For the first time ever, the annual Ministry Networking Day for NewGround partners was held entirely virtually. And while participants were apart and were unable to gather in the same room due to provincial restrictions, one theme resounded during the afternoon spent together: while we remain apart, we are still a part of God’s great Kingdom, serving in a variety of spaces and places in His name!
The NewGround program of Diaconal Ministries Canada is centred around helping churches love their community. One way churches love their community is through holistic community ministry – serving IN and WITH their local community and neighbours (not just for or to them). NewGround currently has 7 ministry partners across Canada, which includes its second Youth Justice partner from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
One of the key components of a NewGround partnership is how it supports its partners with learning and networking opportunities; the main one being the annual Ministry Networking Day! Ministry reps from partner ministries, plus Diaconal Ministries staff, Board members, and Diaconal Coaches gather each year to learn and listen and encourage one another in the ways they are loving their communities. This year was no different as partner reps shared the creative and courageous ways they are working in youth centres, counseling offices, churches, and even in homes to show and share the love of Christ.
One highlight was the plenary session, led by Alida van Dijk of the Community Counseling Centre of London, a current NewGround partner. As a Psycho-spiritual therapist, van Dijk has done extensive work in the areas of grief and bereavement, depression, anxiety, adjustment and trauma. Van Dijk’s presentation, entitled Post-traumatic Growth and the Role of Spiritual First Aid in a Pandemic, showed how Spiritual First Aid plays a critical role in facilitating growth following trauma. It involves being present, providing support and being an empathetic witness–all key aspects of being human that we can offer in times of crisis, like the ongoing pandemic. One partner participant thanked van Dijk, saying the session was both “amazing and soul nourishing!”
Another valuable part of a Ministry Networking Day is sharing about the ministries participants are involved in. Each NewGround partner was asked to submit a short video on the work they are doing and how it is impacting communities across Canada. This is always a highlight of the day. “I loved the sharing of other ministries and that they were broken up with questions about ourselves,” reiterated one partner who attended. “That was very effective and very encouraging!”
While moving such a key networking opportunity to online can have its challenges and in some ways does fall short, one participant remarked that Diaconal Ministries’ staff did “a pretty fantastic job, given the obstacles.” Interactive slides, breakout rooms and some quick ‘get to know each other’ activities helped participants stay engaged (and awake!).
Calvin Williams, director of MY House Youth Centre in Mission, BC, has been a community ministry partner since 2017. Williams shared how grateful he was to NewGround and Diaconal Ministries for their support over the years. “Early on, the support I received, especially at the Ministry Networking Days, really gave me the confidence I needed and validation that this work to the most marginalized is very important Kingdom work. Thanks again!”
All of the videos from Alida’s presentation and the NewGround Partner updates have been compiled on Diaconal Ministries’ website.
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