Archives for posts with tag: Church Without Walls

“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.

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I think about gratitude a lot. I recently read an article that highlighted the importance of distinguishing it from the act of appreciation. Intrigued, I did a little research and came to better understand that appreciation is what you feel for the good in people or things, whereas gratitude is experienced when you realize good is experienced beyond the obvious. I was delighted to discover that the latin root of gratitude is sometimes translated “grace”. If there is an ‘awe’ to grace, then it would follow that the same would accompany gratitude.

I don’t recall feeling very appreciative when The Dale became homeless. I did however feel a deep gratitude for so many things about it: the community that was willing to teach me about transience; the hospitality we experienced from others; the freedom from belongings; the discovery that we were a living, breathing “church” without four walls. During those early days I regularly found myself in awe and wonder that I was witness to a phoenix rising from the ashes.

These truths are knocking around my heart as I think about The Dale today. We’ve been looking for a new location to house our Wednesday morning breakfast and art-making Drop-In. It isn’t easy to re-locate and we’ve been feeling admittedly anxious about it. The good news is that Parkdale Community Health Centre has opened its doors to us, eager to deepen the partnership we’ve been developing for years. I got this news the same day First Baptist Church agreed to let us use their building for administrative work and meetings. I am appreciative AND grateful.

As is so often the case, good is accompanied by difficult. During the same phone call with the Health Centre about space, we needed to discuss the death of another community member, Andrew Kri. As hard as his death is, I love that we knew Andrew and can now remember his life in all of its complexity. At the same time I am aware that as our losses accumulate it is difficult to process them, especially when there is so little space between each. As I was recently discussing with a friend, it does seem that we can only truly grieve when we have also delighted in life. Gratitude is somehow suspended in the tension of joy and sorrow.

I suspect that as we learn to appreciate the many pleasing things around us, a sense of gratitude will be cultivated, one that says, in all things, I will give thanks. Looking past the obvious, sifting through our pain and acknowledging that life remains a gift is not easy. Gratitude, as Martin Luther argued, is a “disposition of the soul”, a virtue that can be exercised and strengthened. Gratitude reminds us that grace is real and invites us to stand in awe.

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