Doing Justice

Summer Reading

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toxic charityIf there’s one book that you might want to read on charity, I recommend Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help.

Lupton’s 40 years of experience in community development in Atlanta have led him to claim that charitable giving is “either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help” (page 1).

But, you may ask -is Lupton correct? Can charity be toxic? Are we actually harming people with charity? Good questions!

These questions are very important for congregations and other ministry organizations that are facing declining revenues. In fact, these questions are the first step needed to assess the sustainability of our ministries.

These are good questions that I will not answer. However, Lupton’s short book provides answers as well as practical steps toward transformative charity.

Have a great summer and HAPPY READING!

-written by Hans, Kater (National Director, Diaconal Ministries Canada)

Connecting with Our Muslim Neighbours

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Disability Concerns, the refugee office of World Renew, the Office of Social Justice and Race Relations are a number of CRC agencies which partner with Diaconal Ministries Canada in the work of justice.

Partnerships with other networks, programs and agencies continue to strengthen the possibilities and the ways that the church engages in a spirit of mercy and justice with its diverse neighbours.  Noted recently by a prominent and respected sociologist, Reginald Bibby, one of the primary means of growth in the Canadian church will likely be immigrants.

Along with new immigrants adding to our population’s ethnic diversity, our country also experiences increased diversity in religions.  Muslims are settling into many of the neighbourhoods of our Christian Reformed Churches.  Currently one quarter of all immigrants to Canada follow the Islamic faith.  In fact, Muslims in Canada are currently 3.5% of our total population.  Within 15 years, this is projected to double.

The Christian Reformed Church desires to equip its members to confidently and intentionally engage with their Muslim neighbours.  This is evident in the re-commitment to The Salaam Project,” a ministry of Christian Reformed World Missions and other partners.

Four areas of focus will better equip CRC congregations in Canada to engage with Muslims.

  • Dialogue– proactively seeking to develop relationships with Muslim brothers and sisters
  • Witness– living lives of joy as examples of Christ’s love
  • PeacemakingSalaam will provide a voice for peace between Muslim and Christian in Canada and around the world.
  • Hospitality Salaam will help to bring down barriers to hospitality.

According to the recent Salaam proposal, CRC congregations may begin, with assistance, to understand barriers that Muslims have to hearing the Gospel.  With God’s help, these barriers will be brought down and our engagement with Muslims will be enhanced and blessed.

The potential to re-engage Muslim ministry in Canada is promising!  Muslims in our community provide an opportunity not to be lamented or ignored. Engaging with our Muslim neighbours is an opportunity to share life with its joys and challenges!!  Most of all, it is our significant and urgent opportunity to share the Gospel in both word and deed!!

The current Muslim ministry leader is Greg Sinclair who may be reached through the CRC Burlington office at gsinclair@crcna.org.  He will welcome your learnings and your questions as he seeks to give leadership to this significant project.  To explore through a host of resources, follow this link.

The above photo is courtesy of Mission Montreal (a partnership of various CRC agencies)

NEW! Next Devotion in the series

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Follow the link below to download the eighth devotion for deacons in the latest set of devotionals from Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).

In our conversations with deacons across the country, DMC often summarizes the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship.

This devotion is the second of three which will focus on deacons and justice.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions.

We pray that you will be blessed by these devotions, and that, together, your diaconate may grow and deepen its relationship with each other and the church and community you serve.

Download devotion 8

Visit the devotion webpage for the earlier devotions in this set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

DMC Job Opportunity: Justice Mobilizer

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Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is looking for a part-time Justice Mobilizer to lead and coordinate our justice strategies.  This position involves collaboration with internal staff, CRCNA agency staff, as well as interaction with external organizations.  This is a contract position for 15 hours per week, reporting to the National Director in the Burlington Ontario office.  Interested applicants are invited to call the DMC office at 1-800-730-3490, click here for a copy of the job description or email mrobins@crcna.org to submit an application.  The closing date for applications is June 15, 2015.

Photo on front page slider is courtesy of Woodynook Christian Reformed Church (depicted: Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troupe on the opening night of the RE-forming Art Tour hosted by the church)

 

Easter and Earth Day

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What do Earth Day and Easter have in common?

Well, they are both around the same time of the year (Earth Day is always celebrated on April 22, so they are sometimes even on the same day)…but the real answer is Christ, obviously!

Not so obvious?

Consider this. Christ is described as “the firstborn of all creation, for in Him all things in heaven and on earth were created…for Him…and through Him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross” (Colossians 1:1-20, italics mine). In essence, the hope for creation (“all things”) is accomplished by the same thing we celebrate at Easter, Christ’s death and resurrection. There is power in the blood!

It is in this hope that I celebrate Earth Day and invite you to as well. God saw fit to enter His own creation becoming fully man and fully God. He breathed the same air, drank the same water, trod the same soil. And through Christ’s death and resurrection He made a way to heal the brokenness in all our relationships -including the one with creation. When we celebrate and participate with Christ in this reconciling work or creation care we live more fully into the image bearer God made us to be.

As we continue to reflect on the redeeming work of the cross, Christians in Northern British Columbia will also be taking nature walks, setting up this year’s community garden, coordinating training sessions to become better streamkeepers, carrying out biological research on “one of the most endangered rivers in the Skeena watershed” (as one town councillor put it), and celebrating what A Rocha Canada calls “Good Seed Sunday” on April 26.

If you are in Northern B.C. we would love for you to join us. If not, look up A Rocha’s Good Seed Sunday resources for ideas on how your Christian community can join in the celebration.

To support a project and for more information on what is going on in Northern BC, see our website.

 

  -Cindy Verbeek has been working with A Rocha since 1996. A graduate with a BSc. from the King’s University College in Edmonton and the Au Sable Institute in Michigan her passion for caring for creation has been fueled and fired by a passion to serve Christ with all she is, and all she has, where God has placed her at this particular time in history.

-photo courtesy of Bethel CRC in Waterdown

 

How do Justice and Faith Intersect?

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“In Christ’s name, the deacons relieve victims of injustice.”  This is the description that many of us hear each spring in the CRC ordination form as new men and women transition into diaconal work.

“Injustice” is a word that, for many of us, brings to mind a variety of images ranging from the government and politics to retribution, the poor and justice organizations.  So what do members of the CRC think about justice? And how do they relate it to their faith? Recently results were released from a research study to explore the relationship of justice and faith. This study was carried out collaboratively by the CRC, the Institute for Christian Studies and the Centre for Community Based Research.

More than 85% of those surveyed said that they “strongly” or “somewhat agree” that “being a Christian requires me to pursue justice.”  However, the research study brought into evidence differing understandings of justice and emphases. It also spoke to various ways that congregations may be mobilized in this area.  It may mean creating a clearer Biblical vision for justice, or seeking opportunities to challenge injustice, or raising awareness of unjust circumstances locally and globally.

Have a look at the results:

Read the report and consider the following possibilities: 

  • Encourage your church to tithe their sermons/small group studies to include the theme of justice.
  • Pray for hope-filled restoration of unjust circumstances around the globe.
  • Discern how you may contribute to the well-being of neighbours in your local community who experience injustice.

Next year, there will be opportunities for interaction and dialogue around the findings of the research projects in different communities and forums across Canada.  Keep an eye out for more information.

In the meantime, let us know how you have come to be encouraged and empowered for justice as an integral part of your church’s faith journey.

(by Katie Karsten, Justice Mobilizer, Diaconal Ministries Canada)

 

A Shared Vision

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It has often been said that a few of the church’s members do all of the work!  I began to ponder about how that unfolds.  I wondered:  Are we receptive and responsive for all to share their capacity and their gifts?  Is there a “welcome” for all to contribute?

Studies have shown that 1 in 5 people struggle with a kind of impairment which also could be called a disability or a special need.  This could vary from a mental diagnosis to a visual impairment to a chronic, long-term illness.

How do we offer respect, dignity and value to a percentage of people who might not be engaged in church life as they might like because of the myths, misunderstandings and barriers surrounding their circumstances?  One of the primary calls of the deacons is to extend mercy to those in need.  It may be obvious when a walker or wheelchair is visible, but more often the challenges related to disabilities happen behind closed doors.

This morning’s breakfast brought these thoughts to mind. A mother shared her experiences of isolation even though her son’s mental health struggles are well-known throughout their community. The seat next to her on the bleachers at the baseball diamond remains vacant!  She experiences being alone in her journey because no one seems sure that it is helpful to be “with” her.  She needs presence and acceptance.  Pat answers, unreal assurances, pious platitudes, suggested fixes and reasons for the suffering of mental illness are not necessary!

In that spirit, Diaconal Ministries Canada, through its network of deacons, partners with Disability Concerns by connecting with Disability Advocates in congregations. Together, deacons and advocates might seek out those who need support and invite everybody to contribute their gifts, passions and abilities to the church’s ministries, mission and leadership.  When a church engages in “asking and listening” with people who have disabilities, that church will help to cultivate dignity, inclusion and involvement.

How valuable for the different organizations of the body of Christ to encourage and support each other’s missions and values!!  As our churches become active and visible places of inclusion, they will also become attractive and welcoming for any neighbor seeking community.

–written by Katie Karsten, Justice Mobilizer for Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC)

Click here for DMC’s justice resources related to those with disabilities.

Click here to be re-directed to Disability Concerns website.

World Renew’s Annual Refugee Sunday

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This Sunday, April 6, 2014, is World Renew’s annual Refugee Sunday. Together with World Renew (WR) and Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC), CRCs across Canada celebrate the ministry of mercy and hospitality extended to people who have fled persecution and war.  Offerings received for Refugee Sunday support the World Renew program and refugee sponsorship in Canadian CRCs.

DMC partners with WR to encourage church sponsorship of refugees and to ensure sponsored refugees are well received and supported by Canadian CRCs.

WR and DMC both share a vision of “transforming communities with the love of Christ.” Although the focus of WR’s work is international relief and development, WR works very closely with Canadian CRCs, as does DMC. Through educational and awarenessraising activities around domestic and international issues, both WR and DMC seek to equip churches and God’s people in developing gifts to engage in activities of love, mercy, justice and compassion.

More information on Refugee Sunday and WR’s refugee sponsorship program may be found on the World Renew website.