Conference to provide ray of hope

hands hold a candle next to a flyr that reads "talking about social justice"
 on September 1, 2019

“There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good!’” – Psalm 4:6

Climate change, worsening inequality, the rise of hate groups, racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, exclusion, violence, and a polarized political climate – these factors all seem to be growing. For many people today, paying attention to the news seems to be an invitation to greater alienation, anxiety and despair. A popular cartoon features one person saying to another, “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.”

What does it mean to reach out to such a world, to seek God’s justice in such a context? How can our churches become centres of resistance in the face of injustice and hope in the face of despair? This year’s Outreach & Advocacy Conference will put such questions front and centre as we explore faithful and hope-filled ways to engage with the world around us.

Thea Prescod, this year’s keynote speaker, is a staff member at Sanctuary, a community ministry for street-involved people in downtown Toronto. She is also a member of the Wine Before Breakfast worshipping community, where she has preached on the prophetic call to “courageous, hopeful faithfulness.” She was a keynote speaker at the Junia’s Daughters conference for women in ministry this past May.

A diverse line-up of workshop leaders will wrestle with different ways in which churches can be “pockets of resilience” resisting the temptations of isolation and despair. Seasoned community advocate René Adams will examine the key role of compassion and love for neighbour in confronting the structural causes of poverty. Grant Jahnke and Karen Turner will look at how celebrating a Season of Creation transformed the capacity of their parish to address the looming threat of climate change, while the Rev. Stephen Drakeford and Angela Elzinga-Chen share how building partnerships with local environmental groups can enhance parish resistance, and young activist Lane Patriquin addresses the emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of ecological grief. The Rev. Lesley Barclay, Patricia Sinnott and Sharon O’Connor from the Durham-Northumberland region will explore the unique challenges and opportunities of outreach work in smaller towns and rural communities. Basilian Father and Christian peacemaker Bob Holmes will lead a workshop on Unsettling the Word, a re-reading of scripture that challenges typical colonial interpretations, while the Rev. Leigh Kern explores ways to lift Indigenous land acknowledgements from perfunctory statements to living invitations to reconciliation. The Rev. Christian Harvey, executive director of the Warming Room Ministry and deacon at St. John the Evangelist, Peterborough, will share possible ways for churches to respond to the crisis of homelessness with love, creativity and solidarity. And Tamique Erskine and the Rev. Claudette Taylor will offer a follow-up to their popular “Turning Tables” workshop from 2018, delving into questions of racial injustice, anger and solidarity.

Youth age 11-18 are extended a special welcome to attend the conference. During the morning workshop session, Alexandra McIntosh and Jillian Ruch, youth coordinators for the York-Credit Valley and York-Scarborough episcopal areas, will host a discussion on youth and the radical call to justice. Youth participants are encouraged to join one of the afternoon workshops and will have an opportunity to share feedback during the closing worship. All youth qualify for the half-price registration fee of $15.

The conference will be held on Oct. 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Havergal College, 1451 Avenue Rd., Toronto. This venue can be reached easily by car or TTC and is fully wheelchair accessible. To learn more and register, visit


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