Category Archives: Current Events

My morning on Ottawa’s streets. The start of a Faith Today story

When we first moved to Ottawa in January, a brand new city for us,  we didn’t know much of anything about living in the area. A fun group of parishioners from our new church who live in the same neighbourhood as we do had a get-together to welcome us and answer questions. They filled scrapbook pages with tips on things like where to get the best thai food and cupcakes (those ‘must-know’ bits of information).

Later, on the “Day Trip” page, I  noticed one woman had written, “Shadow me on the sidewalks of downtown Ottawa and minister to the poor.” And she doodled a smiley face in blue marker beside her invitation.

Last Thursday, I took her up on it. We met at our downtown church at 7:30am and fuelled ourselves with coffee and breakfast at a nearby diner, where I heard her heart for this ministry of presence on the streets of the nation’s capital. Then we wandered the sidewalks to reach out to the homeless we came upon. My friend Jill is executive director with  Urban Christian Outreach Ottawa. She spends usually two days a week doing what we did last week, prayerfully walking down the sidewalks of downtown Ottawa, trying to be salt and light to those who need her.

We ducked into a courtroom to see if any of Jill’s friends were there. We wandered through a mall where many of them used to hang out to see if anyone needed her there. We stopped and spoke to men (because it was just men on that day), who were panhandling and offered to get them water or coffee. In one case, Jill bought breakfast for a veteran who was sitting in a wheelchair, cup out for donations.

We sat in McDonald’s, while Jill tried to help one of the men we met that day.

The story he told us was sad and complicated, and hinted at the maze like process veterans have to navigate, sometimes alone, to get the help they may need. In the end, our friend wheeled away from us in frustration, assuming we were just another dead end. Undaunted, Jill pulled out her phone to make calls to see if she could still find out anything that would help the man find a home.
Continue reading My morning on Ottawa’s streets. The start of a Faith Today story

I went to the National Prayer Breakfast. And this is what I saw

By Lorianne Dueck

The morning sunlight blazed through Confederation Park. The tulip petals glowed.  We were on our way to pray.  

Over 400 men and women met in the Westin Hotel in downtown Ottawa for the 52nd National Prayer Breakfast in late May. I was able to join in for the purpose of collectively honouring and continuing to hold to our Christian heritage.

Lorianne Dueck just might have been one of the youngest people at the National Prayer Breakfast this year. In this blog she shares what she saw.

Amidst the conventional networking and table chit chat,  a deeper conversation took place.  The true point of discourse (not discord) at the National Prayer Breakfast is faith.

Some of the words that affected me deeply were spoken by Health Minister, Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P.. She talked about the stress of question period. She said that MPs only  have about 35 seconds to respond, which is enough time for about three sentences. “How can I use those three sentences? What do I want people to see? What do I want them to remember?” Those are the questions Philpott asks herself. She tries to make her three sentences count:  I want to have a sentence of grace, a sentence of wisdom, and a sentence of courage. 

She asked us to pray to that end. Being a person of many words (often too many), I found Philpott’s questions profound. If the world heard me for 35 seconds, would they see grace, wisdom, and courage? I would be honoured if they did – and hopefully God would be glorified.

The main address of the morning came from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. As representative of Queen Elizabeth II, he structured his speech around faith, service, and love, drawing examples from her life (and his own) to illustrate each value. He quoted a speech by the Queen given on her 21st Birthday, published on April of 1947:

There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, “I serve”. […] I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. […] God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

With my 21st birthday less than seven months away, I can honestly say that Queen Elizabeth’s words are awe-inspiring, and daunting. This is a motto I long to say with the same conviction.

The morning ended with an a capella rendition of Amazing Grace, by Canadian band Hawk Nelson. Then, as the bagpipes played, we stood, watching our political leaders leave the room and return to their offices. We left soon after.

The sun was now higher in the sky, the flowers had lost their ethereal glow, and it was time to start the work day. I had to ask myself, did that breakfast really matter? Would the prayers have an impact?

Yes.

Because when the speeches are over, the applause subsided, the food  eaten, and the dishes cleared away, three things still do remain: Faith, hope, and love – and we all know that the greatest of these is love. God continues to build His Kingdom here in Canada.

Lorianne Dueck is an EFC research assistant and an international business student at Carleton University in Ottawa. 

Reconciliation involves listening. Blanket Exercise makes that easy.

I participated in my first Blanket Exercise recently on Parliament Hill.

The largest Blanket Exercise in Canada was held recently on Parliament Hill

I had heard of it only once before, when the earnest son of a friend, newly sensitized to Aboriginal issues, tried to walk his extended family through it at a barbecue, to mixed results. I knew it involved blankets and a history lesson, and in my friend’s case, an annoyed grandpa.

But it was much more than that.

Kairos Canada, who helps facilitate the exercise, describes it as a “participatory popular education methodology” with the goal of  building “understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.” If you show up, you can be involved. The colourful blankets, in my case spread out beneath the stairs that lead up to the front doors of Parliament, represent pre-colonized Canada.

You’re invited to take your place on the blankets, and there it begins, a moving and enlightening walk-through of Canada’s history with our First Nations.

What struck me most, besides of course the realization of how much I don’t actually know  (or have forgotten) about my country’s own history, was the kindness of the facilitators. Volunteers strolled through the crowd offering kleenex to those moved to tears by the experience. Then, in a move that reminded me of Psalm 56:8 (God gathering our tears in a bottle), they collected the tissues back up again, because the tears were so important and not to be carelessly tossed aside.

Participants were warned they might find the exercise upsetting, learning in more detail than perhaps ever before about the harsh and sometimes fatal treatment of Indigenous peoples by the hand of government, Church, and history in general. But we were very kindly and gently asked to not feel shame or guilt, but to enter and exit the exercise with a healthy sense of hope and love for each other. It was about reconciliation. That beautiful spirit touched me as much as the actual shifting and sorting and bunching up of blankets that told this part of our history that we’d probably rather forget. But true reconciliation means remembering.

Next week, on Wednesday June 21, it is Aboriginal Day. If you can find some event in your community — maybe even a Blanket Exercise — to show your commitment to reconciliation and hope and love, try to attend.

Here at Faith Today, our Jul/Aug issue features an interview with Christine MacMillan, World Evangelical Alliance’s associate secretary general for public engagement. Here’s part of what she said about reconciliation in that soon to be published interview: “It’s being patient. It’s listening to the point where listening even of itself be- comes peace and reconciliation. It’s exploring “what will it take to bring peace?” – and as you explore in that way reconciliation starts to happen. The process is as important as the outcome. [Reconciliation doesn’t begin] until you get people feeling the trust in the room that allows them to tell the layers of their story. The Church must be that safe place, as well as that public place.”

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One Sermon in 150+ Vancouver Churches on June 11

Mark Glanville is one of the organizers of the June 11 preaching event in Vancouver

by Mark Glanville

The same sermon theme will be preached in over 150 Vancouver churches on Sunday June 11.

Our theme: welcoming the stranger. I feel giddy with anticipation as I type! This is a response to what can sometimes be a fear-based political climate,  that breeds suspicion of outsiders. It is also a response to the isolation that many Vancouverites feel, daily. Together, we are sending a unified message to the city, a vision of the kingdom: the radical welcome of God, in Christ.

The idea for One City, One Message came initially from City Councillor Andrea Reimer at the Vancouver City Summit, a city-wide consultation of pastors interested in pursuing together the wellbeing of their neighbourhoods and the city.

The theme of welcoming the stranger is timely: survey-based research by the Vancouver Foundation shows that Vancouverites are experiencing a crisis of social isolation, a corrosion of care that results in a silo mentality. Our lives are bounded by ethnicity, culture, language, income, age, and geography. Isolation is experienced across Canada, not only in Vancouver. Maclean’s magazine reflected that a ‘good’ neighbor is experienced as someone who doesn’t bother you, either by disrupting your enjoyment of your home or by threatening your property value (August 2014).
Continue reading One Sermon in 150+ Vancouver Churches on June 11

Six things I wish I had learned in medical school

By Laura Lewis, MD

I wish I had learned…

That science can only describe the magnificence of life, not explain it. Despite learning about oocytes, spermatozoa, cell division and embryology, I failed to appreciate the complex blueprint of life, established in the early moments of conception.

During the course of her work as a frontline medical doctor, she saw the need for education, support and practical options for women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. In May of 2016, Dr. Lewis accepted the position of executive director of CAPSS.

That in the name of “choice” many women have no choice regarding their unplanned pregnancy.
I never appreciated that the scared, young woman sitting across from me in my doctor’s office also carried the fear and pressure of many others whose lives would be impacted by her decision. This fear is often laden with pressure, subtle and overt.

That many men and women live with great regret about their children lost to abortion.
As I began to work with our local pregnancy care centre, stories of deep and hidden sorrow began to emerge from post-abortive women and men. It made me question whether we have done an adequate job providing real choices. I know the answer without hesitation – we have not. True choice is when accurate information is provided on all options. True choice is made from a place of knowledge and confidence, not fear.

That despite our ability to treat a diseased heart, we have no cure for a broken one. 
We cannot fix a broken heart, but we should do all that we can to try and prevent it. I wish all women, men and families facing an unplanned pregnancy could hear the cries of regret from those who have walked before them. The physical, mental and emotional effects of abortion matter, whether it is 1% or 100% of patients affected.

That a microscope, while magnifying an image, can actually dull our focus.
A chromosome count cannot measure value. Prenatal testing cannot predict love or the impact and purpose of a life.

That when it comes to unplanned pregnancy, we often fail our patients. That is my word for it, failure. Our patients come to us for guidance, education and unbiased help during the chaos of an unplanned pregnancy. Yet, in our society and in medical circles, abortion provision, accessibility and availability are given a greater platform and emphasis than supportive alternatives such as adoption and pregnancy care support.

It is my hope there will be a change, in our society and in the medical profession. It is time for a new response to those facing an unplanned pregnancy, one where we look beyond the scientific process and we enter into a new conversation, one where all life is valued and protected.

Dr. Laura Lewis is a family physician and executive director of CAPSS (Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services). CAPSS is dedicated to establishing, equipping and encouraging local pregnancy care centres across Canada. Read Faith Today‘s recent Question & Answer interview with Dr. Lewis.

If you are faith-based group sponsoring refugees, you are doing them a great service

Privately-sponsored refugees are more likely than government-sponsored refugees to have Canadian friends for the long haul. That was one of the insights presented about immigration and refugees at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” conference, held recently in Ottawa.

If you are part of a faith group sponsoring refugees, this will ring true for you, as private sponsors are normally very involved, at least in the beginning months, of a newcomer’s settlement experience into Canada. Driving someone to the dentist, going grocery shopping with them and helping their kids adjust to a new school are all potential ingredients for a life-long bond. Plus, you care.

“Faith and Settlement Partnership: Setting Immigrants and Canada Up for Success” was the name of one workshop offered at the conference. A panel presented some of the initial findings of a multi-partner research project (of the same name as the workshop) going on now in Canada by the Centre for Community-Based Research.

The research is tackling three main questions:

  • To what extent are faith/settlement partnerships viewed positively?
  • What types of partnerships presently exist and how could they be improved?
  • How can effective partnerships be better facilitated?

Initial results show that faith groups tend to work better with short term focused projects. They are very effective at mobilizing for immediate action. Sometimes faith groups give out inaccurate information to newcomers, and settlement agencies have to clear things up when needed.

The research is showing that there needs to be more collaboration between government and faith groups, in order for faith groups to be more integrated in the world of sponsoring refugees in Canada, and for the sake of the refugee. Trust is key. A recurring theme to the research into partnerships between faith based groups and settlement agencies was the need to be friends, and nurture that relationship. And collaboration is key to responding to service gaps. Faith based services and organizations should be part of the settlement supports offered newcomers, suggest the research. Faith helps people overcome challenges and find meaning in difficulties. Faith is significant for the integration of newcomers, so clergy and faith based groups can and should be part of the settlement process. Settlement brings a lot of stressors, faith can be used to mitigate many of them.

The researchers feel there is energy and excitement around the prospect of a closer partnership. And incase you wondered, Mississauga, Ont.,  is the third most attractive city (after Montreal and Toronto) for recent immigrants born in Syria.

And, not surprisingly, less bureaucratic red tape would help everyone.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Read about the experience of some churches settling refugees in Canada for the first time. Subscribe today

Fear of parents is a factor in abortions

Last week the March for Life wound its way through downtown Ottawa. Thousands of people filled the streets carrying pro-life signs and banners. As I thought about the issue of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on the two situations involving abortions I have been closely involved with in my life.

One was a friend years and years ago, when we were barely out of our teens, the other was more recently with another young woman. In both situations, but particularly the most recent one now that I’ve had children of my own and know more about the issue, I worked hard to try to present alternatives to abortion. Ultimately, I failed. I arranged a meeting between the young woman and a crisis pregnancy centre worker in my living room. I met with her myself whenever she’d let me, trying to listen and to gently persuade her to walk the path of courage and sacrifice and yes, what seemed to her to be the more difficult path, — and not have the abortion.

In the end, though, she did.
Continue reading Fear of parents is a factor in abortions

Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

I knew that I knew her from somewhere. The woman at the end of my row in a workshop at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” in Ottawa was eerily familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

I caught a glimpse at her name tag and did a quick google. I discovered we shared one Facebook friend, and that was an old elementary school friend of mine, who was later my university roommate.

I realized with a jolt of surprise that this woman was the mother of my old friend. It had been at least 28 years since I had seen her, and now here we were at a conference dedicated to thinking about the role of religion in our country.

After I introduced myself, we exclaimed and embraced, and I thought how interesting it was to be at a faith-based-and-centered conference with my friend’s mother, who I had always known as the “Mormon Mother.” They were the family who didn’t drink tea and were very mysterious and somewhat exotic, with a host of other rules and practices that back then I did not understand, or even try to, quite honestly.  Back then,  I just knew that my friend came from a very religious family, and that we were different. I never, ever would have thought I would someday find myself at the same conference with her family.

But all of the faiths present at this conference, and there are several, share concerns about the topics being addressed at the conference, which include religious freedom, solidarity in diversity, reconciliation, and immigration and refugees. We are here together.
Continue reading Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

“Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

By Taylor Hyatt

For many frustrated pro-life advocates, 2017 got off to a great start. The movement received some unexpected attention when the network of Women’s Marches took the world by storm.

Thousands will gather on Parliament Hill on May 11. Taylor Hyatt will be one of them.

In particular, the Washington protest ignited a fierce debate after its organizers denied the pro-life group New Wave Feminists an official sponsorship role. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the American March for Life a few days later. Friends were asking me what I thought of it all…and forgetting that the only March about which I can say anything of substance is held in Ottawa!
Continue reading “Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

Faith Today is going to Uganda

This week, one of Faith Today‘s senior editors, Karen Stiller, is flying to Uganda to visit refugee camps that are welcoming the seemingly never-ending flow of ordinary women, men and children fleeing the seemingly never-ending conflict in South Sudan.

“This is one of my favourite shots from the South Sudan trip five years ago,” says Stiller. “It reminds me that kids are kids no matter what, and joy happens, even when your life has been turned inside out.”

Samaritan’s Purse, an EFC affiliate, is there in the camp providing clean water, health care, improved sanitation and other programs, including a trauma healing program for the people who have lived through more than we can imagine.

It was roughly five years ago that we visited camps in South Sudan for the story “A Visit to the World’s Newest Country.” That situation was bad enough; internally displaced South Sudanese making their way to, and their homes in, the rough, temporary camps within their own country.  Back then, the world was still optimistic about South Sudan’s opportunity to build something new. But the conflict in recent months has just grown worse, and so has the possibility of a severe famine. Families are fleeing and they often end up in northern Uganda– a country that borders their young, struggling nation and receives the largest number of South Sudanese refugees in the world.

The team travelling to Uganda, which includes two or three other journalists, will visit two refugee settlements, as well as maternal/newborn health projects and a rehabilitation program that helps women and their children out of a life of prostitution.

“Today I’m packing my small bag for a week of what is usually pretty rough travel, but an incredible privilege to travel to spots like these and try to understand what people who are just like you and me are going through,” says Stiller. “When I visited South Sudan in 2012, I was also struck by the presence of Canadian workers in the camps and the incredible work they were doing. I’ll look for more of those stories as well, even as we focus on the most important story: the lives of the South Sudanese and how they are struggling to survive and flourish under such unimaginable pressure.”

We hope that Karen will be able to post blogs or photos from the field, but we know internet capability is not predictable in these circumstances. Watch for updates!

Faith Today is happy to be recognized as an excellent source of Christian journalism in Canada. By subscribing to Faith Today, you help keep journalism like ours healthy and ready to tell important stories like the ones you will read in recent months about the people being helped and the work being done in one of the world’s most troubled areas by a Canadian Christian organization. We tell the stories other people don’t tell, and ask the questions other people aren’t asking. Join us