Welcoming a Third Staff Member

Last November we made it public that The Dale Ministries was ready to grow our staff team. We are now thrilled to announce that we have found our new Community Worker in Meagan Gillard. Meagan comes with an education in social work and experience in a setting similar to The Dale, plus she calls Parkdale home. I loved listening to Meagan describe to our Board of Directors her heart and passion for this kind of work and life. I trust that The Dale is going to be a good home for her, and that she will bring so much to us.

This is also a leap of faith for Meagan. She has agreed to fundraise the money for her salary, a task that can certainly be daunting. As someone who does the same, I understand the anxiety of not being sure where the funds might come from. I also know the beauty of having an incredible network of people invested in this work. My hope and prayer is that Meagan will be encouraged by those who come forward to support her.

It is exciting to have The Dale expand in this way. I believe the time is right. Meagan starts on April 18th, the day after Easter Monday- fitting given that Easter is a time of new beginnings and this is definitely one for everyone involved. Please join me, Joanna, the Board, and the whole Dale community in welcoming Meagan. We’re so glad you said yes!


The Risky Nature of Vulnerability

In a previous post I described how I intend to ‘listen’ more to God over the period of Lent. Well, I’m trying. I’m not sure what I’m hearing, but in the quiet I am usually struck by an overarching theme in my life: the call to vulnerability. Brene Brown describes vulnerability as a combination of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. That resonates with me.

I could describe countless vulnerable situations, for instance: assuming my current role at The Dale, being a fundraiser, trying to be a caregiver for a variety of people, being a mom to a teenager, even endeavouring to care for friendships. When I consider this list, none of the items are things I would give up so as to feel less vulnerable. I would also argue that they aren’t a measure of weakness (though I might feel weak in them), but rather opportunities to imagine what’s possible, rely on others, and find bits of courage to keep going.

One day at a drop-in I was feeling overwhelmed with life stuff. A dear Dale friend walked up to me asking for things I didn’t have to give and I fell apart. She grabbed me by the arm, took me into the storage room, hugged me and repeatedly said, “let it out, put it all on me, I can handle it, put it all on me”. Two things were going through my mind simultaneously: my friend, you are being Jesus to me right now AND I don’t want to put this on you because you have more than you can handle already. I felt exposed, exhausted and entirely vulnerable. I was reminded though that to this person my tears were a gift. I always say that I want The Dale to be a place where we can all give and receive and this was an opportunity for that.

Vulnerability can be scary. I think what would terrify me more though is to not risk and wonder what could have been. Maybe this Lent I am being invited to listen and hear what the next leg of the journey might look like, however uncertain it may be. I’ve had a Sara Groves song rolling through my head during times of prayer. I think it encapsulates my ongoing conversation with God, one that will continue even past Easter.

Loving a person just the way they are, it’s no small thing
It takes some time to see things through
Sometimes things change, sometimes we’re waiting
We need grace either way

Hold on to me
I’ll hold on to you
Let’s find out the beauty of seeing things through

There’s a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It’s a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can’t occupy the same spaces
Only one makes you free

Hold on to me
I’ll hold on to you
Let’s find out the beauty of seeing things through

If we go looking for offense
We’re going to find it
If we go looking for real love
We’re going to find it


A Letter to Joanna

For those of you who have kept up with my journey at The Dale, this story has in some ways been told before. I beg your ear yet again because I firmly believe that telling stories is important. It is often in the re-telling of things that something fresh becomes apparent for me, which is partially why you’re stuck with me as a blogger. I process through writing.

Five years ago this month I found myself the only staff of what was then Parkdale Neighbourhood Church. I was terrified, though filled with the kind of peace which passes all understanding that I was where I should be. Then I did what I swore my whole career I never would: I ran a drop-in without other staff. Now, in many ways I was far from alone: Souad Sharabani steadfastly remained the Volunteer Kitchen Coordinator, while our core community rose to the occasion and helped in countless ways. The challenge was that I carried a unique responsibility for things, including conflict resolution. It’s okay if you’re thinking, “that’s crazy”, because in fact, it was.

One day I got a message from a woman I had never met but knew of, named Joanna Moon. She ended up coming to meet me in the space where we used to be housed before becoming a church without walls. In retrospect I understand that Joanna had no idea of the existing crisis. She simply knew of me and PNC and wanted to consider coming to work. When I explained that the only way we could hire someone was to have the person willingly fundraise the money for a salary, she didn’t run. We agreed to connect again.

Joanna was suddenly willing to help me with all kinds of things, she helped purge our belongings and pack what we decided to keep; cleaned; attended our last Open Stage at 201 Cowan Avenue; listened to and hugged me. I am amazed that I didn’t scare her off. The crisis that she had been unaware of was now entirely obvious. Somewhere along the way she decided that joining the staff was right and, as she always still describes it, would be my official “buddy”.

To say that I am grateful for Joanna is an understatement. And it’s not just because of all that she does (though that list is long), it’s because of who she is. Joanna is extremely compassionate. She pays attention to people and their needs. Her intuition is so high that she sometimes finds herself weeping for a person who she only later learns was having a bad day. Joanna takes things very seriously and is a hard, hard worker. She loves to help. Joanna is of high character.

When I unceremoniously almost broke my ankle on the way to be with my mother who was in the ICU, Joanna made it possible for me to get back and forth to the hospital. She would pick me up in a car, drop me at the entrance of the hospital and into a wheelchair, park, come and push me to the ICU, buy me coffee, and then take me home, only to do it all again the next day. She holds pieces at The Dale together when I need to be away. When I am falling apart, she routinely writes me a beautiful card and feeds me chocolate. Joanna is, in so many different ways, very present to me.

I trust that God was involved in having me and Joanna meet. I stand amazed that it was only four and a half years ago because it actually feels like I’ve known her forever. It is a privilege to watch Joanna grow and mature even more into the role that she holds at The Dale. I believe in her call to this work and though I say that privately, I am here to say it publicly.

I love you Joey. You really are my buddy and I want you to know that I am yours.





In for the Long Haul

I’ve had the opportunity to tell the story of The Dale to a variety of new people in recent weeks. I try to pause often so that people can comment or ask questions. It isn’t uncommon for a least one person to ask, “how do you keep doing this?” Inevitably I find myself fighting back tears (or not) as I describe the deep sense of call I have, the variety of ways this community fills me up and how much more I receive than I even give.

One Sunday I arrived at the space where we hold our church service, feeling about as ill-prepared as one can. It wasn’t that I forgot an overall plan for our time together: I had printed off the necessary readings, bought bread for communion, and studied for the time of teaching. Lacking was my sense of worth. “When are people going to realize that I have no idea what I’m doing?” I felt rather empty.

I was reminded that day of how less of me means more room for the Spirit to move. Multiple people, without knowing what was going on in me, prayed that I be assured of my place in the community. One person asked that I be anointed in my leadership. My family was prayed for: not once, not twice, but at least five times. A dear woman and friend, one who knows poverty all too well, cupped my face during the sharing of the peace and said, “oh, little lamb. I worry about all that you carry. You are not alone”.

With my head bowed, I continued to listen to the prayers of the people. So much was acknowledged in a raw way: the pain of estranged relationships, the feeling of defeat in addiction, the brutal nature of physical disease, and the discomfort of dashed dreams. Tempering all of this was the ability to share gratitude for the simplest of things. It all felt real and somehow infused with hope.

Though my work is admittedly hard, it is so good. This community pushes me to experience life below the surface, in those deep places where one is enabled to both weep and laugh, mourn and dance, feast and fast. In almost inexplicable ways, God is present. So while I fumble around, sometimes second guessing my abilities and role, I am reminded that there is a place for me here. The truth is, I’m in this for the long haul.


Curbing the Chatterbox

It’s the beginning of Lent. For those who don’t follow or know about the Christian calendar, this is the period of preparation for Easter. It lasts forty days because that’s the number of days Jesus retreated to the desert to fast before He began His public ministry. Many people give something up during this time. Over the last number of years I have felt inclined to instead take something on.

I am someone who prays. In fact, I pray a lot. I pray in the car as I’m driving to work. I pray again on my way home. I pray as I’m anxiously working out an issue. I often pray while I’m cooking. I pray while I’m running around the drop-in at The Dale. And so on, and so on. One could argue this is good, right? Well, yes, hopefully. But here’s the thing: sometimes my prayer life is exhausting. My brain is going and going about all the things weighing on my heart and I just talk at God incessantly.

When I speak to people about prayer at The Dale, I often say that it is about having a conversation with God. In my case, I’m probably not leaving enough space for God to get a word in edge-wise. The irony of this is that I’m a pretty good listener when it comes to my human relationships. I guess I need to learn more about what it means to listen to a God who doesn’t usually speak audibly when I finally shut-up.

Which brings me back to Lent. I have decided that I want to be intentional about taking time to be quiet and still with God; to turn to Scripture and allow it to really SPEAK; to find the patience to wait on those things that I so hope will come to fruition. This restless heart of mine needs for some of the noise and clamour to cease. I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to talk a lot- just with a few more pauses in between.