By Stuart Mann
Let it never be said that Anglicans in the diocese don’t rise to a challenge.
In 2020, one of the most difficult years in living memory, Anglicans and corporate donors gave $1.6 million to FaithWorks, the diocese’s annual outreach campaign.
The amount not only surpassed the goal of $1.5 million but was the second-highest total in the appeal’s 25-year history.
Despite lockdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions, donors gave $300,000 more to the campaign than they did in 2019.
Shelagh McPherson, the chair of FaithWorks and a member of St. Martin in-the-Fields in Toronto, says she is “blown away” by the response. “It’s about loving your neighbour, and in the midst of their own problems, people have kept their neighbours in the forefront of their minds,” she says.
FaithWorks provides financial support to 15 agencies and ministries, all based in the diocese, that serve the needs of people who are Indigenous, homeless, hungry, at-risk women, children or youth, immigrants or refugees, or struggling with HIV/AIDS. Since it was founded in 1996, it has raised $35 million.
Peter Misiaszek, the diocese’s director of Stewardship Development, says there were several reasons for the 2020 campaign’s success. It included two “challenge grants” in which donations were matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 each. The grants, which were made possible by two generous donors, raised more than $200,000.
In March, FaithWorks started to publish FaithLines, a bi-weekly electronic newsletter that featured stories and testimonials about the work of the agencies and ministries. The newsletter, edited by FaithWorks campaign manager Peter Mentis, kept clergy and laity in the diocese informed and substantially increased online givings.
The campaign included successful direct mail appeals in Pentecost and Advent, and the diocese held its first FaithWorks Sunday in late November, which provided an opportunity for parishes to focus on the appeal.
Mr. Misiaszek says he was expecting a dip in parish givings due to the pandemic, but instead there was a 15 per cent increase. Parishes and individuals found new and inventive ways to give. St. Christopher, Richmond Hill held an online table tennis tournament, raising $24,000. The annual Schomberg Country Run, held online and in person, raised $22,000. The Rev. Phil Gearing walked 10 km a day for 100 days, raising several thousand dollars.
A new feature of the campaign was that if donors indicated their parish with their donation, the parish would be credited with the amount and would receive 15 per cent of the donation, paid in the early part of 2021. This is similar to the longstanding practice of parishes receiving 15 per cent of their parish contribution.
Mr. Misiaszek says the additional money raised in 2020 could be used to establish a fund that would help FaithWorks’ recipients with immediate, pressing needs. Currently, the money is allocated at the beginning of the year.
“We want to be nimble enough to respond when some immediate needs become apparent,” he says. “In 2020, there were some needs and we would have wanted to respond in that way.”
Eighty-five per cent of parishes in the diocese participated in the 2020 campaign, and he hopes that will jump to 100 per cent this year, the appeal’s 25th anniversary. “We want to get every parish on board, and I think we can do that,” he says. The goal is $1.5 million and another challenge grant is already lined up.
Carol Reist, executive director of The Dam, an agency that works with at-risk youth in Mississauga, praised FaithWorks for its achievement. “It is amazing that they’ve been able to not only reach their goal but surpass it, when so many other agencies and campaigns are not reaching their goal,” she says. “It speaks to the faithfulness of the Church, that the Church is there in these times of crisis to step up and make sure these ministries are funded across the diocese. That’s beautiful. This shows how strong and great the campaign is.”
She says FaithWorks is The Dam’s most consistent funder, having supported it every year since the campaign began. “We know we can count on FaithWorks every year. That means we can keep offering a stable ministry and programming to youth.”
Bishop Andrew Asbil thanked everyone who gave to the appeal. “I am deeply grateful to all those who have supported FaithWorks during this challenging year. Your resolve to look after the least among us in the face of such adversity is truly inspiring, and gives me hope for the future. I am reminded of the prophet’s words: ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8) In 2020, we did that.”