When I look back at my adult life thus far, I am truly amazed that I have been given opportunity after opportunity to do work that I love: work that has been consistently about developing community which includes all people, while valuing those who are all too often overlooked by society. I get to hear people’s stories. I hear from the woman who was battered daily by her husband before she made the terrifying decision to flee; from the man who, as a child, was abused by the step-father that his mother loved too much to leave; from the family who is struggling to make ends meet; from the young woman who is working in the sex trade in order to pay her university fees; from the teenager who is sleeping rough on the streets; from the man whose job is so fast paced that he feels as though life is passing him by; from the woman who is weary of chasing after material things. Sometimes the stories are strikingly familiar, sometimes entirely unique, but always real and worthy of being shared. And it is in the sharing of them that the work of really knowing one another begins.
I have spent the last number of years working at Parkdale Neighbourhood Church (PNC). PNC is situated in the heart of Parkdale, a neighbourhood in the west end of Toronto. Parkdale is a diverse place- walk its streets and you will meet people living outside, some with serious diagnosed mental health issues, urban “hipsters” who are opening coffee shops and art galleries, people living in rooming houses alongside those who are renovating the same houses into single-family dwellings. The street signs declare you are in the “Village of Parkdale”, an entirely appropriate label given that its inhabitants in large part know one another’s names.
PNC is a gathering place for people. It is a space in which all people, particularly the vulnerable and broken are encouraged to participate fully, to the best of their abilities. We are invited into mutually supportive relationships; the kind that assists each of us as we journey through the life God has given us. I am passionate about the work that goes on in this community: the drop-ins where we share a meal together, the art workshops, the group that gathers on Sunday afternoons to sing, pray, question and learn, the Open Stages where people have the courage to share a song or a poem or a dance, the list goes on. But really, the passion doesn’t spring up out of our programming (as good as it is), it comes from the people- people sharing their pain and struggle and joy in very raw ways. It is in the faces of my friends that I see Jesus, the one who extends love and grace to all.
It is because of this passion that I have agreed to lead PNC into a new phase in its life and mine. We are about to undergo a “reboot”. This means that we are taking some time to revision, rebuild and re-launch. In the meantime we will stay close to our people by continuing our drop-in and doing significant outreach on the street.
In an effort to strengthen the structure of PNC I have decided to become a self- supported worker. This means that I will raise the funds for my own salary. Having done this in the past in a different setting I am aware of the work involved. I also know the beauty of this- that I have the chance to gather a group of people together who are invested in my life and my work. I am scared, yes. I am also hopeful and very excited about continuing the work that I am convinced I am called to do.
Support in this context can come in various ways, each of equal importance: you can gift your time (i.e. walk the neighbourhood with me), your prayer and/or your money by making a donation to PNC and designating it to the “Support of Erinn Oxford” (the ways in which to do this are listed at the end of this letter). Whatever support you offer is truly a gift.
Please consider coming alongside me in my commitment to being a presence in Parkdale. I will take special care to diligently and humbly do the work that is necessary to deepen PNC’s roots and nurture its growth.
With deep gratitude,
Ways to Give:
By Cheque, made payable to Parkdale Neighbourhood Church.
C/O 107 Queensdale Avenue, Toronto, ON M4J 1Y2
On-Line at http://www.canadahelps.org.
By PAR (Pre-Authorized Remittance)- please contact me for the form.