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Conference gives outreach workers, volunteers ‘shot in arm’

People listen to Terry McCullum, CEO of LOFT Community Services, at the Outreach Networking Conference. Photos by Michael Hudson

By Bob Bettson

Terry McCullum, the chief executive officer of LOFT (Leap of Faith Together) Community Services, challenged 140 people from parishes across the diocese to show leadership and get their churches to work collaboratively to address social justice issues in their communities.

Mr. McCullum was speaking at the diocese’s Outreach Networking Conference, held at Holy Trinity School, Richmond Hill, on Oct. 20.

LOFT was an Anglican outreach ministry that began in the 1950s with two houses for young men and women with mental health and addiction issues. It was called Anglican Houses and was an initiative of the diocese. Today, it is one of the largest providers of assisted housing in the province, with more than 1,000 units.

Mr. McCullum said the church needs to show leadership. “Don’t silo as individual parishes. Collaborate.”

A social worker who started with Anglican Houses in the 1980s, he said LOFT has always ministered to “those kind of people”—the poor, the handicapped, the people who Jesus ministered to. “We call it the hope and recovery model. We put life back in your hands.”

He gave two examples of those who have been helped. The first was a youth who came to one of the LOFT houses after losing everything, including his house. He was addicted and had nowhere to go. He is now working, living in his own apartment and in a stable relationship. The second young man had a mental illness and had been kicked out of his house by his own family because of his behaviour. After staying with LOFT, he was reunited with family. He has finished his education and is working.

LOFT also on some challenging projects that weren’t initially embraced by the community, he said, such as a housing project for homeless people with mental health challenges and AIDS.

Spoken word poet Patrick de Belen, watched by Mo Ali, takes part in the conference's youth program.

Murray MacAdam, the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy consultant,  said the Outreach Networking Conference, now in its 11th year, is one of the only opportunities for people working on justice issues to get together.

“Frankly, outreach and advocacy can be a tough slog,” said Mr. MacAdam. “This conference gives people working on these issues a shot in the arm. It helps us remember justice is at the core of our faith.”

Bishop George Elliott celebrated the closing Eucharist, which raised up in prayer many of the ministries discussed during the day. “We are all challenged to look at how God is working in the world, and how to engage in it,” he said. “I hope we are able to witness to Jesus in word and in need, and never lose the habit of looking for Jesus in the lives of others, and in our world.”

Bishop George Elliott celebrates the Eucharist, assisted by the Rev. Kyn Barker.

The conference was well received, with participants noting the wide variety of workshops and the opportunity to learn and share with each other. Workshops included topics such as prison ministry, the spirituality of social justice, the Occupy movement, relationships with First Nations people, sustainable community development, evangelism and outreach and advocacy in a time of austerity.


Alanna Mitchell says church groups have not been at the forefront of advocacy on environmental issues.
Still time to make change on climate, says author

By Bob Bettson

Alanna Mitchell has travelled to all seven continents on scientific expeditions to observe how our environment is changing. The former Globe and Mail journalist and author says that despite the environmental degradation she has seen, she remains hopeful that with global awareness and action, there can be change.

Ms. Mitchell, speaking to Anglicans at the diocese’ Outreach Networking Conference, said church groups have not been at the forefront of advocacy on environmental issues. “There has been a failure of leadership,” she said. She noted that former United Church Moderator Mardi Tindal was the only Canadian church leader to attend the earth summit in Durban, South Africa.

Ms. Mitchell said that the last 10,000 years, which have seen so much climate change and environmental degradation, are “like the blink of an eye” when compared to millions of years of life on earth. Yet in the past 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels has destabilized the atmosphere because it can no longer absorb carbon emissions. This has changed the chemistry of the oceans as well as the air.

Alexa Gilmour speaks at the workshop, "The Occupy Movement: An Issue of Faith."

She said the Kyoto Protocol, renounced by the Harper government, has actually worked quite well in the rest of the world. Many of the countries that signed the agreement have reduced emissions below 1990 levels.

Canada is one of the worst polluters, she said, failing to reduce emissions and instead increasing them by 17 per cent. This is due to increased emissions by the oil producing provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, Germany is drawing almost half its energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind.

For churches, advocacy must go beyond green initiatives like recycling and energy use audits, she said. “This is a public policy advocacy issue. The narrative has still not been written. We still have time to do something.”

Participants agreed with Ms. Mitchell that church leaders need to do much more, in terms of resources and leadership, to support environmental protection.

Church can help abused seniors

By Bob Bettson

Elder abuse is one of those outreach issues that is not talked about much. Yet Maureen Etkin, from the Ontario Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse, told a group of Anglicans that 10 per cent of seniors will experience abuse in some form during their lives.

In 2001, about one in eight Canadians was over the age of 65. By 2026, that number will grow to one in four. Yet public awareness of elder abuse has not kept up to the growth of the country’s senior population.

Ms. Etkin said the church can play an important role in education and awareness, as well as responding to seniors experiencing abuse. Surveys show that 68 per cent of seniors would confide in clergy if they had a problem. However, they often do not have the opportunity to say something. Studies show that more than 60 per cent of elder abusers are immediate family members, and only 24 per cent are unrelated caregivers. That means that victims are reluctant to speak out.

“They sometimes blame themselves,” says Ms. Etkin, who led a workshop at the diocese’s Outreach Networking Conference. “They think, ‘God is punishing me.’” Victims also fear a loss of affection, more abuse, humiliation and what will happen to the abuser if they report the abuse.

While financial abuse is the most common kind of elder abuse, with family members taking advantage of their elders for financial gain, there is also physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect.

Ms. Etkin says some of the most hurtful abuse doesn’t involve violence. “It is emotional abuse, with threats, intimidation, infantilization, shunning and ignoring.” An example would be threatening to put a senior in a “home” if they don’t agree to do something that the caregiver wants them to do.

There are two 24-hour hotlines designed to help with elder abuse: the Seniors Safety Line, 1-866-299-1011, and Senior Crime Stoppers, 1-800-222-8477.

For more information, see Social Justice and Advocacy.