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”.