THINKING ABOUT SPRINGTIME IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Last year Bethel Church stepped up, big time, to support “Bannerman in Action: A Day for Doin’ Good in the Hood.” Seventy Bethel volunteers joined many Bannerman residents to help create a good community vibe by getting neighbors involved in helping out their neighbors. Because last year’s event was such a great success, our planning team has been emboldened to adopt an audacious dream for the future.
The vision is to rally the neighborhood around the tagline: “Bannerman a Community that Cares.” This motto envisions a strong collaboration between local businesses, residents, and organizations to nurture community pride and a strong ethic of volunteerism. It envisions neighbors routinely helping out their neighbors and supporting one another, especially, in the event of an emergency or when crime is an issue. It is a vision of a community that deeply values its local assets, like the school and Community League, and invests the energy needed to keep them vibrant.
To help achieve this goal, we plan to have a door to door campaign in Bannerman in April. We will promote the “Community that Cares” concept to each home and encourage people to turn out for Bannerman in Action. (A flyer will list Bethel as one of the sponsoring organizations). Our goal for this year’s Bannerman in Action event is to see the volunteer numbers rise from 100 to 150 with the additional volunteers coming from the local community itself.
There are two ways you can help: 1) Volunteer to join Bannerman residents to knock on doors in April, and 2) come out for the Bannerman in Action event scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 23 (8:30 till noon).
We are still very early in the planning process for the event, but I couldn’t help telling you about it. I am excited for the arrival of spring and for the arrival of this event! --Pastor Tom
EXTENDING JUSTICE AND COMPASSION IN BANNERMAN
As Christians we know we are “to act justly and to love mercy” (Micah 6:8). Jesus told us to do so without fanfare. However, sometimes we need to talk about what we are doing as a community so that we will be encourage in our efforts. It is in this spirit that I share with you what Bethel has been doing in the Bannerman community in the last few months.
We are currently supporting Carley Clarke who leads a “Ladies Tea” group in the Capital Region Housing units. This is a small group of new-Canadian women who show up each week to enjoy tea, learn English, and discover resources that can help them adapt to Canadian society and succeed financially. Carley is helping two of these woman prepare for their Canadian citizenship tests. She directed a third woman who wants to do her citizenship test to the local C5 Hub to learn English from Loretta Dell, another Bethel member.
Bethel has been able to provide a hand up to several other people in the Capital Region Housing units who are going through a time of transition as they adapt to Canadian society and seek employment that will give their family’s financial stability. You may remember that, at Christmas time, Bethel provided 25 food hampers to local families and 84 gifts to children. Subsequently, the deacons provided two families with a variety of items: a donated queen-sized mattress, a bed frame, blankets, a dresser, a dining room table with chairs, a kitchen cabinet, a playpen and baby toys. Two other families received dishes and kitchenware. One Bethel member went shopping at Value Village to supply three families with winter coats, scarves, and boots. Another Bethelite came out to give haircuts.
Especially through Carley Clarke’s efforts, several children from the neighborhood are attending either our Cadet’s Boys’ Club or our Gems Girls’ Club. Many of the children from the units go to the Kids’ Club which Bethel runs on Thursday evenings. Two families from the neighborhood attended the last Alpha course. Not infrequently members of the local community will come to a Sunday service.
Be encouraged. God’s love and Good News is touching lives, and He is using Bethel to do that.—Pastor Tom
MESSY GRACE IS IN OUR FUTURE
Someone asked me, “What outcomes are you hoping for from your “Messy Grace” sermons? (That was the title of my two recent sermons about the church and those who identify as LGBTQ+.) I was glad for the question because I am hoping and praying for several very specific outcomes. Allow me to share these with you:
That our church community will move forward with truth and love in our relationships with LGBTQ+ members and guests (cf. Ephesians 4:15). It won’t always be easy to express these things with the seamless harmony that Jesus did, but I hope we will each make that our goal. I called my last two sermons “Messy Grace,” for a reason. We will have to be generous-spirited toward one another and toward ourselves as we figure out what this will look like.
That LGBTQ+ individuals will experience love and welcome at Bethel. I think the silence on this issue was creating insecurity and inaction that was hindering our ability to express genuine love and welcome. Now that the silence has been broken, my hope is that we can get on with loving, supporting, and reaching out to those who identify as LGBTQ+.
That we can talk openly with one another about this issue. Already I have seen evidence that this is happening. In the past weeks I have had more conversations about this issue at Bethel than I have ever had before—both with those who agree with me and those who don’t. I praise God for this. It is not healthy for a church to tiptoe around the elephant in the room. Doing so will lead to hurt and misunderstanding rather than loving and respectful conversations.
That we will all look to God for guidance. I hope we are all realizing that the journey ahead is bigger than any of us is able to handle. We will only be able to navigate it as we are all looking to God to find wisdom from his Spirit. As we do so, though we can’t know all that the future holds, we will be able to know that God is holding us.
REFLECTIONS ON OUR INTERFAITH DIALOGUE
A week ago Thursday, I spoke at an interfaith event that also included religious leaders from Edmonton’s Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities. Many of you came. The stated goal of the event was to pursue peace through dialogue. Each speaker was given 15 minutes to talk about their Faith’s founder.
This was the first time I have ever engaged in something like this. Having had a week to think about it, these are my reflections about the event.
Bethel Church is awesome: Many people contacted me to say that they were praying (some even fasting) for me as I prepared my talk. Over 40 Bethelites showed up at the event. I was deeply touched. (Thank you, Bethel!)
Some good things happened: I and other Bethel attendees had a chance to chat with people from the other faith communities. When you get past faith-labels to first names something good happens. Barriers come down. Fear is replaced by understanding and empathy.
I was disappointed: Unfortunately, I felt that the sponsoring group had an agenda for the event that was not advertised. They had banners, and book tables, and backdrops aimed at promoting their faith. They were very hospitable, but it was evident that they had not been completely transparent about their motives for hosting the event. (I wrote a letter to them expressing this.)
We have an amazing Saviour. I was thrilled to be able to talk about Jesus. This was my biggest highlight for me. The Good News is such good news! Jesus stands alone as the worlds one Lord and Saviour, and I was thrilled to be able to describe the wonder of His grace.
I am not sure I would ever do this again: I believe that dialogue, not conflict, is the way forward in our pluralistic society. However, now that I’ve experienced this interfaith dialogue, I am just not sure that it is the most effective avenue for pursuing that goal. There isn’t strife among the faith groups in Edmonton. In the future I think I will just to sit down for a coffee with my neighbours from other faiths.
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