Constance Kendall is the program director at the Downsview Youth Covenant and the lay pastoral minister and youth director at St. Stephen, Downsview.
The Downsview Youth Covenant (DYC) is a not-for-profit registered charity that was established in 1997 and incorporated in 2009. It seeks to develop, promote and manage the delivery of programs and services to children and youth in the Jane Finch/Jane Wilson corridor. This is a highly populated immigrant community in which there are numerous families living below the poverty line. As such, there are many negative influences and barriers to success for our young people. Programming is designed to help the participants cope with any academic, social and emotional challenges, and provides them with guidance, positive role models and activities that will enhance their lives. This is achieved through a Monday-to-Friday after-school Homework Club, Friday night social activities, March Break and summer camps, and artistic expressions of drumming, drama and dance. Staff and volunteers challenge students to grow academically and socially.
The best thing about my ministry as director is seeing the positive growth and development of our participants. Children strive in their academics, and youth gain leadership experience and support in life skills through volunteering. Carolyn Jackson, our present site supervisor, joined the Homework Club program as a child, after which she became a volunteer and then a staff member. She graduated from York University as a teacher and remains unwavering in her commitment as she works with the present DYC participants. Her life is testimony to the difference we can make in the lives of the young people we serve. However, funding is an ongoing issue as we constantly seek out sources for the continuation of our programs. This hinders growth and expansion, but thanks to FaithWorks and other church and community donors, we have been able to maintain our present programming.
I was born in Guyana, South America, and immigrated to Canada in the early 1980s. As a cradle Anglican, I was influenced by staunch Anglican parents who had active roles as lay leaders in the church and were also principals of church schools. I attended St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, where I participated in the weekly mass and was influenced by nuns and teachers who taught me to live a life of faith and integrity. As a child and teenager, church was life and life was the church. As an adult, I continue to live life in the same vein.
I arrived in Canada with strong Anglican roots and found my first and only church home in Canada at St. Stephen, Downsview, where I have been a member for over 30 years. I became actively involved in church life when I accepted an invitation to be a member of the parish’s advisory board by the late Rev. Tim Grew, one of my earliest spiritual mentors. That began a continuous commitment to lay ministry in the Diocese of Toronto. Strengthened by my lay minstry training at Wycliffe College, I later served in various capacites in youth, children’s and outreach ministries at All Saints, Kingsway, and St. David, Lawrence Avenue. My ministry to youth extends beyond church in my role as a school settlement worker, helping new students and their families settle in Canada.
I am hired as a part-time staff person, but part-time ministry does not exist. Ministry is a way of life. Ministry is not only a commitment to those I serve but also a commitment to God. So my ministry is my vocation. My passion has always been working with children and youth, and I pray that as long as I am called to this area of ministry I will be able to make a difference in the spiritual, educational and personal development of young people wherever God places me. When you hold a child’s hand, you help a child, a family, a school, a church, a community, a city, a country and God’s world.
I am a member of the Black Anglicans Coordinating Committee and have been a key organizer of the diocesan Black Heritage Service of celebration since its inception 20 years ago. One of my greatest church moments was being asked to preach for the 17th annual service, with the theme “Laity leading the way.” At this year’s 20th anniversary service, I was awarded a plaque for my contributions to the church and community. As an avid and former professional dancer, I have been the choreographer for the Diocesan Dancers, who over the years have also performed at the service and at church and community events throughout the diocese.
One of my favorite scripture verses is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I lead a full life but make prayer and Bible reading an important part of my day as I seek God’s guidance, wisdom and protection in all that I do. I thank my mother and siblings, my late father, grandmother and brother, other family and friends, youth and children, priests and parishioners who have prayed for, nurtured, journeyed with and supported me on my spiritual journey.