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#GivingTuesday coming up November 28, 2017

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Have you seen this video recently? It has been making its way around Facebook and other Social Media platforms. It’s not a new video (it came out December 2016). It’s also not a new concept: being grateful for EVERYTHING we have! If you haven’t seen it, we’ll give you a minute to watch it now.

All done? Wow, that was good, eh?

Each fall, with the celebration of Thanksgiving weekend in October and through to Remembrance Day in November, we are given ample opportunity to stop and take stock of what we have. From the sun rising and setting each day to indoor plumbing to hot coffee and a mug to drink it in. Wow, we are #blessed, right?

Something I’ve tried to drill into my kids’ heads and hearts (and truth be told, my OWN head and heart!) is to have “An Attitude of Gratitude”. Of course that is consistently met with groans and eye rolls from my two boys, but if we’re serious for a moment and really think about this, isn’t this just a great way to go through each day of our life?! There will always be the “big” things in life that some of us will never have or be able to afford, but don’t we have a TON of little things that are just as important (and likely a lot more necessary) to be grateful for??

I think I’ll bookmark this video and go back to it whenever I need a little ‘gratitude boost’, or a dose of Vitamin G, as some people call it! I challenge you to do the same.

So what does this have to do with #GivingTuesday? (Or perhaps you’re asking what IS #GivingTuesday???) “Following Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and the widely-recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year” (taken from www.givingtuesday.org). This movement marries the power of social media with the innate generosity of people around the world in order to impact local communities. Organizations and individuals have raised over a million dollars in almost 100 countries since its inception. And what an incredible contrast this is each year, coming out of a weekend of gluttony, over-indulging AND over-spending.

 

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here at DMC, our focus is to inspire, empower and equip Deacons in order that they may animate their congregations. One of our focus areas is to help churches “To Live Stewardly”. Over the next year, DMC will be increasing our capacity to serve you and your diaconates by gathering appropriate and relevant resources in the area of stewardship. Remember to keep coming back to see what’s been added!

Our prayer is that God will continue to bless each one of you as you and your churches choose an “attitude of gratitude”, able to see and appreciate ALL of His good gifts. And out of this gratitude, that God may increase your generosity.

And if you feel led to participate in the #GivingTuesday Campaign this year by giving an extra donation to a ministry you already support, or by organizing a service project in your community, or you name it!, we know that “you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.” (2 Cor. 9:9 NLT)

A Deacon’s Experience

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Rene (back centre) with fellow deacon Amanda Blaauwendraat (front left) and their team for Coldest Night of the Year, in support of the Truro Homeless Outreach Society

As part of our mission to inspire deacons in the work that they do, Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) works to share various deacons’ experiences. Our hope is that these stories from across the country will help deacons learn from each other and feel connected to a broader group beyond their own church.

This month we are highlighting an interview we did with Mrs. Rene Wall from John Calvin CRC in Truro, Nova Scotia.

MEET MRS. RENE WALL

Rene works as a Web Application Developer for the Nova Scotia Government. Rene and her husband Jamie were blessed to celebrate their 25th Wedding Anniversary this past summer. She is one of those rare people who love committee work and is happiest when she is organizing/coordinating something. Her interests include singing, reading, crafting and playing with her kitties.

What did you enjoy about serving as a deacon?
I am an organizer at heart, so I enjoyed working on projects with the other deacons; whether it was cooking dinners for seniors at Christmas, preparing the annual Community Dinner for the needy in our town, setting up the apartment for our interim pastor, or organizing the Maritime Day of Encouragement.

What was one of the most positive experiences you had while serving as a deacon over the past few years?
I think perhaps it was leading a team in the Out of the Cold Fundraiser the last few years. It met a few of the goals that I tried to achieve: it was inter-generational (youth and adult participants), involved our church in the community, was something that people new to church could easily participate in and, of course, it was for an excellent diaconal cause – Truro Homeless Outreach Society.

What has been a challenge your diaconate faced over the past few years? How did you navigate this challenge?
We really struggled with how to answer cold calls (people we don’t know). The existing practice was to give out grocery cards, but at the start of my term it became really clear that people were taking advantage of that practice: hitting up all the churches in the area, selling the grocery cards for money, people not being who they claimed they were, etc. We tried a number of different things, and in end we decided to ask for ID, and then offer them a bag of groceries. In the bag is a list of all the local resources for help (eg. local Food Bank, Salvation Army) and free lunches and dinners in the community. When we do have extra money in the diaconate we look for ways we can help existing local organizations like the local Food Bank or women’s shelter.

“Get involved with a community organization – it extends how far you can help and it introduces the community to your church.”

What words of advice or encouragement would you offer to future deacons?
Don’t just define the role of a deacon as what you might have seen/perceived growing up in the church. It’s changing and covers a lot more than “counting money and giving out grocery cards”. Then find something in the role of deacon that resonates with you and do the best you can! If you can, get involved with a community organization – it extends how far you can help and it introduces the community to your church.

What has your interaction or experience with Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) been like? 
Hmm – this could have been my “positive experience” too. I worked very closely with DMC’s Maritime Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) to organize the Maritime Day of Encouragement (MDOE) in 2015 and again this year. As I mentioned in the previous question, it was a way for me to use my “organizing abilities” in the role of deacon. Through DMC’s support of the MDOE over the years, we’ve been able to bring a lot of excellent speakers to the Maritimes to encourage and support our leaders.

What do you think other diaconates should know about DMC and its resources?
DMC has a lot of resources for you to tap into – talk to your DMD or visit their website. You don’t have to go it alone! I finished my role as deacon this spring and am currently mentoring two new deacons. I found a lot of great training material/devotions on the DMC website for them to use. Thank you!

Are you a deacon? Do you have an experience you’d like to share with us? Then we want to hear from YOU! Email eknight@crcna.org today

2017 OM Summer Blog

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Camp Shout 2017 is over… but its mission continues!

The final blog post by Aydan Schat, Camp Leader at OM 2017 Partner Camp Shout

Camp SHOUT* 2017 is complete. It was, by my definition, incredibly successful. Relationships blossomed between campers, staff, and volunteers. We were able to share God’s love with so many well-deserving children, and I think that is about as beautiful as anything gets. The week after camp ended we had an event at the church to thank some of our volunteers for their work at Camp SHOUT. A couple campers saw us as we were hanging out and next thing we knew, there were 7 or 8 former campers arriving at the church to see us all again. The relationships don’t end after camp is finished. They continue for weeks, months and years. Some of the campers will be attending again next year. Former campers will come back as Leaders in Training. Staff will return to work. Camp SHOUT 2017 is complete, but its mission continues with the people who are involved.

Thanks so much to Operation Manna for their support and to everyone else who has supported Camp SHOUT through their time, resources and prayers. We look forward to more good years in the future!

~Aydan Schat~

*To watch highlights from this year’s camp, click HERE.

*Camp SHOUT (See Him Open Up Truth) is a high-energy, low-cost day camp that gives local kids between grades 1-6 a fun, safe place to play and learn about Jesus. It runs for four weeks at Jubilee Fellowship Church in St. Catharines, ON. Jubilee Church views Camp SHOUT as a way for their church community to build bridges with their local community by providing safe, affordable camp for neighbourhood kids. A typical day at camp involves games, crafts, songs, chapels, smiles, and fun. Because Camp SHOUT is low-cost, it is designed to give kids who might not otherwise go to camp a chance to develop the character, teamwork and friendships that a camp experience generates. 

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Here is Aydan’s first blog post from the beginning of Camp Shout!

My name is Aydan Schat. I’m the Head Counsellor at Camp SHOUT, an outreach ministry in the form of a day camp, run by Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church. My job is to plan activities and recruit campers for 4 weeks of camp, ensuring that it’s a fun and safe place for the campers we’re entrusted with.

I first worked for Camp SHOUT 4 years ago. I worked as a counselor, helping to lead the activities each day. I absolutely loved it. I got to play with kids and lead activities and I got paid for it. It was the dream for 16-year-old me. So I came back all of the following years.

In those years, Camp SHOUT has undergone some huge changes. It has grown in attendance, in the amount of planning required, and has added new job positions. In those same years, I have also undergone some huge changes. I’ve gone to university. I’ve become more aware of the realities of the world. As a result, Camp SHOUT is no longer quite the same “play with kids and get paid” experience for me. It is something much greater. Camp SHOUT is a chance for me to impact the lives of children with all kinds of different stories, to get to know them and to care for them. There is so much good that can come out of it. And I still do get to play with them. It’s just way more than that.

I’m excited for this year at Camp SHOUT. I’m excited to see the impact that we can have on campers’ lives, as well as the impact they have on ours.

~ Aydan Schat is working this summer at Camp SHOUT*, a 2017 OM Partner and Grant recipient.

Virtual Conference Held in Port Alberni, BC

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On September 12, 2017, Port Alberni hosted a virtual “meet the denomination” meeting facilitated by Pastor Curtis Korver, Rich Braaksma and Jessica Boy from Resonate Global Mission. Attending live and on-screen were people from many different ministries in the CRC – Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC), Resonate, Faith Formation, Aboriginal Ministries, BCLDN (Leadership Development Network) and the National Director of Canadian Ministries, Darren Roorda. More than 20 people from the church came out for this event – impressive for a community of about 100 adults! There was a palpable sense that the denomination sees the local church, cares about the local church and is present and ready to help and serve.

The meeting was structured to:

  1. Live into the denominational posture of wanting to serve and help the local church; and
  2. Specifically address three areas that Alberni Valley CRC was connecting with – discipleship, leadership development and collaboration (community engagement)

Rachel Vroege, the Western Canada Regional Ministry Developer for DMC, partnered with Karen Wilk from Resonate and Shannon Perez from Aboriginal Ministries to lead the break-out session Collaboration. In this break-out, the leaders helped those present to see deacons as leaders providing opportunities for congregations to be bridges of reconciliation in their neighbourhoods through community partnerships. Karen Wilk talked about the call to love our neighbours by welcoming them into our homes and Shannon Perez talked about the ministry of reconciliation with our Aboriginal neighbours and how to use the Declaration of Indigenous Rights as a framework.

After the break-outs, everyone gathered together to come up with 6 or more directions to pursue for follow-up. All participants committed to taking time in the coming month to sit in a coffee shop on a busy corner or walk through their neighbourhood with one prayer on their hearts: “What, Lord, do you want me to notice about this city?”

This virtual conference was the first of its kind in a local CRC congregation in Canada. It was one way to show all of the resources available to a church from the denominational agencies as well as act as a catalyst to open up the eyes and hearts to what God would have the church do to be as a presence in their city.

Interested in doing this in YOUR church or Classis? Email dmc@crcna.org today to find our more!

DOE Edmonton 2017

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Register now for the Day of Encouragement (DOE) in Edmonton, Alberta. The event is happening on Saturday, November 4, 2017.

The ​DOE ​provides ​an ​opportunity ​for ​encouragement, ​inspiration, ​education ​and ​skill ​development ​for ​ministry ​leaders ​and ​people ​of ​the ​CRC ​church. ​

The Edmonton DOE is excited ​to ​bring ​together ​people ​from ​Classis ​Alberta ​North ​so ​we ​can network ​and ​join ​God ​in ​transforming ​our ​communities!

For more details check out the DOE 2017 Brochure

To register visit the DOE Registration Page here. 

NOTE: The AGM will also be held at the Edmonton DOE. All ordained deacons are able to attend the AGM. Look for materials being sent to your local diaconate in the next couple of weeks.


Or join deacons out east at the Maritimes Day of Encouragement, happening the same weekend in Truro, Nova Scotia. Find more information here or visit johncalvincrc.ca/MDOE/.  Registration ends on October 29th, 2017. Cost is $10-$25 (early bird registration ends Oct 14, 2017).

Did You Mean These Neighbours, Jesus?

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By Trixie Ling

In the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, a lawyer put Jesus to the test by asking a bold question – “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer already knew the answer written in the Law, which is love God and love your neighbour. Not fully satisfied with the answer, he followed up with an honest question, “And who is my neighbour?”  I have been thinking about this simple yet challenging question as I encounter others in my daily life, work, church and neighbourhood. I am confronted with the truth of Jesus’ teaching in the parable about how to be a good neighbour who shows love, compassion, and mercy to others.

“I didn’t always love my neighbour the drunken gardener, or my neighbour the rich gentrifier, or my unknown neighbour in the yellow house.”

In her book City of God, Sara Miles writes about her diverse neighbourhood in the Mission District of San Francisco and offers some deep reflections about the kind of neighbour she is: “Like the lawyer who challenges Jesus, I often wished to weasel out of responsibility, hoping to calibrate who, precisely, was my neighbour; how much, exactly, I was required to love which people. I didn’t always love my neighbour the drunken gardener, or my neighbour the rich gentrifier, or my unknown neighbour in the yellow house. And I really dreaded the parable’s implication that I could be saved by what they had to give.”

I admire Miles’ courage in confessing how we often struggle to respond to God’s call to love our neighbours as ourselves. We might not know our neighbours or even like our neighbours, but we need to hear God’s call and allow it to guide our faith and actions to love our neighbours on the streets, in schools, at work, in churches, and in our own neighbourhoodsEvery Wednesday night at my church, I work with volunteers to organize a community dinner where we cook, eat, and share food and stories with our neighbours, friends, families, and strangers. It is a vibrant scene of kids running around the room, someone playing the piano, volunteers chopping vegetables and preparing the meal, and people having coffee and conversations in multiple languages as they wait for dinner. There are singles, couples, and families from all walks of life connecting over food around a table. The faces of our neighbours include many refugees and asylum seekers, who live next door at the Welcome Centre, a transitional housing and support centre serving refugees and immigrants.

“Recently, I noticed a new person who started coming to our weekly community dinner.”

Recently, I noticed a new person who started coming to our weekly community dinner. At first she came by herself, then she brought a friend. I welcomed her to our dinner and she shared her story with me – she emigrated from Costa Rica and has lived in our neighbourhood for almost 10 years and didn’t really know her neighbours. She wanted to know who her neighbours are, so she came to our community dinner in hopes of meeting some of her neighbours, including people in our church. I was encouraged by her earnest desire and openness to reach out and build relationships with her neighbours. I am reminded of the gift of being rooted in this diverse multicultural neighbourhood where I live and work, and the continuous call to show hospitality to new and old neighbours.

We all want to know and be known, but sometimes our fears and vulnerability get in the way of reaching out to neighbours, welcoming the stranger, and building real relationships with people who love and care for us. In a society where many people experience isolation and loneliness, we yearn for a sense of belonging and acceptance. As an immigrant myself, I understand and empathize with newcomers to Canada who struggle to settle, integrate, and be part of their neighbourhoods.

What is your vision of neighbourliness? My vision is one of neighbours taking care of neighbours. The stakes are high because we have to be vulnerable, build trust, learn to give, and be humbled to ask for help and receive from others. My hope is to take up God’s command to love my neighbours as my vocation.  The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” I am called to be present with people, pay attention to needs in the community, celebrate joys and remember sorrows together, and show love instead of fear, apathy, or judgment toward my neighbours.

“My hope is to take up God’s command to love my neighbours as my vocation.”

On an individual level, we can make serious efforts to meet our neighbours and get to know them through shared meals, neighbourhood activities, community gardens, and events in public spaces. On a collective level, we can build welcoming, diverse and inclusive neighbourhoods, and advocate for just policies for marginalized neighbours who experience poverty, homelessness, and discrimination in our communities.

We can remind each other of the parable of the Good Samaritan and aspire to live into the call to love our neighbours. Let us hear and hold on to God’s faithful words: “Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).

*Originally featured on: Do Justice Blog*

Facing the Giant …

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“Looking at the bigger picture of poverty in our community can be overwhelming and often paralyzes people.  The fight feels like David standing in front of Goliath, but knowing that the bigger battle of poverty is in God’s hands.  The first thing we need to do is hand it over to our Lord … and recognize that benevolence has to be about partnership and relationship; not about handouts.” ~ Anja Attema ~

Anja Attema, the workshop trainer for DMDs and Deacons, focuses on this during the training, addressing benevolence.

Deacons have the opportunity to provide support and help point people in the right direction, but it all begins with establishing relationships.  As Anja states, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.  When she trains deacons, Anja encourages them to not only ask helpful questions that can reveal some of the root causes of financial burdens but to stress the importance of relationships through their benevolent work.

In order to be successful, Deacons need tools to help address walking alongside their neighbors in benevolence.  DMC, along with conducting these workshops, has developed “Guidelines for Benevolence”.  These guidelines help deacons to create tools for helping, developing plans of action and identifying partners in their community that can provide assistance.

Head over to diaconalministries.com/resources to access these Guidelines and other various tools as well as to access more information/to request information on future Financial Benevolence workshops in your area.

Owned by the Deacons

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Ever wonder how an organization starts? Well sit back and take a walk down memory lane with me…

Diaconal Ministries Canada had its early beginnings around 1998 at a Classis renewal gathering in Chicago. Canadian ministry leaders, and folks representing Diaconal Ministries Eastern Canada, Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (now known as World Renew) and British Columbia Diaconal Conference, happened to be having lunch at a local Chicago restaurant. Discussions and conversations began, and soon there was talk about “what If… we form an umbrella (diaconal) organization from coast to coast? An organization that would be responsible for overseeing the training of deacons in the CRC from Vancouver BC. to Halifax NS?” Quite exciting stuff!

Since we were out for lunch, the only paper available was the napkins on the table. Soon these napkins became full blown flow charts with various arrows from east to west and west to east. They included circles, squares, even triangles.  Leader’s names were put in the various provinces so committees could be formed; with hope that one day these small napkins might evolve into a national organization.

It was an exciting time and after a few more years of discussions (and maybe some more napkin drawings), in 2001 Diaconal Ministries Canada was formally organized. It has grown to an organization that is the envy of many other CRC agencies.

There are approximately 20 Diaconal Ministry Developers (DMD), representing the 12 Classis across Canada, who take it upon themselves, with the help of staff, to train and build relationships with deacons coast to coast.

Have you contacted your DMD? Click here  to find out how

    -written by Gary Veeneman, DMD for Classis BC SE and NW

 

 

 

Creating Safe Spaces for Dialogue

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I remember that summer day when I was travelling with some friends in the US.  I was the only Canadian in the car and, as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, my friend proceeded to give me a short list of conversation topics to avoid during the meal.

You see my friend and his wife had pre-decided that they were going to avoid any topics that were sure to spark debate and highlight the presence of entrenched ideological divisions within the group.

I assured my companions that I was quite naive about America’s hot button topics and so would not knowingly threaten the delicate balance that was trying to be maintained.  I then proceeded to rave about how Canadians did not find themselves so polarized about such issues.  “In general,” I boasted, “we Canadians are able to agree to  disagree over a warm cup of Timmies and with a maple syrup smile.”

Alright, so that’s not exactly what I said, but you get the gist.

When I reflect back on that experience, I am embarrassed about how naive I was.  There were, in fact, Canadian specific issues that were creating deep-seated divisions among Canada’s citizens/nations. I just was not aware of them.

I think it’s now safe to say that Canadians are not immune to the social and political issues that are polarizing groups in the United States.  There is a prevailing climate of division around justice issues surrounding refugee settlement in       Canada, Islamophobia, and oil pipeline expansion.

The question is, how do people who are called to love their neighbours [and enemies] (see Matthew 5:44) engage in matters of difference, as opposed to avoiding them?  How do we create safe spaces in our church communities for dialogue to flourish with the hope that the division gap will become smaller?

Jeanette Romkema, Partner and Senior Trainer at Global Learning Partners offers the following fantastic tips in her blog, “Tips for Entering and Staying with Tough Dialogue.”

  1. Be genuinely curious.
  2. Don’t enter to “win.”
  3. Talk less, listen more.
  4. Use good questions for understanding.
  5. Ask head and heart questions.
  6. Be gentle.
  7. Prepare yourself.
  8. Stay humble.

I encourage you to read the whole article, so you can obtain practical ways to enter one-to-one dialogue with those whom you may be in disagreement with.

One-on-one dialogues are helpful, but I think the health of our church communities is at risk if we don’t    consider how we will create space for polarizing issues to be discussed.

The Quakers have the time-worn tradition of engaging in a community dialoguing technique that they call scrupling. This was and still is a way for Quakers to engage with a difficult problem or issue as a community.  “Scrupling is not an argument, a debate or a panel discussion – but a serious conversation to seek a way forward,” (Read more here).  It was the method used in 2010 to discuss the erosion of democracy in Canada by the Harper government and the method used a century prior when discussing slaveholding.

As a facilitator who regularly convenes people in learning spaces to discuss topics and issues that make most people cringe and uncomfortable, I know it is crucial to the health of a community for people to feel that they have a safe way and space to process the difficult issues  No matter how divisive those issues have the potential to be.  Not speaking about them can lead to the adoption of entrenched positions that over time fray our bonds to each other and encourage the dehumanization of “the other.”

Paul’s warning to the Galatians is timely for the North American church today: “but if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be consumed by each other” (5:15, ESV).  The remedy is love (see 5:14), and it is through speaking the truth in love, that the Body of Christ grows in maturity (see Ephesians 4:15).

To make a commitment to stay at the communication line and speak the truth in love, whether we find ourselves intimately connected to the issues or distant from them, is just one of the ways that we live as ministers of reconciliation and work towards authentic unity in our communities.  It is this authentic, gritty, non-conforming, diversity loving unity that Christ says will demonstrate to the world that He was sent from the Father (see John 17:21).

So in 2017, it is clear as day to me that Canadians do not agree to disagree with a maple syrup smile.  What is not yet clear is whether Canadians and more specifically the CRC church, will respond to this growing climate of polarization with the age-old “nothing’s wrong here, everything’s fine,” or with compassion and a commitment to lean into the tough spaces.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How might not creating space for tough dialogue harm your congregation’s health, impact the wider community?
  2. What healthy and robust communication practices does your local congregation have for dealing with the difficult issues of the day?
  3. What can you do to encourage spaces for healthy dialogue in your church community?
  4. What resources/tools/support would you need to accomplish the above

– Bernadette Arthur, CRC Race Relations Coordinator

Urban Ministry Lectures

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CRC Campus Ministries (U of T) is partnering with Trinity College Faculty of Divinity, Wycliffe College, Young Street Mission and St. James Cathedral Centre to sponsor a lecture series led by Dr. Mark Gornik in Toronto on March 13 and 14, 2017.

Gornik is the author of a number of books including “To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City”; he is also founder and director of City Seminary of New York.

Click here for the poster detailing the events or visit this website.