The clergy and parishioners of Christ Church, Bolton decided a few years ago to focus on getting out into the neighbourhood and exploring missional ministry. Ideas were to come from the congregation and were seen as experiments.
“The hope was that whatever was explored would lead to deepening relationships with people in Bolton who were not going to access the church in typical ways, like attending Sunday morning services,” says the Rev. Ruthanne Ward.
(Ms. Ward was appointed the church’s missional partner in 2014 and priest-in-charge in 2017. She is now the priest-in-charge of the Church of the Annunciation, Port Perry. As of Jan. 30, the incumbency of Christ Church, Bolton was vacant.)
A number of ideas were explored, including a hiking church – a group of people who worship God on Sunday mornings by prayerfully walking local trails and inviting others to join them. That concept took root and, once a month during the warm weather months, a group of parishioners get together for a hike.
Perhaps the best example of the church’s outreach is the special partnership it has forged with Caledon Area Families For Inclusion (CAFFI), a local parent network that advocates for improved housing, employment and other opportunities for young adults with intellectual and development disabilities.
“(The young adults) get cut out,” says the group’s founder, Patricia Franks, referring to the number of government support programs that end when young adults reach the age of 21.
Through the efforts of a parishioner and CAFFI member Sian Leyshon-Doughty, the church has been providing free meeting space for the last few years. During the meetings, church members often undertake activities such as baking or making crafts with the young adults, allowing their parents to be more engaged in the discussions. The minutes of those meetings are taken by a parishioner, who previously was not aware of the daily challenges the developmentally disabled face.
Other links between the church and CAFFI have also been formed. This past December, the congregation and CAFFI co-celebrated their third annual Christmas dinner. A pivotal component of those dinners has been the contribution of the young adults from CAFFI, who assist the church volunteers with cooking and setting up the hall.
Another example is a talk Ms. Franks delivered at a Sunday morning service in late January on housing and financial obstacles that persons with intellectual challenges face. She was invited to speak by the church’s social justice committee.
Through these events and others, parishioners have become increasingly more aware and personally invested in the issues facing CAFFI members. “This relationship will continue to evolve as different people become involved, as CAFFI needs change and as, hopefully, our community becomes more inclusive and supportive of all people living with developmental disabilities,” says Ms. Ward.
Submitted by Dan O’Reilly.