By Rev. Daniel Bowyer
Not only walls, but also excitement continues to build as the construction of the new church and community centre at All Saints’ Waterloo resumes.
The build is of both of a new church and a community centre. The congregation at All Saints’ has not undertaken a build solely of a church for ourselves. The community centre is simultaneously being constructed so that All Saints’ will be well positioned to offer ministries to the immediate community around us and to serve the neighbourhood in the name of Jesus.
As many may know, Pastor Marty Levesque, the Rector of All Saints’, is working with our Development Team in the parish to oversee the construction of the physical structure. In my role as the Associate Priest at All Saints’, I am working with our Faith-in-Action Team and other community partners to discern and implement ministries that meet the primary needs in the neighbourhood around us.
In addition to serving as a priest in the Diocese of Huron, I have also recently completed a degree in social work and am now a registered social worker in Ontario. Unbeknownst to me, while I was studying, All Saints’ (without knowing I was studying) indicated a need for a social worker to come alongside them to assist in discerning and implementing community ministries. It cannot be anything but the guidance of the Holy Spirit that has brought me to All Saints’ at this important time. Besides serving as a priest in the parish, I am able to draw on the social work skills I have been developing as we work together to serve the community around us as Jesus has directed.
What Christians would broadly call Outreach Ministry is known broadly in social work as Community Development. The first rule of undertaking a Community Development initiative is to ask the community what their greatest needs are. As such, the first step in developing Outreach Ministries for the new All Saints’ community centre has been consultation with social service agencies and families in the neighbourhood.
Over the last year, myself and members of the Faith-in-Action team at All Saints’ have consulted with Carizon Family and Community Services, House of Friendship, Lutherwood Children’s Mental Health Centre, Adventure 4 Change and the Region of Waterloo Food Bank. As a result of these consultations, our Faith-in-Action Team has discovered that 40-60 households just outside our doors have to travel challenging distances to access a food bank distribution point.
We have also learned that many new Canadians live in the neighbourhood around All Saints’ and a primary need is for a space to undertake collective cooking. Thirdly, we have learned that there is a need for activity for young people in the neighbourhood.
As we prepare to move back to the completed church and community centre in the fall of 2023, All Saints’ has begun the process of structuring and implementing ministries that will take place in the community centre.
We are very excited that the first ministry has actually begun even before construction is complete. The Region of Waterloo Food Bank has recently acquired a mobile food pantry. Despite the fact that construction is ongoing, All Saints’ has partnered with the food bank to begin a food distribution ministry which commenced in February. This ministry will move into the new community centre when it is completed.
Our Faith-in-Action Team has also partnered with the community development arm of Carizon to plan and actualize ministries that respond to the prevalent community needs we have discovered through our consultations over the past year. Our plan is centred around thoroughly developing two to three ministries that respond to greatest community needs well, from which further ministries will inevitably arise.
We are beginning our partnership by structuring a collective cooking ministry that will happen in the new industrial kitchen that is part of the All Saints’ community centre. It will integrate other resources that we have learned are needed for new Canadians in the neighbourhood over time. English as a second language classes are an early possibility being considered.
We will then focus on structuring a ministry for young people in the neighbourhood, likely starting with open gym nights and progressing to integrate a homework club and mental health supports over time. All of the ministries that are being developed will be open to everyone regardless of who they are or what they believe.
Please pray for us at All Saints’, Waterloo as the build and development of new ministries continue. The build of the new church and community centre have been undertaken not for our own glory, but to serve in the name of Christ in the neighbourhood and world around us that God so loves.
Rev. Daniel Bowyer serves as associate priest at All Saints’, Waterloo and is a registered social worker in Ontario.