Love Thy Neighbour: How the church is getting involved
by julie.brown on May 8, 2016 - 9:16pm
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with a couple churches around the South Shore and in Montreal, getting a better sense of what each is doing in order to get involved with their community and with global issues.
Growing up in a Christian community, I’d sometimes felt that the church was separate from the outside world. It seemed as though there was an invisible rift between the people I would see during a Sunday service and those that would sit next to me in class; sermons and worship seemingly never intersected with real-world issues.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Refugees in the Year of Mercy
“The Pope proclaimed this year the year of Mercy,” said Matheus Schultz, a college student and friend that I interviewed who attends Saint-Marc’s Parish in Candiac. “So every church is doing everything they can do demonstrate mercy towards people, towards those who need it.”
On Sunday, April 3rd, I helped provide musical entertainment for a large benefit lunch in a Candiac community building hosted by Schultz’s parish. Complete with songs, raffles and a delicious plate of spaghetti, they sold over 300 tickets and made over 4,700$. All the funds collected will be used to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees that are moving to Canada in the coming months.
The benefit luncheon was the idea of Matheus Schultz and his twin sister, Thabata Schultz, whose families have been attending Saint-Marc’s Parish for three years. Schultz had been volunteering with the Red Cross, welcoming refugees that were entering the country, when he found out that the parish was sponsoring a family as well. “I really wanted to help,” he adds, mentioning the important role he held in the decision-making committee. A large part of Saint Marc’s Parish’s youth group, La Relève, was also involved, most helping in the kitchen or serving tables. “When someone from La Relève does something, everyone wants to go and do it together.”
The issue of countries being unwelcoming to those fleeing difficult situations is one the Pope is repeatedly cited as holding dear. Since 2012, a civil war in Syria has pushed over 11 million people out of there homes, and relocated many of them out of their country (Carter). Hearing the call, and noticing the unkind and even hateful reaction in some places – a newly arrived family was attacked with pepper spray in Vancouver (CBC News) – churches in Canada and Quebec and are working hard to be welcoming and open-hearted to incoming families. A church in Outremont, similarly to Saint-Marc’s Parish, held a welcome luncheon for Syrian Armenian refugees arriving in the area. They saw it as an opportunity “to get to know each other, and talk to each other, and see how we can help them” (CBC News).
Involvement: A Church Policy
Indeed, hospitality was a recurring theme in the interviews I conducted. Bianca Hébert, the chair of the youth group, Breakaways, at Rosemount Bible Church (RBC), said that the church wants “to be as welcoming as possible, and as warm and open to anyone who comes.”
The church is very conscious of the needs of the neighbourhood. Rosemount Bible Church “is located in a place that’s really not as rich,” explains Hébert, so RBC has done its best to help the families and single moms in the area. From corn boils, day care services, parenting conferences and baskets of food passed out on Mother’s Day – “we have all these things [in order] to really reach out to the community in ways that aren’t necessarily Christian.”
Breakaways has also done fundraising work for humanitarian trips by cleaning homes, mowing lawns or painting fences. RBC has even been involved with non-profit organizations like Share the Warmth, World Vision, and Welcome Home Mission.
On the other side of the river, La Prairie’s Église Évangélique du Semeur has put into motion an initiative called “Générosité Extrême”. They’re challenging Sunday morning churchgoers and teenagers of their youth group, Kontraste Jeunesse, to give more than they regularly would. Last year, the funds collected went to Canoé de l’Espoir, an organization that works with Native American reserves, filling boxes with Christmas gifts for the children there. The church also held a Christmas service, and invited La Prairie locals to attend with boxes containing cookies and comic books.
Faith, family and community
The undercurrent of all these works is, of course, faith; these religious groups unanimously believe in the importance of extending a hand to others, extending beyond those included in the church community. “We consider ourselves a family,” said Schultz, speaking about his parish’s youth group. Bianca Hébert echoed the sentiment about Breakaways.
They both emphasize the importance of community within the church, as well as the strength-in-numbers way they’ve been able to work in their neighbourhoods and communities. This is how they are able to move and impact real, important issues; by a cooperative, peer-driven and motivated effort.
This is the kind of initiative that reflects the way society works now. Not one person wielding power over others, but the effort of a collective: a community, a family, working together for those who need it.
Yes, it takes faith, but it also takes people. And that's something that humanity has got plenty of.
Here are the transcripts of the full interviews for interested readers:
Carter, Joe. “Explainer: What you should know about the Syrian Refugee Controversy.” Acton Institute Power Blog, Acton Institute. 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 6 May 2016. http://blog.acton.org/archives/83541-explainer-what-you-should-know-about-the-syrian-refugee-controversy.html?gclid=Cj0KEQjwx7u5BRC1lePz2biJpIYBEiQA-ZeDmjxjqOU24WLT0lydUdV6v-nSl3zbGRsk0_DiY1ok6iMaAgkm8P8HAQ
“Syrian Armenian refugees welcomed with mass and meal in Outremont church.” CBC News. 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 6 May 2016. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/syrian-refugees-montreal-1.3397866.
“Syrian refugees confused, disappointed by pepper spray attack in Vancouver.” CBC News. 9 Jan. 2016. Web. 6 May 2016.http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-police-chief-constable-speaks-on-hate-motivated-pepper-spray-incident-1.3397228