FaithWorks: how it all began

 on May 1, 2021

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” James 2:14-18

It is the 25th year of FaithWorks in our diocese, and it is well worth celebrating. It may be of interest to know how FaithWorks came to be.

In 1995, the diocese had a Treasury Board, made up of volunteers, that was responsible for, among other things, creating a budget for the Synod office. We were struggling to cover expenses without having to raise parish assessments. We examined the Community Ministries department’s budget, which funded the diocese’s major outreach programs such as The Dam, Flemington Park Ministry and others. We thought we might fund them from freewill offerings rather than using parish assessments.

We then applied the Anglican Church’s Rule 101: when in doubt, form a committee. So three of us (myself, Tom Abel and John Howard) created the Stewardship Development Committee. Our first question was: how will the new program appeal to parish families? The diocese’s outreach programs were not well known. We looked to the Bible for guidance – the stories of Jesus’ healing and giving. Tell the stories, we thought.

Beyond the outreach programs, we thought about our parishes: could we share a portion of the gifts, to provide seed money for local outreach projects? What if we gave our episcopal areas a portion, too, to seed larger projects that sister parishes could create together? If we shared these stories, they might inspire other people to take action.

We then thought about other outreach programs such as Anglican Houses, The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and Anglican Appeal. Parishioners were torn – which program was most deserving? We thought that we should wrap the other programs into this new one. In a meeting with the Anglican Houses team, their concern was that donations might shrink. We then suggested that they take a leap of faith with us – that together we would be stronger. They agreed. Shortly thereafter, Anglican Houses became Leap Of Faith Together (LOFT).

Our next meeting was at the national church’s office, to see if the Anglican Appeal and PWRDF would join us. We met Suzanne Lawson, who was so excited by this that she not only agreed, but joined our team. What a Godsend! Susan Graham-Walker also joined us from the diocese’s Program Resources department, to help give us much-needed guidance.

The new program had to be ongoing. Every year, an appeal would be needed, with new stories told and new initiatives taken. This would require new Synod office staff, and with God’s grace, Richard Garnett became our first director of Stewardship Development.

Something was still missing, however – a name. It had to inspire. We spent several meetings struggling with this. I was walking to Union Station after one meeting when it hit me. I actually froze and almost got trampled by other commuters. Our next meeting was in two weeks – I could hardly wait. I spent the time sketching the logo: Faith had to be airy, with spaces for light, reaching up, with a cross in the center. Works had to be grounded, solid, industrial-strength. Can you see it?

I brought copies of the sketch to the next meeting and passed them out. I took a deep breath – was this a dumb idea? Five mouths opened, then smiled. FaithWorks was born. Well, almost.

Richard was ready to go, but we explained that we had to present the proposal to Synod. Richard said, “You need the parishes to vote on this? How do you get anything done?” John replied, “Quite well, actually.” I remember the discussion about Synod: how do we present FaithWorks to Synod? How could it appeal to Synod members? Answer: tell the stories, of course. But there were hundreds of stories, and we only had 45 minutes. Then show them the stories, we thought.

There were to be four slide projectors at Synod, and I agreed to put the stories together. I cut articles from the Toronto newspapers. There was a picture of furniture sitting curbside in the rain: the only possessions of an evicted family. And one of a man in a sleeping bag on a steam vent in front of our new, shiny City Hall. I needed 60 articles, which I found in only one week’s worth of papers. Then I wanted stories of our outreach programs. I spent hours in the diocese’s Archives and had to go back 10 years to find 40. Outreach was under the radar then.

Synod came, the lights dimmed, the music started and images flashed across the four screens – all different but all the same. It lasted for two minutes. The music ended with a boom, and four FaithWorks logos flooded the room. The lights came up and John, Tom and I explained how FaithWorks came to Synod, and Richard explained how the program would run in the parishes. After a break, Synod voted and FaithWorks became a reality. It was 1996.

At the break, someone asked if I did this for a living, pointing at the screens. I looked at the people in the room and said, “We all do.” She smiled. After the vote, a Synod member approached John, Tom, and I and asked, “Did you ever think that FaithWorks would not happen?” Tom replied, “Never!” Ever.

Cheryl Bristow, Ebert Hobbs and Richard Parton joined our team to help with the first campaign in 1997, assembling posters, parish brochures, the blue envelopes and taking care of thousands of other details. And the rest is history – and the present and future.

I will not likely live to see FaithWorks turn 50, but it will happen – because of our works of faith, and because our faith works.


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