Reboot, Almost Five Years Later

In early 2012 I was asked to re-imagine how, what was then known as Parkdale Neighbourhood Church, might function. In a proposal to the board I wrote, “PNC is a special, vibrant community that deserves the chance to further develop and grow. Given the current financial circumstances we need to make some hard decisions. I believe there are two options: 1) Close and 2) Undergo a “reboot”. The first option is self-explanatory. The second I will give some shape to in this document”.

I went on to suggest that we “seek out a location that will allow us to use space for free, one day a week. The Drop-In can be primarily run by our current volunteer team along with Souad Sharabani in the kitchen. In addition to this, we can develop teams of people to be present on the street at least one evening a week, more if we have the capability. Further, I suggested that we “pare down our expenses to food for Mondays, a negotiated salary for myself (that I would fundraise for) and a fund to allow me to take potential supporters and community members out for coffee, etc. While an office in the neighbourhood would be helpful, I can envision working on my laptop in the Parkdale library and from home. I will commit to remaining very visible in the neighbourhood.”

I proposed that together we would “revision and strategize for the future, including a possible name change and re-branding (i.e. logo, website, etc.); to get ourselves organized administratively, including incorporation and re-building of a Board; to meet with potential funders; to research possible partnerships with other organizations and finally to encourage our current partners to stay the course with us”. The plan was for this process to take up to a year, but that if we didn’t meet established “markers” at certain intervals we would re-evaluate and begin the process of closing down.

I remember believing this was an opportunity to build upon the exciting work that had long existed at PNC. We had deep roots. We had a beautiful, resilient community. We had endured much. We could rise up.

Fast forward to 2016. Though I had to write that proposal in the first person, the reboot has been an entirely collective process. Over the last four, almost five years, we have become a nomadic people with a weekly routine. We move from 250 Dunn, to the Salvation Army Thrift Store, to the St. Clare Centre, to 201 Cowan Avenue, to coffee shops, to parks, to countless stops along Queen St West between Dufferin and Roncesvalles. I continue to carry my ‘office’ in a bag. We are now a staff of two, thanks to Joanna Moon. Souad has a solid team in the kitchen that cooks healthy, flavourful meals with food from our friends at Second Harvest. We have a Board of Directors six people strong. Marion Cameron is our stellar bookkeeper. Together we have become The Dale Ministries.

As we approach the end of another year, I find myself full of gratitude for the metamorphosis The Dale has gone and continues to go through. We are regular witnesses to God’s provision, oftentimes through people such as yourselves, who have chosen to support this work. One of our core community members regularly prays the following, “Thank you God for this fellowship of people. We have lasted so long. We are not made of bricks and mortar, but of people”.

And to that I say, “Amen”.





So This Is Christmas 

This December has felt dark in a variety of ways, and I’m not just talking about the lack of daylight during our short winter days. There are multiple Dale community members who have been hospitalized. We still don’t know for sure if the friend I recently wrote about is dead or alive. My Mom and Dion both got the virus that has been floating around on top of their regular health challenges. You get the idea. Covering all of this is Advent- the period of actively waiting for Christmas. I keep trying to remember that the light of Christmas is on its way.

Being in a context like The Dale is a beautiful reminder that Christmas will come with or without packages and bows. In the dim light of this month, there have been moments of surrender, joy, love, peace and yes, hope in our little community. We have carolled and feasted. One person, though he has only sixty dollars left after he pays his rent, brought cheese and crackers to share at TWO of our Sunday services. As we handed out gifts on the street today, one man (who was panhandling) gave up his present to a friend who “needed it more”. A friend who was expected to not leave ICU is back in a regular hospital room.

We had a Christmas Eve service today. At the end, just before passing each other the peace, we spoke of the kind of situation Jesus was born into: birthed in a stable in an occupied country, soon to become a refugee. He was a gift then and is a gift now. And that, regardless of our circumstances, is something to celebrate. 

Merry Christmas. 




Finding Patience to Wait

The word on the street in Parkdale is that one of our long-time friends and community members has died. We haven’t been able to confirm whether this is fact or fiction, even with calls to the local hospital, police and coroner. And so we wait, not knowing whether to grieve or hope that we’ll see this person magically walk into drop-in tomorrow. It’s a strange set of emotions to navigate at any time of year, but somehow this happening during Advent (the period of waiting before Christmas) makes it even more…poignant.

It was last Monday that people shared the news of this death with me and Joanna. We sat in stunned silence for a moment and then began to ask questions and make phone calls. The two of us then hid away in a small storage room to pray. With a garbage chute on one side and a freezer on another, we looked at each other and then to God. We prayed for our friend and that we would uncover the truth, for a heavy sense of peace in the drop-in, for enough people to do dishes and for strength to get through the day.

By the end of the day we were keenly aware of how there had not been a single need to manage or de-escalate tension. The dishes got done in record time. We had made it through the day. And we still had no idea about our friend. I have been wondering aloud ever since, “Why? Why were some of our prayers so immediately answered? And some seemingly not at all?” It’s not that I would trade the calm that we were gifted- I’m so grateful. It’s that I don’t get why we have to wait [not so patiently] for other answers.

For the last number of years I have completed my Christmas shopping in the fall. I started doing this because I know how busy the season is and wanted to enjoy it without the added stress. In retrospect I realize that this has stripped away any distraction I have from Advent. I am much more aware of the darkness that precedes the coming of the light of Christmas. I honestly don’t find it a comfortable place to linger, and yet I’m asked to both remember and anticipate with patience and hope.

And so I wait. And so we wait. For news of our friend, for prayers to be answered and for our desperately broken world to be fixed.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young people stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

PS If you are from Parkdale and have questions about or knowledge of this community member, please private message me.