since they usually go to a soup kitchen.
In the Holy Land, bringing ordinary Israelis and Palestinians peacefully together is extremely difficult in such a tense and violent environment. But the International Christian Committee in Israel (ICCI) does just that.
Our gifts for Mission & Service offer people of The United Church of Canada an opportunity to visit our global partners through the People in Partnership program. An opportunity to “come and see” our Mission & Service global partners can deepen our understanding of what it means to be in partnership.
During a pilgrimage to Colombia for justice and peace organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in February 2018, Christians witnessed the need for peace and justice in the midst of the troubled peace process.
Working toward racial justice in church and society is a lifelong journey. We must be open to learning from each other, with each other, and with the Spirit, so that we continue to break down barriers and build just institutions.
Our gifts for Mission & Service, together with our emergency response for Typhoon Haiyan, support the agricultural program of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan destroyed large parts of Philippine infrastructure, affecting the economic base of many communities.
The Lumad are Indigenous peoples of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Many Lumad communities have established their own schools, looking for help from government, non-governmental organizations, and church groups. Mission & Service partner the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) is collaborating with the Lumad peoples in this work.
In August 2017, close to 600 youth, young adults, and youth leaders gathered in Montreal to sing, dance, learn, and be inspired to share their voices with a world and a church in desperate need of hearing them.
Rendez-vous is a national United Church get-together that happens every three years in different locations around Canada.
Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda), considered the world’s strongest typhoon ever to make landfall, pummelled Central Philippines in 2013. Government figures estimate the super typhoon affected about 14 million people and left 4.1 million displaced. More than 6,000 people were killed, and about 44 provinces in 9 regions sustained extensive damage to houses, livelihoods, and infrastructure. About 1 million houses were damaged, half of them completely destroyed.
The Longhouse Council of Native Ministry started 30 years ago as an outreach to Indigenous people in Vancouver, British Columbia. Established without a building, today its home is a church in the low-income Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, and its outreach extends to all those seeking a caring community.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support programs at places like Naomi Centre and Emmanuel House, both part of Stella’s Circle in St. John’s, Newfoundland. For Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017, Stella’s Circle organized a concert. Stella’s Circle Sings for Canada featured the premiere of a song written by the Inclusion Choir with Amelia Curran, and a screening of a film by Roger Maunder about the process. The Inclusion Choir includes many living on the edges of Newfoundland society, blended with staff from Stella’s Circle.
Paul said, “I’m going to die on February 23rd at 10:30 a.m.”
Paul has cancer. He was given three months to live but he has already surpassed that timeline by a month. In the meantime, his body continues to waste away and he is in constant pain. Here is a story from a United Church hospital chaplain about Paul. “I have been visiting Paul for several weeks in the palliative care unit of the hospital. He has called me in on this particular day to tell me that he has requested medical assistance in dying, and the date and time for the procedure are set.
In a nurturing atmosphere of home and family, Our Place serves Victoria, British Columbia’s most vulnerable: people who are addicted and homeless, the working poor, those who are mentally and physically challenged, and impoverished elderly people. This remarkable inner-city centre relates to the people who use it as family members, not clients, with an emphasis on creating a compassionate, caring community.
A row of old houses on Rue MacKay in Montreal, Quebec, is part of student life at Concordia University. One is home to the Concordia Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre. The Rev. Ellie Hummel is the United Church chaplain on staff at the centre, and she works with chaplains from the Baha’i, Muslim, Sikh, Pagan, Buddhist, and Jewish communities as well as various Christian denominations.
Summer can be a wonderful time of year filled with holidays and meals on the patio, but please remember that summer is no vacation for those living in poverty.
Children who rely on hot breakfast and lunch programs through schools are faced with two months of poor nutrition. Families with tight budgets are forced to find money for summer child care, or often take unpaid time off from work to stay home to look after little ones. This leaves precious little left over in terms of money and energy.
Gender inequality has a direct impact on what food is available to families in some African countries. Women often have limited access to land to grow food for their families, and credit to purchase seeds. Women are also frequently vulnerable to moneylenders.
Our gifts for Mission & Service support ministries to those living on the margins, like First United Church Community Ministry in East Vancouver, British Columbia. The community has become the epicentre of the converging crises of mental health, addiction, extreme poverty, homelessness, and marginalization. The people who gather here for help are people who literally have nowhere else to go—they may have been rejected by other shelters, mental health supports, hospitals, or their own families.
In Chiclayo, Peru, there is an organization of people who aren’t afraid to show their light to the world. They determinedly work day in and day out with people who live with poverty, marginalization, and oppression. They are known to many as “las Esperanzitas”—“the hopeful people.” This group of people shine their light onto the world with passion, dedication, and a spirituality of hope.
Four hundred and ninety-four women from across Tanzania, East Africa, and 16 training sessions in collaboration with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health: these are the latest totals for training traditional birth attendants (midwives) reported by Mission & Service partner the Morogoro Women’s Training Centre. The collaboration, which is made possible with the support of United Church Women, is part of an overall strategy to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in Tanzania.
The vision statement of United Church Women (UCW) includes a call to continuous prayer and learning, leading to action—and United Church Women across the church have faithfully answered that call for over 55 years!
Our gifts for Mission & Service support ministries like Our Place Society in Victoria, British Columbia, which offers programs for those on the margins that make everyone feel like family.
One of the proudest moments of the Victoria Pride Parade was when a young pre-op transgender woman said that she never felt brave enough to walk in the parade until the day she marched with the staff and family of Our Place.
The community gathers, and music fills the air. Slipping effortlessly between Anishinaabemowin and English, the gathered congregation sings their favourite hymns to piano and guitar. Christian Island United Church serves the Ojibwe, Potawatomie, and Odawa people of Beausoleil First Nation located on beautiful Georgian Bay.
The Sunday morning congregation is tiny, but the pastoral care needs of the community are never-ending. This is a place where the United Church tries to live out in practical ways our apology to First Nations.
Thirteen Youth Forum pilgrims were on a journey during the summer of 2018. After work and orientation in their home Conferences, they travelled east to Newfoundland. With their two young adult leaders and a global partner, these dedicated young people visited each Conference of the United Church. They stopped in Oshawa, Ontario, in July to participate as commissioners at the 43rd General Council and then continued their pilgrimage, ending in British Columbia in mid-August.
Many ministries these days are wondering what they can do to serve young adults. In 2015, a small team of youth and young adult leaders in Southern Ontario met at Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre to envision a resource that could be used by the church to accompany young adults as they discerned questions of vocation and meaningful work.
Our gifts for Mission & Service provide opportunities for teachers like Melissa Carter to work at Los Quinchos School in Managua, Nicaragua. Here is her reflection:
“I have not come here to change their culture; yet I still maintain that school can be a powerful environment to positively affect self-confidence and to empower these young, bright faces to take on new challenges. One walk around my neighbourhood unveils the fact that they already overcome daily difficulties I can only imagine; they are strong and resilient.