A key component of our monthly Board meetings is receiving and addressing reports from the various committees and teams. It is an essential — not to mention inspiring — way of keeping up with the many ways in which our faith community is continually opening doors to God’s love.
Here is an excerpt from Sinan Demirel’s latest Social Justice report:
I assumed the JBUC Social Justice role this past autumn and since that time have been continuing to shepherd the exceptional ministry that Gordon had already established.
Beyond dealing with ongoing (and sometimes emergent) situations, I have taken tentative steps to establish programs for food security and public engagement in the lower hall of the church:
- The African Heritage Association of Vancouver Island (AHAVI) Children and Youth Council approached one of my colleagues about establishing a monthly drop-in for BIPOC youth and we have been thrilled to work with them. Their second drop-in event will be occurring this month. Another BIPOC group has made a similar request and I’ll be following up on that soon.
- We were approved for membership in the Capital Region Food Share Network and will soon begin receiving up to ten boxes of fresh produce every week, to use in preparing meals at the church and also to distribute to community members experiencing food insecurity.
- Church member Joanne Keelan began a morning breakfast program on Thursdays which has engaged a new group of volunteers and is building a regular clientele. The meal has now moved to lunchtime, where we expect that there will be greater demand.
- On 14 December 2022, The Existence Project held the first of what will hopefully be a continuing series of drop-in days in the lower hall, an opportunity for housed and unhoused neighbours to gather together and share conversation and refreshments. It was a fun and festive occasion, with a hot-chocolate bar, lots of sandwiches and snacks, and holiday carol singing led by a pianist arranged by Kelby (Brooke Maxwell, the music director at Esquimalt United Church).
- We also cooked and served a Christmas Day dinner at the church, enjoyed by a combination of church members as well as unhoused and recently housed neighbours. A woman I had encountered in the morning, upset that there was no morning church service, came back for the meal and then returned on Thursday to volunteer at the breakfast!
In the coming year, I look forward to continuing to grow these programs, in particular offering more support to community members, both housed and unhoused, who struggle with food security. Initiatives will include:
- Expanding the number of opportunities to break bread with neighbours in the lower hall of the church, through community meals and educational events that will combine food and conversation.
- More drop-in days (possibly monthly) where housed and unhoused neighbours can spend time together in a nurturing setting.
- Distributing food on a regular basis to neighbours in need.
- Engaging housed and formerly unhoused individuals to take an active role in the programs, in some cases providing stipends for helping to organize and staff events.
- Supporting unhoused and recently housed individuals and families in sustaining homes and participating in community life.
Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this amazing community of caring people.
~ Sinan Demirel