Letter to the Editor

I got inspired to respond to an article in Toronto Life. I’ve never done this before. Here goes…

Re: Sarah Fulford’s Editor’s Letter in the August 2013 issue of Toronto Life, “The Party Pooping Parkdale Moratorium”. (Click here to read: Toronto Life Editorial)

I am the Director of Parkdale Neighbourhood Church (PNC), a place committed to being a welcoming space for all people, while particularly valuing those who are marginalized, in the neighbourhood for which it’s named. In your editorial you state that the City’s report “comes down hard on the side of safe-guarding the status quo, even though its authors can’t identify what’s worth preserving”. You go on to say that cities are never “static”, site Yorkville as a success story and close with the thought that “Parkdale is following in the footsteps of many beloved neighbourhoods”.

Here’s the thing: Parkdale is already beloved. I can list many reasons why it is worth preserving, not least of which is its village quality, one where people of varying social status co-exist.

Those dingier storefronts you mention are where many of my friends can afford to buy what they need. I agree that nothing is static: I am not opposed to some changes in Parkdale if what it actually amounts to is a sharing of space. The problem is that all too often it means another Yorkville- a neighbourhood where services and restaurants are out of reach for the average person. Those “last-resort jewellers (‘we buy gold’) and payday loan outlets” do often prey on the people who are most vulnerable. It will not serve them well though to simply have those places replaced with high-end restaurants where they cannot afford to eat. Economic growth is not the only sign of a healthy city. It would be good to explore alternative economies, ones where people share their belongings, wealth and abilities. At PNC we are attempting to figure out what it means to invite people into full participation of a community; we believe that everyone has something to give.

I think that Councillor Perks is trying to stand up for those who quite often don’t have much of a voice. I need to do the same. As you admit, this isn’t merely a fight about noise, it goes much deeper than that. I think it necessary to come up with a plan that ensures Parkdale can retain its diversity. Diversity is worth preserving. Let’s not party poop on that.

Heartache and Hope for Baby

There were so many words to say yesterday, but I decided to opt for silence. Now I don’t know where to start.

Just over a week ago a baby came into the world. Until today I haven’t publicly acknowledged the gender or name, but having been given permission to, the baby is a beautiful girl named Katie.

Yesterday Katie went to a foster home.

Yesterday, everything changed for a child, a mom, a dad and a whole community of people trying to gather around.

Yesterday and today, I weep.

I weep because parenting is already so very challenging without the additional layers of challenge these parents face. I weep because this felt like an opportunity to be “church” the way church is meant to be. I weep because I wonder if it was harder to have hope for a week than no time at all. I weep because I already miss Katie.

The tears help to soften my fear and dismay. We were church this week and need to continue being just that. I believe this caused us to consider that it really does take a whole village to raise a child. Too few of us have experienced the village actually showing up.

I am making plans with the Children’s Aid Society to get all of the things we gathered up to Katie and her foster family. Thank you to all who were able to help. Our support doesn’t end now for anybody in this situation. Neither does our hope for Katie’s future.

Our village needs to remain intact.




A New Baby

On Tuesday morning Joanna Moon and I met the newest member of our community: an 8 pound, 11 ounce beautiful baby girl. She has five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot, a head full of dark hair and a sweet little mouth.

The challenge is this: the mother needs to convince many people that she is capable of taking care of her daughter.

I of course need to be careful about what I write. What I can share is that PNC is fully committed to developing a circle of support around our beloved friend. We want everyone to be safe. We want, if it is truly at all possible, for this family to remain a unit.

The reality is that resources are few.

This is where you might come in.

After our Cate was born people showered us with meals. I think we should do the same in this situation. Having a fridge and freezer stocked with meals from others will be a new experience for my friend. For those who have ever experienced being exhausted because of a situation (new parenthood or grief or…), this kind of thing can be incredibly practical and precious. Maybe this could be what you offer: a single meal.

Other things are needed too: diapers, Similac Formula (in this case, formula will be used as a supplement to breast feeding. Similac is what has been already introduced to baby’s diet), clothing, etc. A priority is a stroller. They have a crib. Maybe you have something that you have been meaning to donate to a Thrift Store; or you feel compelled to buy some diapers; or you can do neither, but are willing to pray and/or send good thoughts.

New motherhood is hard. New motherhood like this takes “hard” to a whole new level. Let’s spread some love.




One Note Wonder

My concept of “success” is constantly being challenged. A story I frequently tell, quite often as a reminder to myself of what success is and is not, goes like this:

“Barbara” is a woman who functions with various disabilities, both mental and physical. She is small in stature and big in personality. I got to know Barbara especially well while I was working at Sanctuary. We would take half an hour each Wednesday drop-in to sit at the piano where I would teach her how to hold her hands and what notes were created by which keys.

Fast forward a few years. Now working at PNC, I was excited to see Barbara walk through the doors one night for an Open Stage. Barbara decided to add her name to the list of people who wanted to perform. Our MC for the event introduced Barbara and invited her to the keyboard. Barbara took center-stage where she stood for an uncomfortable amount of time staring at a piece of sheet music. She would alternate holding it millimeters from her eyes to a few feet in front of her. I held my breath. Finally she sat down and put the music on the stand. Relaxed, she raised her right hand and proceeded to play ONE NOTE. Barbara stood triumphantly and said into the microphone, “I’d like to thank my piano teacher Erinn”.

As a piano teacher I am most often preparing students for exams at the Royal Conservatory of Music. I would be remiss to consider doing an exam the only form of success. It comes in learning to enjoy an instrument, in trying your best even when it is hard, in making your very own music. Barbara is a sweet example of this.

That night we applauded Barbara’s courage to get up and share. I’ve never seen a single key played with such great flair. What a note.

Eek, it’s been rather quiet in these here parts for a bit. I think I might have “summer brain”. I love this time of year, though it challenges the part of me that relishes routine. There is no shortage of things going on, both at PNC and home. I haven’t done a post about the RIGHT NOW in a while, so here goes.

Right now…

: I am trying to juggle getting everything done at PNC while having a little girl out of school and at home. I am grateful to the many who are hosting Cate on play-dates, my very understanding co-worker who doesn’t mind having our staff meeting at my house and the PNC community who really loves having Cate around. Just taking it all a day at a time.

: I am getting ready to lead our Sunday service that starts at 2 pm. I nervously started leading our own service again after months of doing it jointly with our friends at the Jeremiah Community. Sundays are taking off in a beautiful way. I led a brainstorming session recently about what it is that we want to learn together. People said things like, “I want to understand the Bible more”, “what does it mean to teach in this context? and can I try?”, “can we talk about the Proverbs and the Psalms?”, “what is the Christian calendar all about?”. Such good stuff.

: I am thinking about things to do at what my daughter calls “Camp Oxford”. So far it has involved making many bracelets with gimp, swimming at our local public pool, a trip to the Bata Shoe Museum, staying in pyjamas all day, sleepovers, going to the beach at Jackson’s Point, fireworks on Canada Day. Up next: apparently you can tie-dye with sharpies. We’ll see how that goes.

: I am keenly aware of how our Health Care system is helping take care of my Mom and Dion, my husband. My Mom lives in a complex continuing care unit of a hospital and Dion is currently receiving assistance at Toronto Rehab for his MS. I’m thankful.

: I’m watching the PNC plot in the HOPE Community garden come to life.

: I’m considering the fact that PNC’s presence is widening. I recently took one of my Parkdale friends out for a coffee and doughnut. My friend has a serious struggle with schizophrenia and is fairly well-known in the neighbourhood. I was shocked and quietly grateful that the coffee shop owner, a gentleman I had never met, told me he knew exactly who I was, where I worked and why he was glad to see the coffee date happening.

: I am thrilled with how the PNC Board is growing. Our Board members are committed to providing oversight, healthy governance and accountability to PNC as an organization. I don’t know what I would do without their support. Full stop.

: I am enjoying the very warm days, the lanterns in our backyard at night, doing street outreach, our weekly drop-ins, meeting new people, seeing old friends and realizing that by relaxing into the summer it doesn’t have to completely whiz by.

Happy summer my friends.