Archives for category: Uncategorized

Recently at The Dale Ministries someone remarked, “I don’t completely understand what is going on here, but I know I want to be a part of it”. What this new person immediately noticed was a place where all people are welcomed and invited to become not just acquaintances, but friends. When your normal experience is being marginalized, being treated as a friend is life changing. 

We want everyone to learn about what is going on at The Dale. And so, let’s go on a quick tour through who we are and what a week in our life looks like. 

The Dale values all people, while making intentional space for those who are dealing with poverty, addiction and mental health challenges. We invite everyone into full participation of all that we do, fostering opportunities to both give and receive. Together we are learning what it means to love God and our neighbour. As a church and community organization without our own walls, we rely on the outdoors and partnerships with other buildings to run our programming. Our well-established nomadic routine allows people to know where to find us and when. 

Each Sunday we receive a delivery of food from Second Harvest, out of which we determine a menu for our Monday Lunch Drop-In. Monday is our largest gathering, one where over one hundred people share a hot, nutritious meal. On Tuesdays you will find us in the Coffee Corner of a Thrift Store for a time of conversation, snacks and a board game. In the evening a group meets at another location to discuss and study the Bible. Wednesday afternoons and some evenings are spent walking through the neighbourhood in order to connect with people and offer support where needed. Thursday mornings we run a breakfast and art-making drop-in at a Health Centre. Sunday afternoons we set apart for our church service. Sprinkled through the week are opportunities to pastorally care for people: buying groceries for someone who is housebound, visiting a person in hospital, accompanying a friend to an important appointment. 

Since 2012, The Dale has seen steady growth. We have worked hard to develop partnerships, build a strong Board of Directors, generate financial support, cultivate relationships, and even expand our staff team. We believe that God has and continues to lead the way for The Dale. 

Our desire to love and serve our community runs deep. At this time, we would like to invite you to consider supporting the important work of The Dale. The reality is that as we grow, so does the financial burden. Your gift, coming at this time, will not only strengthen our current programming, but enable us to develop new activities and additional supports for people. 

We hope and pray that you are encouraged by the story of The Dale. We are heartened by the network of people who surround us with such care, either through volunteering, making a gift, being together in a community activity, staying in touch, offering encouragement, or praying for us. 

We are grateful for all your goodwill and support. Thank you for participating with us on this incredible journey. 

In peace and hope, 


CLICK HERE TO GIVE: https://www.thedale.org/donate/

The Dale Ministries is a Registered Charitable Organization. Tax Receipts are issued once a year. 

I first met Paula through her role as Team Lead for Project Serve, an arm of Youth Unlimited. Since then, Paula has become a dear friend. I know her to have the gift of encouragement, the best laugh, and the desire to build deep and authentic relationships. One of the greatest things is that we now all get to see her every Monday at The Dale. You are loved Paula! Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this space. To read more from Paula check out her own blog at: https://choosetoriseabove.blogspot.com

Picture this with me, will you? 

You approach a full table of people. On one side, you see people you recognize. One wears his addiction on his sleeve. Another does not. One was born in Toronto. Another was not. 

On the other side of the table, however, sit a few people you don’t know. You look them up and down and try to figure them out before considering sitting in the empty chair beside them. Are they safe? Can you trust them? Will you have anything in common?

Before you can answer that, a plentiful platter of deliciousness gets delivered to your table – made with more love than your heart can accept at times – and you realize that you do indeed have something in common: like the person sitting next to you, it’s lunch time and you’re hungry. 

All of a sudden, you feel at home. One of the people you rarely know scoops potatoes onto your plate while another pours you a cold cup of water, and soon, very soon, you start to realize that you have a lot more in common than just being hungry. 

You see, no matter where you were born or where you grew up, what kind of baggage you brought in with you that day or why you ended up there in the first place, at the Dale, there’s a seat at the table for you.

They have a seat at the table. 

You have a seat at the table. I have a seat at the table. 

Only at this table, there is no they, you or I, there is only us. 

It was a Monday. We were gathered in the large room we use each week for The Dale’s drop-in. Just the day before we had occasion for multiple celebrations: a person finding an apartment after eight months of living outside, new housing for our Community Worker Pete, his wife Frances and their four children, someone declaring The Dale to now be their community. We also prayed for the two babies set to make their entrance very soon. I think it is safe to say we collectively needed a taste of joy, and the hope was that it might permeate the week ahead.

Mondays are always a riot of activity, especially between 1 and 2 pm when the meal is being shared and clean-up commences. I was busy grabbing some supplies from the storage room when I noticed what had the potential to be explosive. Just weeks before two people had a very serious conflict. They had not interacted since. I held my breath as they approached one another and embraced, while offering words of regret and forgiveness. My eyes welled up and I started to jump up and down to get Joanna and Pete’s attention, hoping that they too might bear witness to what honestly felt like a miracle. I think I hopped the entire length of the crowded room to the kitchen.

As I often say, living in community is both messy and beautiful. Sometimes it is downright hard, especially when life feels more bleak than bright. There are many more people who still need affordable housing, some of our relationships remain strained, and conflicts continue to erupt. I am grateful though to be a part of a place where we keep trying to work these things out. We fail. I fail. And we try again.

In the midst of it all, there are incredible moments of provision and reconciliation. New life, both literal and figurative is happening. All of this makes me, however silly it might look, jump up and down.

This blog has been a wonderful place for me to process my thoughts, talk about life and share about The Dale. I get to use my voice, which is not something I take for granted. In an effort to share this platform (such as it is), I have decided to include more guest posts. In the past, this has primarily been a way for interns at The Dale to describe their experience with our community. I would like to broaden that scope and will be inviting a variety of people to write in this space. I am excited to encourage and support other writers!

To start, here is a piece from Joanna Moon, my beloved friend and Community Worker at The Dale.

Today we had our weekly drop-in at the Salvation Army Thrift Store “Coffee Corner”. A friend joined us who is often in conversation with herself and/or an unseen other. She is sometimes very clear, and sometimes not. Today she spoke about a lot of things, including the feeling that she doesn’t have anyone in her life to care about her. Another member of the community, “Jess”, who has had more than her fair share of struggles, replied “Yes you do! You have us! We’re here for you, if you want to hang out with us! If not, that’s your prerogative.”

Then Jess stopped, as if surprised by herself… “Prerogative?! Wow, where did that come from? I haven’t used that word in… a long time! Awesome! What a great word!” She then went on to think of other great words. A few minutes later was still coming up with words, and I heard her say, “Hope! That’s a big word. Well, it’s a little word, but it’s big. It’s a big little word!”

She’s so right. Hope IS a big little word. Jess offers me hope, just by being who she is, and by the way that she offers hope to other folks in the community.

Hope. Awesome! What a great word.

It’s rare for me to feel a sense of hopelessness, which is probably why my experience of it recently was so uncomfortable. A number of things contributed to it: Dion’s ongoing health challenges; an accumulation of grief for the too many friends whose deaths have been untimely, sometimes violent, and often preventable; the lack of space I’ve had to properly mourn my mother; the increasing awareness of how many layers of marginalization people face; my dear friend’s angst that the poverty she lives with will be never-ending; hearing about the many forms of racism that continue to exist.

I was sitting in a chair at ReImagine, a conference in Hamilton that took place last week, when my chest got tight and I began to cry. The group assembled had just listened to a profound and heart wrenching rendition of Ben Harper’s Call it What it Is (“Government ain’t easy, policing ain’t easy, hard times ain’t easy, oppression ain’t easy, racism ain’t easy, fear ain’t easy, suffering ain’t easy. Call it what it is.”)

I felt this overwhelming sense of dread in my heart and weighing on my shoulders. All the things I mention above were in my mind. I contemplated my own mistakes. I wondered if there was any way forward. It was a dark moment. I also began to worry about my impending talk, the one I needed to give in the same room the next morning. Given that we had spent much of the day acknowledging the need for further decolonization and the dynamics of power and privilege, could I dare to talk about practicing presence in Parkdale? What if I stumbled with my words or caused harm rather than good?

As hard as it was, I think I needed to sit in all that discomfort. Too often we do not provide room to lament, both our own wrong actions and the brokenness of the world. Maybe it’s because we want to appear okay, or in order to cope we have to just keep going. All I know is that whenever I think I can put my grief in a box it finds a way out. And usually when it does I have less control of it than if I’d held it in my lap all along.

Each day at ReImagine we sang a beautiful original song of lament written by Chad Cecil, that included the lyrics: we’re not okay/love make a way. Those words have been running through my mind non-stop. Collectively acknowledging that we’re not okay felt important. As we did so, there was a palpable sense of hope that re-emerged for me. I believe that all things are going to one day be made right. In the meantime, we have the incredible opportunity to learn what it means to love one another, to fight injustice, to celebrate acts of neighbourliness, and to be transformed by our Creator.

I did share the story of The Dale. I also shed the shroud of hopelessness. God reminded me in those dark moments that His light is real. I closed my talk with the words of Oscar Romero which I will do here too: “So, it is for us, we may never see end results, and what we do may in the end be very incomplete. Still we minister; still we love, hoping for the kingdom which is beyond our vision. Still we plant and water the seeds which may not be our own, but in truth belong to future generations. Still we find meaning in our lives as incomplete as they may actually be, because we participate in something much larger than ourselves, and in this hope we prophesy of the kingdom of God, we prophesy of a future that is not our own.”

Love make a way.

I haven’t written here in a little while, in large part because there have been many other things to do. I think I also needed a break from my own voice. Though, new stories are filling up my mind and slowly forming on the page.

I love telling the story of The Dale. It is a story that is sometimes difficult, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, sometimes joyous, and most times deeply good. I also love listening to the story of The Dale as told by other people, which is why I would like to share what Dion recently wrote on his own blog about Thanksgiving Sunday in Parkdale.

You’d think that people living in poverty wouldn’t have much to be thankful for.
But you’d be wrong.
Oh so very wrong.

I was reminded of that in church yesterday at The Dale. People kept listing things they were thankful for. Not big houses or shiny cars or other crap like that.
But for people.
Community.
For being alive.
One Person was thankful for clean clothes…

For me I found myself thankful for the incredible unity amongst so much diversity. There were:

Young children and senior citizens.
People with different colours of skin.
Syrian refugees and people born and raised right here in Canada.
People in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and able-bodied folks.

People who had homes and people who did not.
People who speak English and some who did not.
People with obvious significant mental health issues and others who had mental health issues a bit harder to spot.
People of different genders including someone who is transgendered.
Some first timers to the church and some who are always there.

The beauty was that amidst all of our diversity we were one body worshipping the same God. I found myself forgetting all about my own plight in life and overwhelmed with gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for.

At the end of the service one of the youngest people there requested we sing one final closing song. I will end here as it is beautiful and my prayer for this thanksgiving day.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Jesus put this song into our hearts
It’s a song of joy no one can take away
Jesus put this song into our hearts

Jesus taught us how to live in harmony
Different faces different races, He made us one
Jesus taught us how to live in harmony

Jesus taught us how to be a family
Loving one another with love that He gives
Jesus taught us how to be a family

Jesus turned our sorrow into dancing
Changed our tears of sadness into rivers of joy
Jesus turned our sorrow into dancing

Amen

To read more from Dion go to: https://www.dionoxford.com

I am reading a book, given to me recently by a friend, that has me thinking about blessings: “Everyone in the world matters, and so do their blessings…Those who bless and serve life find a place of belonging and strength, a refuge from living in ways that are empty and lonely…When people are blessed they discover their lives matter. And when you bless others, you may discover this same thing is true about yourself.” (Rachel Naomi Remen)

Here are three stories of blessings, all of which happened this week.

One of our friends got in some trouble and had to very quickly put their beloved pet in the care of another person. Sadly, the person was not in the healthiest position themselves and the dog seemed to pick up on it. He bolted and ran…right to where he usually sees us, The Dale. As I discussed this with a friend involved in the situation, she said, “I really think this says something about your community. Even the dog knows The Dale as a safe space”.

I was standing in front of a teller doing some banking for The Dale. She noticed our name and asked what we do, so I told her a bit about us. We carried on with our business for a few minutes before she asked some more questions. I started to gather up my belongings to go when she said, “I have been carrying around what I call my widow’s mite for months. I haven’t known where to give it, until today. Would you accept a gift from me for The Dale?”. I stood stunned as she handed me an envelope with a cash donation inside.

Joanna, Meagan, Pete and I were asked to do an apartment blessing by a friend. We were welcomed in to her bright, spacious place (a far cry from her last situation) with open arms, offered cookies and sprite, and given a quick tour. We gathered at her door and in her living room to pray. It felt like a deep honour to have our team be asked to do this with and for this person.

Sometimes blessings come in quiet ways from unexpected people (or a dog). And, as Remen continues in her book, “Unlike helping and fixing and rescuing, service is mutual.” Both our friend and her dog regularly surround us with love. The teller was grateful for the work of The Dale and I was grateful for her support. For me, the apartment person is a years-long friend, one who is willing to be painfully vulnerable about her long and difficult life journey, while being one of the most profoundly encouraging people I know.

Blessings, to my understanding, are not about big, material things. Nor are they about everything in life going exactly as planned. They can be little acts of service. They show up in our brokenness. And they are all around us. This week I want to be very intentional about looking for ways to bless and having the eyes to see the many blessings around me.

Sometimes I hear, “oh, I wish you had told me about that” after the fact. In order to avoid this issue, I want to tell you about some upcoming events that I am excited about.

Do you like to ride, walk, scoot, or roll? If you do and would like to support The Dale while you’re at it, please consider joining us at the Ride for Refuge on Saturday, October 5th, a day when people across the country declare their solidarity with those who have experienced displacement, exploitation, persecution and abuse. The Ride makes it possible for its charitable partners to raise money for their own work toward alleviating these issues. In other words, if you join up for The Dale and raise pledges, the money will go directly to our general fund. You might not know that The Dale has to fundraise for its entire budget, so this is an amazing opportunity to help us do what we do. Sign up today!

The Ride for Refuge: https://rideforrefuge.org/charity/canadarideforrefugeorgthedale

Last year I went to the first reImagine Conference in Hamilton. It was one of the best things I had been to in a long time. This October it is happening again, and I encourage you to check it out. In partnership with the Parish Collective, reImagine gathers people together who are practicing what it means to be a presence in, with and for the neighbourhood. There is a wonderfully diverse group of presenters, of which I am honoured to be a part. Joanna will be there too, sharing alongside Jason McKinney of Epiphany & St Mark about the work we do together in our beloved neighbourhood of Parkdale.

ReImagine: http://reimagineconference.ca

In just a couple of weeks, Dion and I will be leading a workshop about how ministry and marriage can complement one another (and discuss the challenges) at the Our City Toronto Urban Ministry Conference. This is a new gathering, spearheaded by our friend and fellow urban practitioner Ejay Type. This promises to be a great event, plus I know there is still space, so please consider joining us September 19th and 20th.

Our City Toronto Urban Ministry Conference: http://ourcityconference.ca

If one of these events doesn’t work for you, please know that you are always welcome at The Dale. Hope to see you soon!

Some August field notes and pictures.

It has been nearly a month on vacation. Slowing down, unwinding, dialing down the demands does not happen quickly, in fact it takes longer than I would like. I also do not think it possible for everything to be silenced. Life continues whether I am on holidays or not. Which is okay, because I am not trying to escape, just taking breaks where I can get them.

The hammocks at Camp Hart

Listening to the wind, the lapping of water, the chirping of birds and the buzzing of crickets all remind me of the largeness of this land and how small I really am.

Lake Huron

I like going to the movies on a rainy day.

Practicing presence is important. For the first two weeks I would begin to feel anxious, unconscious of what was causing it. I quickly realized my nervousness was connected to the time of day, usually right before a drop-in was set to begin. I repeatedly had the opportunity to pray for The Dale, let it go, and settle into being present to the moment.

We got to enjoy substantial visits with two families we first became connected to when our daughters began Kindergarten together. I love that our friendship has spanned thirteen years (so far).

The moon and Jupiter

Sleeping in and napping are two skills I am honing.

Campfires make me happy. So do sun kissed cheeks, sitting and reading on a dock, and hearing Cate laugh as we listen to The Vinyl Cafe.

Camping at The Pinery

Having friends that look after you (by drawing a bath, feeding you, watching funny television together, sharing a campsite, touring you around their new neighbourhood, sharing their cottage) and your family (by dropping off meals on your doorstep, inviting us over, chatting in the street) are very special. Knowing the impact this has makes me want to ensure more people get to experience this kind of care.

Hanging out at home with no where to go is good for the soul.

Did you know that the oldest cemetery in Canada is in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia? I learned that, along with so many other pieces of information while Cate and I were there visiting some of the friends I mention above. My interest in history has been reignited.

On the candlelight graveyard tour in Annapolis Royal. Photo by Andrew Tolson

We ran into a community member from The Dale who just got housed this month. Seeing him excited and well made me so happy. I was reminded that celebrating how hope remains real is important.

September always feels like more of a new year to me than January. This month has helped prepare me for it. I am looking forward to being back with my teammates and the community. I am ready to jump back in.

As of tomorrow, I will be on vacation for a month. This has been my rhythm for the last number of years, which is maybe why my body started anticipating the rest about a month ago. For a variety of reasons, I felt like I was hitting a wall in July. I think of Sunday as the start of my work week and for the last three in a row I found myself unusually anxious.

In those uneasy moments, most acute as I was travelling to The Dale, I prayed. In my weakness I asked for strength. In my fatigue I asked for energy. In my sadness I asked for joy. Sometimes I just sat there not knowing what to ask for at all. I cried. I listened to music. And then as I arrived at my destination, I took a deep breath and decidedly put one foot in front of the other.

Things didn’t slow down in July. But somehow, in a beautiful and spirit-led way I was sustained through it.

It’s never easy saying a long “see you later” to my beloved community at The Dale. Together we understand life to be fragile: a lot can change very quickly (something we know all too well from experience). Having said that, rest is important. In order to be in this for the long haul, I must retreat and replenish. My friends affirm this and keep telling me to go with their blessing. One person continually says, “I don’t like that you’re leaving, but I GET it. Go. Rest. Come back.”

Soon I will be picking Cate up at the camp she has been at since the beginning of the summer. Dion and I are looking forward to having her home and hearing all her stories. With the last bits of the house renovation nearly done, it will be nice to continue settling in. There will be a trip to visit friends, some time at a cabin, and many stay-cation activities, hopefully all punctuated with some serious sleep and a lot of reading.

Thank you to Joanna, Meagan and Pete who not only make time like this possible but do so in such a generous and caring way; to the Board, for always having my back; to our community who models what it means to both give and receive; and to Dion and Cate for supporting and loving me, spurring me on to live well into the tension of work and rest.

Happy August everyone. See you soon.