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Resource shows church connections around the world

By Stuart Mann

Kathy Langston went to Romania in the summer of 2000 for a three-week vacation to volunteer in the Oradea Children’s Hospital. Her job was to take care of abandoned babies. After a week of feeding, holding and helping the babies, she felt that she had to move to Romania to help ease their suffering.

Ms. Langston, a member of St. Olave, Toronto, has been there ever since. Now she is looking after abandoned babies in her home in Romania, with the help of local volunteers and donations from her church back in Canada.

This extraordinary story is one of several included in Our Diocese Connects, a paper document and web resource that shows where churches and individuals in the Diocese of Toronto are connecting with others around the world.

“The range of involvement is fascinating,” says Gina Bearne, who created the resource. “There are some really great human interest stories out there.”

The resource lists about 80 connections to churches and church-related work in Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. It paints a remarkable picture of outreach from churches in the Diocese of Toronto.

Some of the connections are modest, such as buying a cow for a family, while others have lasted for years and have involved mission trips and the construction of new buildings. In several cases, individual Anglicans from the diocese are quietly serving in far-off parts of the globe.

“It’s about people who want to make a difference and are doing something about it,” explains Ms. Bearne, who is the administrative assistant to Bishop Philip Poole. “It shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

The paper version of Our Diocese Connects has a table of contents, a listing of all the connections, and more than two pages of website addresses for people who want to learn more about specific organizations and how to get involved.

Screen Shot of Google Map - Our Diocese ConnectsIn this Google Map Ms. Bearne has also created a web version that shows a map of the world and push-pins that indicate where all the connections are located. By clicking on a push-pin, users will see a small box that includes a brief description of the connection, links to websites and email addresses, and often a photo.

The project began last year when Bishop Poole became curious about parish connections overseas. “I knew that the diocese had a formal partnership with the Diocese of Grahamstown in South Africa, but I was curious to know what informal connections parishes had within the context of the wider Anglican world.”

He sent a letter to all churches in the diocese last fall and around 80 churches responded. “One sign of a healthy church is its ability to care for those beyond its four walls,” he says. “What we discovered is that there are many churches in our diocese that have connections to work that is making a difference in the world.”

Ms. Bearne encourages more churches in send in their connections to be added to the resource. “This will never be finished, but it’s great to hear about and affirm the amazing work that people do.” She can be reached by email.