Archives for the month of: December, 2017

“I’m trying to wrap my head around how it is that you function without a building”. I’ve heard this sentiment from numerous people over the last two months. People seem to understand how a business would make the decision to have its employees work remotely, say from home, but a community organization and church choosing to be without walls? Less so. I do realize how hard it is to ‘get’ if you haven’t been around The Dale.

I often say that we have a well-established “nomadic routine”, one that rarely varies: Monday Drop-In and Lunch at 250 Dunn Avenue, Tuesday staff meeting at a local coffee shop, Tuesday Drop-In at The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Tuesday Bible Study at the St. Clare Centre, Wednesday Breakfast and Art Drop-In at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, Sunday Service at 201 Cowan Avenue. Every Thursday morning you will find us walking through the neighbourhood on outreach. Sandwiched into the remaining space is supporting people in a variety of ways, administration, and fundraising.

In 2018 we will have been functioning in this manner for SIX years. I remember sharing the decision to give up our building and seeing the understandable looks of caution from people. I know there were many who presumed this would be a short-lived experiment, not because they wanted us to fail, but because they couldn’t imagine how this would work. I am here to attest to this: what was born out of crisis has become one of our greatest gifts.

The Dale relies on the buildings of others and are so grateful to all of our partners. By  aligning with such a variety of groups in Parkdale, we have access to a broad range of resources and expertise. I am convinced that together we are all made stronger. Further, in being “homeless” we have been reminded that the church is not a building. We have been taught by those who know what it means to be transient, how to be transient ourselves. Together we are living stones, ones that wander and tell of redemption and reconciliation.

Near the end of June 2012 we pushed our industrial fridge and freezer down Queen Street West to 250 Dunn Avenue, just a block away from our former home and the new location of our Monday Drop-In. A few friends dipped their feet in chalk paint and left a trail of prints along the sidewalk so people would know where to find us. If you look closely, you might see a few remnants of those footprints even today. Whenever I notice the faint outline of one, I grin and remember that was just the beginning of what has turned into an amazing adventure.

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 3.55.09 PM

 

 

 

Advertisements

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or not. Mostly not for a lot of people I love.

The sentimental songs, the snow, and all the stuff can serve as reminders of estranged family, or no family, or family that is very far away; of cold nights spent in stairwells or under a bridge or in a house that is not a home; of no money for rent or food or presents. For me, this month is magnifying the absence of my mom. I am also admittedly feeling a weariness about the excessive commercial nature of Christmas. Part of me wants to hibernate until January.

Today we had our Monday Drop-In. Interspersed throughout the day were interactions with people experiencing a variety of emotions. Some were grieving lost relationships and the death of loved ones. A number of people lit up when a new friend of The Dale showed up with their six-month old baby. Others expressed anger and frustration at life. A few joined in a rendition of Silent Night. By the end of the day my heart was heavy because though there were many sweet moments, there was much sadness.

Yesterday we gathered together for our Sunday service and lit the Advent candle that represents joy. What does it mean to not just experience a fleeting happiness, but a grounded joy in whatever our circumstances might be? A number of people, many of whom were at the drop-in today, and all no stranger to challenge, contributed to the discussion. We encouraged one another to not allow our struggles to define us or rob us of joy, to practice gratitude for even the smallest of things, to learn to rejoice, and to again and again, choose joy.

Right now, even as I sit here feeling burdened for my friends and missing my mom, I am trying to slow down and do what we talked about yesterday. I hunger for the peace that passes all understanding, something I know is real and gratefully regularly experience. It helps to remember that the impact of Christmas is to be felt everyday of the year, not just on the 25th, for light has pierced the darkness and brought with it hope and yes, joy.

“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy.” Psalm 126:5-6

Light in the Darkness

One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was titled, A New Adventure where I invited people to join me on a journey. Now, years later I share this letter, fully aware of how far The Dale has come. This too is an invitation, one to come alongside us in whatever way you can. Maybe you can give a financial gift, or share our story with someone else, or attend a drop-in, or…whatever it is, we are grateful.

 

The Dale is my family…We are a family held together with love.

Through thick and thin we stay together.

Marlene, talking about why she loves The Dale

When asked to describe The Dale, our people consistently say it is where they find friendship, community and a place to belong- it is like a big family. We love to be together and create space for everyone to fully participate, an attempt to have people experience what it means to both give and receive. For example, people might offer a warm hello, help to cook, do dishes, sweep floors, play music, or support someone in distress.

We have been working all year to tell The Dale story, to generate financial support, and to strengthen the ways that we are present in our neighbourhood. As a community without our own walls, we have a well-established nomadic weekly routine, one that takes us from location to location for our drop-ins, church service, and administrative work. We do street outreach and advocacy, visit people in hospital, in jail, in their homes, and outside, and accompany people to appointments and court.

The Dale is entirely reliant on the financial support of others to do what we do. As we reach the end of the year, we invite you to consider making a donation to this work. In order for us to plan and budget well, it is very helpful to receive monthly gifts of any size. This is easy to do by using our Pre-Authorized Remittance system. There are other ways to give too, including on-line.

We hope and pray that you think of the people at The Dale as friends, and that you find any contact with us enriching. It certainly is for us- whether you are volunteering, making a gift, being together in a community activity, or simply staying in touch and offering your encouragement.

The Dale is life-changing for Marlene and so many others who find friendship, community and a place to belong with us. So today, we ask you to help move The Dale into another year. Thank you so very much for your goodwill and support. We are grateful for you and others who care about The Dale and our people.

Sincerely,

Electronic Signature

Erinn Oxford

Pastor and Executive Director

Regular Giving

Give on-line through CanadaHelps

Become a regular donor by filling out this Pre-Authorized Remittance Form and sending to erinn@thedale.org or mailing to:

The Dale Ministries
PO Box 94, Station C
Toronto, ON  M6K 3M7

Cheques or Cash

Cheques should be written to THE DALE MINISTRIES and mailed to the above address. To donate cash, please contact Erinn Oxford at erinn@thedale.org.

 

I had just finished a session with my therapist and was entering the subway to head home. The station (or more accurately, the building that it is housed in) was under some major construction and erected some temporary, metal stairs. An elderly woman was next to me, carefully holding the railing and slowly making her way down. I felt the toe of my boot snag in a gap which thrust me forward into an almost movie-like fall. I tried to grab something to stop myself and nearly took out the woman in the process. I somehow managed to keep either of us from tumbling and breathlessly apologized for the accident.

I will confess that I can be a klutz. I suspect this, along with being pre-occupied by all the thoughts running through my head from the earlier appointment lent to my near fall. I was also thinking a lot about my impending ordination council. The next day I would be presenting my statement of faith before a group of people who would then vote about whether or not to affirm my sense of call, not exclusively, but particularly to The Dale. I guess I felt even more anxious than I realized.

I carried on with my day, only to have yet another incident. I needed a quick dinner and decided to pan fry some perogies. Somehow, and I swear I don’t know exactly what happened, I managed to spill hot oil onto my hand. It left splatter marks and one sizeable blister. This was not helping my nervousness about the next day.

After my ill-fated supper, I went to an event at Cate’s school which was a good distraction. Later in the evening I felt relieved that I was tired enough to go to bed at a reasonable hour, hoping I would sleep well. In the early hours of the morning I was suddenly awoken by…my reading lamp, affixed to the wall since 2001, FALLING ON MY HEAD. I kid you not. The light bulb even broke, leaving shards of glass on my pillow. I thought, this is either a bad sign or everything terrible that needed to happen is now out of my system and today will be fine. I hoped it was the latter.

Thankfully the ordination council proved to be a beautiful time of encouragement. All of my anxiety melted away as I told my story of faith and journey with The Dale, explained my philosophy of ministry and theological views, answered questions, and was voted (unanimously!) to be ordained by the CBOQ. I felt surrounded by the community that presented me for this process, which made it not my day, but OUR day. And the truth is, after a year of too many deaths, struggles and heartache, it was good to have something worthy of celebrating together.

In a weird way, I’m even grateful for my series of misfortunate events. The fall, the burn, the lamp all reminded me that I am a frail being. Whether I managed to steady my feet on those subway steps or not, God is with me. It is God who has invited me into my role at The Dale. In humility I want to be a leader who serves and loves people, albeit a klutzy one. I am thankful for the affirmation of my peers. I really can’t imagine doing anything else.