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:

"INTERVIEW: Bianca Hébert"

"INTERVIEW: Matheus Schultz"

Sources: 

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

Comments

I believe that the local churches and others all over Canada are doing a good job at helping and integrating people, especially those that were part of the Syrian crisis, however, as you stated in your post, a lot of these people were greeted with hate. Although I read from the article that you mentioned, that the refugees are not blaming all Canadians, because this was an isolated accident, I still believe that there might be a way to change this perception and that people can become more acceptive of the refugees. Fear was the most probable motor that was driving the people that committed the shameful attacks, it would be therefore imperative to understand the causes of this fear. Some Canadians probably fear that these refugees might hold terrorists within their ranks; however, these people are simply victims of an atrocious war. By making Canadians and other countries around the world who accept Syrian refugees to be understandable and to become aware of their situation, the situation might turn to its best. I believe that the churches are doing a very good job at helping refugees, but if they would make some public demonstrations that would prove how normal these people are, the situation might reverse and those who are welcoming refugees might change their opinion on these victims.

Your volunteer opportunity post is very interesting and original, as I have never thought about the church’s connection with the community. I personally love getting involved in religious events and even non-religious events that I think that individuals should get involved with their local church and organize an event where the community can get to meet new people. This idea can help expand communication and companionship between individuals, which can thus result in a better ambiance within the society. I personally have never participated in an event organized by the church, however I have partaken in an event organized by a mosque and I have also organized an event myself which allowed me to meet new people and increase bondage between myself and the Muslim community. These events are also a great way of clearing up misconceptions about certain religious interpretations made by various individuals. Your post is motivating me to work with a local place of worship as my next volunteer opportunity as I would like to invite individuals to participate in events created by the church or a mosque so that they may understand that places of worship aren’t only useful for religious people rather anyone is welcome to get involved with the church. One does not have to be Christian to enter a church and that is something that I would like to preach and show to everyone as places of worships aren’t only limited to religious people but they are rather open to anyone willing to get involved. A great initiation to making the church and other places of worship known to the community and allow them to connect with society would be to organize a children’s event with fun games and activities so that the parents of the children can come to the event and meet other parents and create a bond between people of different cultures. The event can be an open event where anyone from any religious background can partake in as this will avoid any discrimination and will create a compassionate relationship between individuals from different backgrounds as well as create a positive association with the church or place of worship.

Wow Julie! As always, I am so impressed with your writing. I love how you’ve connected your article with the feelings you’ve had regarding the place of the Church in nowadays society (the rift). In Quebec, I also have the feeling that the Church has been pushed out of the “scene” and that it is much less popular. However, we also have to look at Quebec and the historical context regarding religion; since the Revolution Tranquille, I feel as if a majority (probably) thinks that the Church isn’t part of the community anymore or as much or that it shouldn’t be.
This said, I love how your article challenges that idea and shows how involved churches still are. It was really interesting to see the impacts that local churches and how the “Year of Mercy” affects these impacts. Your full-length interviews (I’ve only skimmed them) also look super intriguing. We can really see that you’ve taken a very personal approach with this project, and I love it. I think that it was a brilliant idea to interview younger individuals that are also involved because it perfectly supports your text. In short, I love the way you write, and I love how the approach you have taken is so unique. You’ve helped me see a new side of the medal, and it has slightly changed my opinion regarding churches (not faith or Christianity). Great job! Thank you for this post!

About the author

Julie Brown is a Digital Imaging and Studio Arts student at Champlain College. She is very interested in matters concerning culture and the arts, as well as youth matters, technology and social activism.