Place of Meeting
Tomorrowâ€™s leaders? Nope, todayâ€™s. Hope for the future comes easy at TUMC these days when you observe the burst of creative energy and positive leadership flowing from our younger generations, ranging from a spaghetti supper produced and served with wit and whiskers by the senior youth, to confident leading and musicianship from the junior youth at a Feb. 23 service, and the many gifts offered by the 20s30s group in the service they led together on Feb. 16. More inside.
Toronto United Mennonite Church
Place of Meeting
Scene around TUMC
is the meaning of the Huron word “toronton,” from which our city gets its name. Fittingly, it can also mean “plenty” or “abundance.” Place of Meeting is also the monthly newsletter of Toronto United Mennonite Church. May you find plenty here to enjoy and ponder. Opinions expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily of the congregation as a whole. Contributions of all kinds are enthusiastically received, through the mail folder in the lobby or at email@example.com Next deadline April 1, 2014 Have you discovered the allcolour online version of Place of Meeting, complete with live weblinks? Check this month’s issue out here: issuu.com/pomeditor/docs/ pom_march_2014l You can also request an email subscription to the colour version in PDF form or a monthly link to the current online issue. Please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org Editor: Doreen Martens
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Church decorating is not for the faint of heart! Bill DeFehr engages in some precarious work in the niche. So cuddly: Baby Mathias, held in Bea’s arms, held in Ariane’s arms. Zachary, in his Team Canada shirt, exults at church shortly after the big gold medal game, with mom Elizabeth.
Heritage Club: Worrying About Evolution
n Feb. 3, Edward Bergen gave a review of the book Worrying About Evolution by Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and the History of Science at Harvard University, and senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The book (edited by Carl Helrich) is based on the three lectures Gingerich gave at the Eleventh Annual Goshen Conference on Religion and Science. This book presents concerns Gingerich has concerning evolutionary theory and traditional Christian beliefs. The first lecture dealt with changes resulting from the general acceptance of the Darwinist position on evolution and its mechanism of natural selection. These are: (1) replacement of a static worldview by an evolving world, (2) demonstrating the implausibility of creationism, (3) the refutation of cosmic teleology, (4) the abolition of absolute anthropocentrism, and (5) the replacements of the design argument by materialistic natural selection. It is the last point that has been of concern to Gingerich; in other contexts he has raised the question of whether he, as a scientist, dare believe in design.
Owen Gingerich speaks at Goshen College in 2011.
In the second lecture, Gingerich asks if there is anything special about humans in contrast to other animals. He contrasts two position, the first articulated by Pope John Paul II, who in 1996 was willing to take evolution seriously. The Pope recognized a human kinship to other animals, but held out for a significant human transition to a spiritual being. In contrast Gingerich referred to Nancey Murphy, who has rejected dualism for a purely physicalist position, contending that the concept of the soul is unnecessary. For Murphy, what makes us important to God is the important question; NOT what makes us different from other animals. The third lecture did not have a central theme; instead it dealt with three separate issues: I) Scriptural literalism: Gingerich traced the problem from the Middle Ages (when the church allowed metaphorical readings of Scripture) to the 16th century (when Protestants took more literal interpretations of Scripture), the Roman Catholic Church, in reaction, also became more literal in its interpretation of Scripture, and on to modern times where the issue is still in ferment. II) Humans and the Soul: Gingerich reviewed how the time of ensoulment has changed in Church history; ending with the modern Catholic position that it occurs at conception. He then points out some of the problems associated with this position: the stance against the harvesting of stem cells, the existence of spontaneous abortions, the intended abortion of unwanted fetuses, and the existence of identical twins. III) The existence of life elsewhere in the universe: Gingerich discussed discussed the probable rarity of intelligent life elsewhere, and the arguments between atheists and theists on the implications of the well known fact that our universe is a very finely tuned universe. Following the book review, there was good discussion on issues raised in the lectures.
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Visioning discussions continue An update on the Human Trafficking refuge proposal
he next several weeks will feature two more Soup and Sophia discussions to help us with discernment of vision. Discernment of vision for our congregation requires participation from every-
March 2: TUMC has invited Anne Woolger from Matthew House (a refugee house). We will learn more about the Human Trafficking challenges the city of Toronto faces and both the need for involvement as well as some of the challenges that might await us should we proceed with the proposed transitional housing project. March 16: The Visioning Committee will present answers to the many questions that have come forward as well as introduce a more fleshed out program and financial plan for the project.
The discussion so far If you missed the Soup & Sophia held on Feb. 16, here’s a summary of the discussion, questions and reflections spoken around the tables:
1. The proposal is that we house immigrant victims/ survivors of human trafficking. What do you affirm or feel drawn to about this proposal? • Opportunity to assist people in grave danger and with support from gov’t rather than opposition. • Important issue to work on from missional point of view • In line with our historical work with refugees and partners • Like the strong connection with NLC • Passion/leadership of key people who have dedicated energy. We trust and affirm them • Trust the work of the space task forces • We’re good at building buildings/institutions (programs not so much) • Sense of threads coming together – lots of points/indicators and partners (NLC) • It’s a very ‘Jesussy’ thing to do; compassion • Committed group of ‘champions’ within the congregation • “worst case scenario” is that we end up with a multi-unit residential space that could see many uses so effort is not ‘wasted’. • Glad to see the vision taking shape, becoming clearer, more information • Takes us out of our comfort zone – recognize that there will be difficult stories to listen to • Problem is not only ‘out there’ but also ‘right here’, engaging a global
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Future steps: Your role What can you do to be part of the discernment of our most faithful step forward with regard to the emerging vision? • Plan to attend the upcoming Soup and Sophia discussions. • Continue to pray for wisdom and guidance. • Consider committing to meet to pray with at least one other person at least once each week for the next two months as the discussion continues. Where two or three are gathered…. • Continue to bring us your questions. • Do your own research based on the information already provided and on your own as you feel led.
An update on the Human Trafficking refuge proposal
issue at a local level • Increasing discussion on topic in public • Extension of refugee work project will help TUMC stretch as organization • Ministry would be on site – not away • We can meet need in a wide ranging way and help practically
What do you resist? • Are these legal immigrants? Ties with with terrorism? • Is it too limited? Is it just to provide housing? Is it big enough? • How does it engage congregation beyond bricks and mortar? • Concern that it be ‘delegated’ to only a limited number of people • Will we just be funding an NLC program? • Is this the best way for us to be involved? • Careful we aren’t taking steps just to make us feel good • Challenges with people living right in out building eg. Lazarus Rising never really happened at TUMC (despite efforts) • Would project detract from other work? • Gov’t demands might go against our ideals eg. If residents legal situation varies from our ideals; punishment, abortion • Possible safety issues vis-à-vis traffickers • Logistical eg. Insurance • Will interaction be possible due to stage of residents (at variance with our expectations) • Can we or NLC get funding?
What are your suggestions? • Work with people who have been determined to be a good fit with our vision • Keep up the good work – ongoing intentionality to keep congregation informed and engaged • To more clearly understand who clients are
What questions do you still have? • Is the nature of the indentureship of clientele one that implements Canadian Law? Can gov’t help us? • How would TUMC relate to government? • What is our role in advocacy?• What is the time scope for this project? Can these goals be set? • How will we evaluate our success? • How do we prevent further victimization – even in our ministry? • Might this involve migrant workers employed by Mennonite farmers around Ontario? • Are indigenous women part of this? What %? • Can we meet all the needs of residents? Who will meet these needs?
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An update on the Human Trafficking refuge proposal 2. Let’s talk about the type of housing proposed – Long-term transitional housing. What do you affirm or are drawn to about this proposal? • Dormitory style accommodation is flexible – could be used in variety of ways in future. • We seem to have found the right ‘fit’ in terms of scale, partners, congregation and movement of God’s spirit, who we were and are. • Long-term gives space for relationship building – a community of care – also allows for possibility of connection/integration with congregation • Not a ‘quick-fix’ feeling. Like the holistic element. • Wise choice (as emergency, safe, secure housing not a good fit) • Seems realistic and possible – doable with our current plan (member of STF) • Matches resources/skills of New Life Centre • Long-term transitional is perfect for our goals for our building • Allows for more interaction • May fill need not met elsewhere • Less work than 6 Lark • Residents more stable and easier to work with
What do you resist? • Communal living has its challenges • Fewer people implies fewer issues will be raised for us to consider • Can we stay on top of developments and avoid long term ‘residential school’ issue? • What is the lever of supervision to be provided?
What are your suggestions? We need to work on our vocabulary, language, terminology Avoid saying “them” or “these people”, instead “guests, residents, new neighbours, clients etc.
What questions do you still have? How committed long-term are we to this? How would our guests relate to each other? Will it possibly accommodate children? Will it possibly accommodate pets? Who will be lodged here? Men? Women? What housing is best for client? Are neighbours on board? Eg. Mustard Seed – Sisters of St. Joe What are other agencies doing? Eg. S.A. Does long-term mean different things for recent immigrants (less than 6 months) vs. longer term for Cdn.? Would we be involved in this if we were not looking at building bigger? Are we talking to that agencies who are doing this? Will there be a live-in case worker? Do we need to decide who is eligible ahead of time? Who will determine/choose who comes here?
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An update on the Human Trafficking refuge proposal 3. Organizationally, there is still much work to do, but partnerships with FCJ (Faithful Companions of Jesus,) New Life Centre, and MCC are possible and people from TUMC could have multiple levels of engagement. What do you suggest would be an ideal organizational arrangement? • Organizationally, we might seek support from other organizations • Look up Friends of Jesus (ask Michele R.), lay brothers, in our neighbourhood working with people on the margins • We need another organization to run it day-to-day. NLC seems perfect/ideally situated • Q: Where will this fit in within TUMC’s structure? Eg Mission & Service? Some new committee/team? • Learn from those doing it. • NLC has advantages as partner • Need separate organization from TUMC to ensure accountability • Need coverage 24/7 • Need organization with trafficking experience for ongoing support to us
What kind of engagement by people from TUMC do you envision or desire? • Based on residents’ comfort levels, get a feel for what extent they want to be involved with us. • Congregation members who are interested could seek to do some training in Human • Trafficking and Victim/Survivor care should the opportunity for further involvement present itself. • TUMC as a whole could seek to do some general training • TUMC’s role is ambiguous. How might survivors relate to men in the congregation should they choose to join our community? • Could TUMC have direct services beyond donations: Childcare? Mentorship? Friendship? Etc? • Various forms of welcoming: - Can we work together eg. Church work days – involve multiple partners, reach out to neighbours - Mentoring program - Would be good to hear/swap stories - Encourage ongoing partnership/relationship – mutual sharing • It’s not about us – it’s what the client needs • TUMC could provide non-professional support
What kind of engagement would best suit our call to be part of God’s mission in the world? • Friendship – shouldn’t proactively seek to be professional resource • Volunteer – building relationships; activism to help bridge into community • Hospitality – ministry of radical welcoming of the stranger – literally have them in our home. Welcoming them as part of the family here – without expectations, nevertheless knowing that “the stranger” to whom we show hospitality always brings gifts we can’t anticipate. • Too broad a question. Begin with humility. • Shouldn’t primarily seek to be professional resource • Music therapy ie. Natural connections • Level of engagement should be clear to residents
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An update on the Human Trafficking refuge proposal 4. Funding. There are opportunities for outside funding. Do you have ideas or expertise in this area? Please list. • Donations of furniture from the broader Mennonite community • Crowdfunding (Kickstarter) • Small fundraisers: Spaghetti Dinners, Clothing Swap etc. • Justice Organizations (International Justice Mission) • Good to know NLC has experience with grants and connections • MCEC, NSCU, Mennonite Foundation • Diem has some – please talk to her • Wallenstein Foundation • Mennonite Foundation Grant Fund • MB Conference
Do you have concerns in this area, and what are they? • What obligations might be attached to gov’t funding? • Traditionally we have been very cautious. If this is our project we should be able to fund it. • If using multiple sources of funding, need to avoid confusion, conflicts of purpose • Need to match funding provided to need ie – long term, avoid minor funding
What questions do you still have? • Will this be another arms-length program to which we don’t actually have much connection eg. SCOC, Lazarus Rising, refugee sponsorship? • Are we going to connect the decision with funding? We need to make modest assumptions with the funding. • Is rent an option, ie tenants paying some rent? • Beaches church an option?
On Jan. 19, Pastor Marilyn began her sermon with an anecdote about a nightmare she’d had – maybe common to ministers – about being called on to preach before a large crowd without preparation and making a terrible muddle of things. At one point, she’d wondered in her dream, should she just give up and make muffins? Strangely, at the end of the service, what should appear but ... fresh muffins! Queue the Twilight Zone music.
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What’s Taizé? On the evening of Sunday, March 2, there will be another opportunity for TUMCers to participate in a Taizé-style service of prayer and song, led by Associate Pastor Michele Rizoli. All, of course, are welcome to join in on what Michele hopes will become a regular part of our worship and spiritual practice at TUMC. For the benefit of those who have yet to experience this special contemplative style of worship and aren’t sure what it’s about, here is a piece Michele wrote a few years back.
s someone who loves talking and sharing ideas, I was never much drawn to spiritual practices that included meditation and silence. That is, until I experienced Taizé prayer. It consists of creating a quietly relaxed environment, singing simple, repetitive chants that lead to silent reflection. The chants are often in Latin or other languages, which creates a sense of universality, freeing the singer from needing to understand the words or worry about the musical structure (i.e. how many times it will be repeated). What I discovered in Taizé is that silence can often be more eloquent as prayer than many words, especially when undertaken with a worshiping community and cushioned in beautiful singing. Taizé is an ecumenical Christian community of brothers started almost 50 years ago in France. Although the roots are from the Reformed tradition, the Taizé community is inspired by monastic traditions and guided by the values of the Beatitudes: joy, simplicity, and mercy. One of their main thrusts has been to work toward reconciliation among Christian traditions. Their founder, Brother Roger, believed that for the Church to be a leaven of community and peace in the broader human family Christians had to be visibly reconciled among themselves. Pope John Paul II became one of the supporters of this community that now blends many aspects of different Christian traditions. (For example, it borrows the use of icons from the Orthodox traditions.) The community has always practised hospitality: in the beginning, during the Second World War, by caring for orphans and Jewish refugees. Later in the ’60s the community drew hundreds of young people, and today they have a ministry to young adults that attracts thousands every year. Brother Emile, a Canadian, believes that young people are tired of the institutional church and afraid of being preached at. When they come to Taizé they encounter beauty and “beauty casts out fear,” allowing the Spirit to speak to them. The musical beauty Brother Emile refers to is one of the aspects that most appeals to me. Surprisingly, the lack of sermon and overt worship leading are also a refreshing change from my usual style of worship. The music works as well for folks who are into four-part singing and those who just want to sing a melody or just listen quietly. There are also opportunities for many different instruments to play. To learn more about Taizé, see www.taize.fr
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Spaghetti aboard the TUMC Ark Spaghetti Supper by the Numbers No. of years it's been happening: 10+ No. of people served: 80+ Kilograms of spaghetti used: 8.1 Litres of sauce: 26 Heads of lettuce: 12 Hours of work: 8 x 14 people Number of youth serving: 11 TUMY plus guest Number of tea towels: 24 Number of loads in the dishwasher: 20 Dollars raised: $933 (10% to homeless youth) Amount of gratefulness: unmeasurable Thank you TUMC for supporting our youth programs.
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Spaghetti aboard the TUMC Ark
A long tradition at TUMC is the spaghetti youth fundraiser served during the Annual General Meeting, which took the theme of Noah’s Ark this year, complete with falling raindrops, doves, animal waiters and critters of various kinds showing up at the table. Guests were invited to enter “two by two” to enjoy the feast. Thanks to pastor Michele Rizoli for photos and statistics.
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Winter games at Silver Lake TUMC youth enjoy the annual MCEC retreat
TUMC sent a big contingent to this yearâ€™s Mennonite Church Eastern Canada youth retreat at Silver Lake. The event has become so popular, registrations were full a week after they opened in November! With a record cold winter and goodly amounts of snow frosting the outdoors, boxball was as wild and crazy as ever. Inside the dining hall, buzzing with youthful energy, there were times for games, singing and spiritual reflection too, on the theme of encountering Jesus around the table. Thanks to Michele Rizoli for the photos.
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Winter games at Silver Lake
Some ancient traditions were incorporated into the retreatâ€™s reflections on meeting Jesus around the table: footwashing as a sign of servanthood, and partaking of bread, honey and grapes. Below, lots of time for music, fun and friendship.
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Winter games at Silver Lake
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Young leaders in action TUMCâ€™s junior youth ably led most of the service on Feb. 16, from worship leading to reading scripture, conducting the congregation and playing accompaniment.
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Police shootings: Six unanswered questions TUMC member Doug Pritchard, as many of us are aware, personally witnessed the police shooting death of Michael Eligon on the street near his home two years ago, and subsequently helped organize a community response, demanding that police revamp their training and policies to ensure that such needless and tragic deaths no longer occur when police are called to deal with people in crisis. Unfortunately, several other cases have occurred in the GTA in the two years since Michael Eligon died. This reflection was published in NOW as an op-ed. By Doug Pritchard
was a witness to the killing of mental patient Michael Eligon by Toronto police. So I was called to testify at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Eligon and two others who were in mental health crisis. Final submissions from parties with standing at the three-month inquest concluded this week. A jury will now make its recommendations. What will come out of it? Police, for their part, seem for the first time open to wearing lapel cameras, albeit not so much to keep police in check as to guard against possible legal action against them. Meanwhile, serious questions on the circumstances surrounding Eligon’s death remain unanswered. 1) In January 2012, Eligon was staying in a “safe bed” house for people with mental illnesses. On February 1 his ability to care for himself declined, and police took him to Toronto East General Hospital. It was nearby, but no one knew him there. He wanted to go to St. Joseph’s Health Centre, where he was known and had been cared for over several years. There was no secure unit at East General at the time or bed available. Consequently, he was left in the emergency department for two nights. He didn’t seem to be eating and was uncommunicative. Testimony revealed that he was moved from a bed to a chair on the second night. He asked for a lawyer. An hour later, he walked out of the hospital. Would better care have prevented this? Hospital physicians testified to giving Eligon an antipsychotic drug and a sedative when he was admitted and described Eligon as paranoid. His own psychiatrist of six years, however, testified that Eligon suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, a condition that made him believe that he had bad body odour and a disfigured face. And that she had only ever prescribed antidepressants from time to time.
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A woman at a vigil holds a picture of Michael Eligon, who was shot by police in February 2012. Photo by Rick Eglinton, Toronto Star.
2) Eligon took two pairs of scissors from a nearby shop. The shopkeeper tried to retrieve them, and a scuffle ensued. He called 911, saying he had been “stabbed.” At the inquest, he testified that he didn’t actually know whether he had been cut deliberately or by accident as he wrestled with Eligon to get the scissors back. Video from the store’s security camera that caught the altercation was somehow damaged in the course of the investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the civilian watchdog that probes incidents of death or serious injury involving police. The inquest also heard that Eligon approached a woman who was parking her car on the street and “whispered” a request for her car keys. There was a 30-second encounter. She screamed and kicked him and he left. She called 911. The call-taker reported this incident to police as an “attempted car-jacking.” Eligon then wandered through backyards on Milverton Boulevard. He asked one homeowner for his house keys, was refused and left. This was transmitted to police as an “attempted break-in.” Hearing these calls, police assumed that this escapee was very dangerous and “on a rampage.”
Police shootings: 6 unanswered questions
But when police found him in a backyard, wearing only a hospital gown and socks and carrying scissors, he seemed “confused and disoriented.” Should police have then reviewed their initial assessment of the danger level? 3) The half a dozen officers who arrived on Milverton formed no plan. They testified that what training they had in de-escalation or mental health was not relevant here, only that Eligon was now “advancing towards them with an edged weapon.” Virtually all of them began shouting, “Drop the weapon,” although their training says that only one officer should engage the subject verbally. When Eligon did not comply with this command, one officer shouted, “Shoot him,” while another yelled, “Back up” to the others, to create more space. What message did Eligon hear, if any? Why did they not try another approach? There was no guarantee that pepper spray would be effective, police testified. And using a baton would have meant getting close to Eligon. 4) The officers backed up as Eligon walked toward them. Then the least experienced officer suddenly opened fire. He testified that Eligon had said, “One of you is gonna die,” but of all the other officers present, only one testified to also hearing this; he was the one with whom the shooter left the scene in a cruiser, in direct violation of the SIU-police protocol that subject
and witness officers be immediately separated to avoid the possibility of collusion. Why was this allowed by the superior officer on the scene, who granted permission? 5) Some officers said they were reluctant to fire their weapons for fear of hitting another officer. Were there too many officers on this narrow street? Officers knew that the canine unit and a sergeant with a taser were on their way. Could they have waited for their arrival? This question was never satisfactorily answered. Officers replied that they had to stop Eligon or he might harm civilians. Yet two of the three shots fired missed Eligon and hit a porch and a garbage can. Were these stray bullets more dangerous than what Eligon might have done next? 6) Will this inquest reduce the chances of such a tragedy occurring again? There have been several inquests into the police shooting deaths of mentally ill people. Despite these recurrences, police training has not substantively changed. Perhaps the much more widely-viewed police shooting death of Sammy Yatim last summer will change that. There may be hope on this front. Staff for Frank Iacobucci, the retired Supreme Court justice tapped back in August by Chief Bill Blair to probe the circumstances surrounding the Yatim shooting, were present in the public gallery at this inquest.
Damaris Schmucker leads children’s time, above, and Athieng Majak sings beautifully at the Feb. 9 service.
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Milestones John Epp and Christy Langschmidt were joyfully welcomed as new members to TUMC on Jan. 19, after sharing their deeply reflective faith stories, with faith partners Geoff Wichert and Marlys Neufeldt.
The celebratory red and white cake went quickly after the service on Feb. 9, as TUMC rejoiced with Diana Gallego on finally attaining her permanent residency in Canada after a long battle to have her refugee status recognized. Next hope: a similar resolution for her husband, Luis. Thanks to Shauna Heide for the photo.
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Scene at TUMC
Alyson Baergen, above, leads children’s time and Peter Haresnape preaches at a service led by the 20s-30s group on Feb. 16. Also on hand were the senior youth, with a slide show and reflections on their experiences at the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada youth retreat at Silver Lake.
Yes, the lobby is crowded, but where there’s a will, there’s a way when it comes to community building. A typical hang-out time after the worship service on Jan. 26.
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