St. Christopher, Richmond Hill held a celebration on Oct. 1 as part of its 25th anniversary. For the past three years, under the leadership of its incumbent, the Rev. Philip Der, the parish has been going through a missional transformation. The theme of the first year was to “Awake Theologically.” Through preaching and small group discussion, the congregation learned missional theology and the meaning of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbours as yourself.”
“Parishioners became more aware, and they began to take the initiative to know our neighbours,” says Mr. Der.
The parish’s goal this year is “Caring for Our Community.” The anniversary organizing committee decided that a meaningful way to celebrate the 25th anniversary would be to live out the calling of the church. All members are encouraged to serve 25 hours of community work, and each small group will take up one community project.
“Through service, we are learning to listen and to discover what God is doing in our neighbourhood,” says Mr. Der. “Our motto is, ‘People won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.’
Some of the community projects parishioners have completed so far are picking up garbage in the neighbourhood during Earth Week, visiting seniors or shut-ins, visiting marginal youth at 360 Kids, riding a Big Bike with a city councillor to raise funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, giving out carnations to mothers in a local mall on Mother’s Day, and giving out keychains to fathers on Father’s Day. The church also sent 14 volunteers to General Synod, raised $1,900 at the St. Christopher’s Community Fun Day for a foodbank and youth resource centre, and sent members to the Richmond Hill Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.
The church surveyed 148 people in the area on the needs of the community and the role of the church. The results showed that children and teens’ education and physical health were high priorities. Other issues were mental health, friendship and loneliness.
“These results will prepare St. Christopher’s to go into the third year of the transformation to ‘love our mission field,’” says Mr. Der. “A missional parish needs to take root in the community. The community’s concerns will become our concerns. The parish will discern our next steps in response to these needs. From caring to loving, St. Christopher’s is transforming and bringing God’s faithful presence to our community.”