Monthly Archives: January 2014

Hope is a big word

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Today we had our weekly drop-in at the Salvation Army Thrift Store “Coffee Corner”.. A friend joined us who is often in conversation with herself and/or an unseen other. She is sometimes very clear, and sometimes not. Today she spoke about a lot of things, including the feeling that she doesn’t have anyone in her life to care about her. Another member of the community, “Jess”, who has had more than her fair share of struggles, replied “Yes you do! You have us! We’re here for you, if you want to hang out with us! If not, that’s your prerogative.”

Then Jess stopped, as if surprised by herself… “Prerogative?! Wow, where did that come from? I haven’t used that word in… a long time! Awesome! What a great word!” She then went on to think of other great words. A few minutes later was still coming up with words, and I heard her say, “Hope! That’s a big word. Well, it’s a little word, but it’s big. It’s a big little word!”

She’s so right. Hope IS a big little word. Jess offers me hope, just by being who she is, and by the way that she offers hope to other folks in the community.

Hope. Awesome! What a great word.

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Toronto, the small town

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I love outreach. Erinn wrote a great post about outreach yesterday ( http://erinnoxford.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/reason-1001/ ), and last night I had another experience that I’d like to share.

I am part of a number of communities in Toronto outside The Dale, and these communities often overlap in a delightfully symbiotic way. One of these communities is Sanctuary, another church that is particularly welcoming to those on the margins. As I wrote in my “A bit of background” post, Sanctuary is where I got my start in street level ministry in Toronto, and it continues to be a very important community to me in a number of ways.

A large part of Sanctuary’s ministry, like The Dale’s, is outreach. Last night I joined a friend on late-night outreach downtown. It was super (SUPER!) cold, so we stopped in at all the 24-hour McDonalds stores along Yonge Street to warm up, and to check in with folks who were also taking refuge from the cold.

During one of these stops we chatted with a man whom I had met the night before, during outreach in Parkdale! I had to do a double-take, because it seemed a bit unlikely… But sure enough it was him!

On Wednesday night I had invited him to come for lunch on Monday with The Dale, and last night he told me that he planned to be there! He is someone who loves to cook, and told me that he planned to bring some food along to share with us. And he wanted to make sure that my Sanctuary outreach partner got to taste his curry too! He wasn’t satisfied until I committed to taking some of his food home, and delivering it to my friend on the other side of town. It was one of those moments when Toronto really felt like a small town, and the communities that I call home revealed themselves to be connected in a beautiful web.

Like I said, I love outreach!

The next step! And a story.

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Hello again,

I hope that 2014 is off to a good start for you!

When I started this blog, I told you that I had just lost my job at Alternative Grounds, and that I was taking some time to consider next steps.

It is with excitement and some trepidation that I announce…

After a good deal of thinking and praying, I’ve decided to increase my support-raising efforts, in order to work full time at The Dale! This would allow me to be available for more pastoral care, outreach, supporter care, and potentially another drop-in (perhaps a cooking club, a music drop-in… who knows!).

I need to raise approximately another $900/month, in order to reach my income goal. If the support doesn’t come in by March, I will then look for another part time job. I would not see this as a failure, but as an indication that having a part time job is a good option for me.

So, dear reader, if you are not currently a financial supporter, would you consider partnering with me at The Dale in this way? There a three ways to do this:

1)      Go to canadahelps.org, enter Parkdale Neighbourhood Church, and follow the prompts

2)      Send a series of post-dated cheques to P.O. Box 94, Station C, Toronto, ON, M6K 3M7

3)      Fill out a Pre-Authorized Remittance form, and sent it to the address above, with a void cheque. This form is available under the “Donate to the Dale” tab.

(We are still working on the legal paperwork, so for now we still use “Parkdale Neighbourhood Church” for support/donations. I will let you know when this changes.)

Before I sign off, I’d like to share a story with you from this week.

At The Dale we are, for the most part, pretty open about our struggles. This includes me and Erinn, because we firmly believe that we need the support of this community just as much as we seek to be a support to the folks here. This does not mean that we dump our emotions on anyone and everyone, but that we are open about the fact that we have our own struggles, and welcome the wisdom and encouragement that our community has to offer.

This Monday I showed up to drop-in, and was greeted by a friend who spends most of his time playing one of his many guitars, and talking about his many pet snakes. He’s a softy, but he doesn’t often show it. This friend handed me a delicate little nativity scene, and said “I know you’ve been having a tough time, so this is to let you know that someone was thinking of you.”

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Whoa. Beautiful. I am so thankful to be part of this community!

I welcome you to join me in this community, by coming to a drop-in or to church, by praying for us, and/or by providing financial support. We are a family that is always welcoming new members!

Peace be yours,

Joanna

Some post-Christmas and New Years thoughts

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Christmas and New Years can be complicated times. Christmas, especially, is an emotionally-charged time, and I have a lot of conflicting feelings about it. I had a bit of a breakthrough this December, which I’d like to share with you.

I accidentally went to the Dufferin Mall on Black Friday. I should say, I went to the Dufferin Mall to buy Advent candles and a swim cap, and I forgot that it was Black Friday! It was a terrible experience. So many people, so much consumerism, so little peace. I didn’t find any Advent-appropriate candles or a swim cap, but didn’t want the trip to be totally fruitless, so I picked up some cookie cutters to use the following week for a tree-decorating-cooking-baking party with my housemates.

On my walk home I thought about the experience that I had just lived through, and how it fit into my understanding of Christmas. I have always been bothered by the consumerism/materialism that surround Christmas, and find it SO frustrating that we collectively spend billions of dollars on a bunch of stuff we don’t really need, ostensibly to celebrate the arrival of a baby who was born into poverty, became a refugee, and challenged his followers to live simply. I think that giving and receiving meaningful gifts is a lovely thing, I just don’t think that we need to spend SO much money, and I don’t think that buying more stuff should be the focus of Christmas. And yet here I was, walking home having bought cookie cutters because I didn’t want to leave the mall empty-handed!

But then I thought more about my new cookie-cutters. I hope to have them for a long time, and they are tools in the creation not only of home-made cookies, but of memories with my friends. They represent some of the great things about the Christmas season… time spent together, good smells, yummy tastes, beautiful memories. Along the same lines, we, at The Dale, did a bunch of Christmas baking, went caroling, and held a Christmas open-stage, decorated with red, white and green lights. These things (cookies, carols, lights, fun times) don’t need to be linked with the consumerism/materialism of Christmas that I oppose. They also aren’t the “true meaning” of Christmas, but they’re really great! I don’t have to to boycott gingerbread, just because I oppose the mall!

Then I thought about Advent. I never did find Advent candles, but made a makeshift wreath with tea lights and one tall candle in the middle. I did not grow up with liturgy, but went to an Anglican theology school and was introduced to the Church calendar, including Advent. This year I have really fallen in love with Advent’s focus on waiting, longing, aching and hoping for Jesus. Waiting in hope is hard, but it is good. This is a huge part of the Christian life, and I love that in December we sit and dwell in the waiting.  Advent has nothing to do with consumerism, and also has nothing to do with gingerbread. I know there are connections (Jesus is God’s gift to us, so we give each other gifts… We celebrate his coming, which includes feasting), but in my mind these three things (consumerism, gingerbread, etc, and Advent) are distinct aspects of the phenomenon that we call “Christmas”.

And then there is the fact that Christmas is hard, for lots and lots of people. The whole festive-ness of it all brings up pain for many reasons. Families are broken, relationships are strained, loved ones have died, resources are scarce. Christmas is hard for many of my friends at The Dale, for all of these reasons and more. And, as many of you will know all too well, this pain extends beyond the street. Many (maybe even most?) of us struggle at Christmas-time. The pain that we experience is raw and real, and we are in it together. This year I have been learning to dwell in the pain; not minimize it, and not make it more than it is.

So, Christmas is still complicated, but I think I’m okay with that! I have realized that I can be opposed to the consumerism, enjoy the gingerbread, dwell deeply in the hopeful waiting, and work through the pain. Or at least try to!

And then there’s a brand New Year, just beginning! After the intensity of Christmas, it’s refreshing to think of a new year, even if we know that the struggles of 2013 are likely to continue in 2014.  I haven’t made any resolutions, but am praying for increased wisdom and grace, two things that I know for SURE that I will be needing this year. And I hope to continue to dwell in the hopeful and patient spirit of Advent all year long.

So… Happy New Year, everyone! May peace be yours.