he asked probing questions until the end
of the year when he returned to Iran. Now,
the dialogue continues by email.
“We never know where people are on
their faith journey,” says McCleary. “We
allow them to lead the conversation.”
Or, as Parker says, “Belonging comes
before believing,” highlighting the relation-ship-building power of the round tables.
PHo To: TAn YA BALE TA
For some neighbours the church’s Divorce
Care program is their first touch point with
the church. One woman who completed
the 13 sessions said, “I just want to thank
you for all the different things that Nancy
[a parish nurse] is doing for this commun-
ity. I came first as a stranger and now I
come because you love me.”
Dealing with Depression classes, a
six-week study on the parables of Christ,
began on Mental Health Day a year ago.
Biblically focused groups meet with the
parish nurse to face cultural stigmas.
Sometimes community participants con-
tinue in a church small group.
“We are committed to creating a sanctuary in the midst of the downtown noise,”
says Parker. The electronic sign outside
reads “Come in and pray,” welcoming
constant foot traffic into the chapel across
from the administration office. Business
and community groups rent functional
space and catering services for business
meetings, conferences and receptions. The
congregation is known for its welcoming
atmosphere and community focus.
Parker describes the character of the St.
Paul’s community. “We’re an incubator of
intentional quality ministries to equip and
transform the community.” Parishioners
serve the community both inside and out-
side the walls of the church as they express
their love for God and their neighbour.
“Every program has a shelf life – the
gospel doesn’t,” says Parker. Ft
students at Esl Café learn
English with the help of Bibles.
“It’s a way to expand their palates
and change their food culture by offering
something as simple as fruit, juice and
milk,” says McCleary.
In the fall, a retiree was unsure if she
was a good fit for the snack ministry be-
cause the children were so loud and boister-
ous. But by March she was making com-
ments such as, “Weren’t the kids wonderful
this week? It will be strange not to see our
kids next week during spring break.”
Volunteers are starting to attend the To-
ronto City Mission quarterly potluck for par-
ents so they too can get to know the families
of the kids they spend time with each week.
The next step is to help kids gain respect for
God’s creation by teaching them how to
grow their own food in box gardens on the
balconies of their high-rise apartments.
Another program, the ESL Café, has
seen even more explosive growth. Six
years ago one parishioner reached out to
five new Canadians, to help them learn
English as a second language (ESL). Now
30 volunteers connect with 220 students
each week. Classes divide into three ability
levels where students sit at round tables
with a facilitator.
AT AMBROSE YOUR THIRD YEAR IS FREE WITH OUR MDIV DEGREE.
ChARlEnE DE hAAn, a freelance writer
in Toronto, is also the executive director
of Camino Global (Canada) and founder
of Stepup Transitions Consulting. Find
more of these columns at www.theEFC.
ca/aChurch YouShouldKnow. Faith Today
is grateful for the writing she has done in
this series, which will now be turned over
to new associate editor Stephen Bedard.
46 n July / August 2013 n www.faith Today.ca
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