“I’m trying to wrap my head around how it is that you function without a building”. I’ve heard this sentiment from numerous people over the last two months. People seem to understand how a business would make the decision to have its employees work remotely, say from home, but a community organization and church choosing to be without walls? Less so. I do realize how hard it is to ‘get’ if you haven’t been around The Dale.
I often say that we have a well-established “nomadic routine”, one that rarely varies: Monday Drop-In and Lunch at 250 Dunn Avenue, Tuesday staff meeting at a local coffee shop, Tuesday Drop-In at The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Tuesday Bible Study at the St. Clare Centre, Wednesday Breakfast and Art Drop-In at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, Sunday Service at 201 Cowan Avenue. Every Thursday morning you will find us walking through the neighbourhood on outreach. Sandwiched into the remaining space is supporting people in a variety of ways, administration, and fundraising.
In 2018 we will have been functioning in this manner for SIX years. I remember sharing the decision to give up our building and seeing the understandable looks of caution from people. I know there were many who presumed this would be a short-lived experiment, not because they wanted us to fail, but because they couldn’t imagine how this would work. I am here to attest to this: what was born out of crisis has become one of our greatest gifts.
The Dale relies on the buildings of others and are so grateful to all of our partners. By aligning with such a variety of groups in Parkdale, we have access to a broad range of resources and expertise. I am convinced that together we are all made stronger. Further, in being “homeless” we have been reminded that the church is not a building. We have been taught by those who know what it means to be transient, how to be transient ourselves. Together we are living stones, ones that wander and tell of redemption and reconciliation.
Near the end of June 2012 we pushed our industrial fridge and freezer down Queen Street West to 250 Dunn Avenue, just a block away from our former home and the new location of our Monday Drop-In. A few friends dipped their feet in chalk paint and left a trail of prints along the sidewalk so people would know where to find us. If you look closely, you might see a few remnants of those footprints even today. Whenever I notice the faint outline of one, I grin and remember that was just the beginning of what has turned into an amazing adventure.