Archives for the month of: September, 2018

It’s not hard to describe the regular schedule of The Dale. On Mondays we have a lunch drop-in, on Tuesdays we meet in the park, etc. What maybe is more difficult, unless you’ve spent time with us, is describing how things feel.

On Monday I found myself unable to meet with all of the people who wanted to connect and it admittedly led to some tension. I became a little sad and needed to take a minute to compose myself. I want to listen well, make the calls someone needs (often to a Social or Housing Worker), and generally be a good friend.  In that moment of deflation, there were many community members who did for me, exactly what I hope to do for them: they noticed I was a tad out of sorts, offered encouragement, gave me a hug, and asked how to help.

On Wednesday we held a Memorial Service for Mike. It was somber. He was an important friend to many people. A number of people spoke to me about the difficulty of compounded grief: how there have been too many untimely deaths and that the need to say a proper goodbye is necessary. There is relief that The Dale is present to facilitate memorials and funerals. One person came to me after and in their grief for Mike repeatedly said, “what would we do without The Dale? We need to keep being together”.

Following the Memorial a group of us went to a small stretch of beach along the lake because a community member named Kim had indicated her desire to be baptized. Joanna and Meagan led two readings, one from Scripture, the other something Kim wrote. And then we waded out into Lake Ontario where Kim announced her faith and allowed me the honour of baptizing her. What followed was communion and a tea party on the sand. With her permission I share Kim’s words about The Dale here:

Loving me as I am, in my loner spirit and nomadic ways, I felt drawn to a spirit community that I had not known before. I had always found my “spiritual” needs in nature, among God’s creation of wooded areas and rivers, and away from critical judging eyes. I had become a loner due to difficult circumstances in life, and felt I never quite fit anywhere else. Then I saw an open door, and the light shone on my heart, and a community grew into my family that I had not known before. I felt connected, and my loner spirit changed: I grew from being an “I” single, into a shared “We” community, and that felt good. I found stability, built a foundation, within a church with no walls, yet full of a caring community spirit. I now walk proud, and take risks to move forward, knowing I am part of community, and we walk together spilling out into the streets!

So many different feelings: tension, grace, grief, relief, joy, connection. The thing about The Dale is that we really do want it to be a place of belonging for whoever comes here. It’s not just about me, or other staff/volunteers doing something FOR other people, it’s about all of us doing something together, wherever we come from. We all, including me, need to both give and receive. Choosing to do life together in this way is messy. Sometimes we let each other down. People fight. The challenge of life circumstances, either poverty, or addiction, or mental health, or broken relationships, or death, or [insert your own struggle] can impact the way we interact with one another. And, it is most often in working through the messiness that we experience the joy of redemption.

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This summer The Dale had the pleasure of having not one, but two amazing women choose to do internships with us: Olivia and Ahmeda. If you cycle back in this blog, you can read posts written by both of them, including a final entry by Olivia who recently returned to Chicago for another year of school.

Ahmeda is someone I have enjoyed the privilege of knowing and calling friend for a number of years, so when she indicated her interest in coming to The Dale, I was thrilled. Just today I sat on Ahmeda’s couch with her youngest child (she and her husband have five boys) sleeping on my lap, while we discussed the last bits of administration needed to bring the internship to a close. The reason I wasn’t filled with sorrow over this is because Ahmeda intends to stick around, having found a place of belonging at The Dale.

I value the way Ahmeda both intentionally observes and participates in life at The Dale. She asks excellent questions and beautifully articulates what she is learning. Ahmeda possesses a special warmth and passion that draws people to her. She feels things deeply, loves her people, and is generous with her heart. Ahmeda: you and your family are a beloved gift.

The following are Ahmeda’s own words:

I have so much peace here. In this hot old church on Cowan Avenue that is used on Sundays, a space with walls that give glimpses of past glory: its beauty found etched in the carefully carved stones and the stained-glass windows, so obvious the pride of the artists whose work lives on till this day, both human and divine. This space that invites everyone from all walks of life to come, pause, breath and lean into the arms of the one through whom the upside-down kingdom comes alive.

I have no need to pretend here. In this space where the offering is put inside a well-used winter hat and we are encouraged to hold onto it and offer a prayer if that is what we have to bring; a worthwhile gift that glorifies the father, as good as any coin or note can be.

I have so much hope here. In this community where a Second Harvest truck brings the bounty of food sourced from grocery stores and food terminals all over the city. A blessed colorful nutritious selection that will herald and highlight the mystery and delight of the Creator’s presence at Monday’s community meal.

I have no need to search for love here. In these friendships that celebrate the simple things and create space for me and my children, allowing me to come as I am and serve in relationship as best I can.

I will not neglect to acknowledge the pain that is here. I see clearly the hurt that has marred the journey of most of us here. And also, I know Jesus is here. I know God is here. I need not search to find, for I can feel so clearly the warm caress and joyful touch of the Holy Spirit, delighting in the gathering to share, to create, to show our pain, to sing, to eat, to heal, to pray, to hope and to love.

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