Bree McCoomb, Clinical Team Supervisor, Choices for Change waiting to greet clients at the Connection Centre.
By Rev. Lorraine Brooks
Come, gather round. I would like to share a story with you.
There were three Anglican churches in Stratford – St. James, St. Stephen’s and St. Paul’s. All three had a desire to live the commandment of our Lord and live into their baptismal vow to seek and serve Christ by loving their neighbour.
One congregation formed a think tank to look into local community needs intensified by the pandemic. They talked to representatives from other churches, community agencies and City Council.
The second congregation, shepherded by a priest who has a strong street ministry, pursued their neighbourhood prayer ministry searching for ways to reach out to others and were seeking a space in which to provide this ministry.
The third congregation continued to seek ways to utilize their building located in the downtown area, for the benefit of others.
The priest from the second congregation met up with the deacon from the third and a discussion began about a drop-in centre. The three congregations were drawn together to meet and work together.
A chance conversation took place between a warden from the third church with someone who knew someone from Choices for Change. They were looking for a new space – one that would facilitate their ministry – space allowing them to reach out more effectively to the homeless, the hurting in the community. AND THE CONNECTION CENTRE WAS BORN.
The Connection Centre, located in the St. Paul’s building, provides hot meals, snacks and take away food. The clients are provided with coats, boots, socks, sleeping bags, personal care items – all supplies that they may require. They are connected with social services regarding housing, addiction treatment, legal assistance, counselling, medical treatment.
The Centre provides a safe warm dry place for those who need to just lay down and sleep for a few hours. These are just a few of the services provided. Renovations have been underway in the building, and they are almost complete. There will be shower facilities, laundry facilities and storage lockers.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same can be said about caring for the destitute, those on the fringes of our society. The support for the Connection Centre is provided not only by the Anglican churches, but the community at large. Restaurants and the community meals program donate meals, other churches and agencies have provided supplies from sleeping bags to shampoo and gift cards. The Coldest Night of the Year Walk and United Way have been instrumental in financial support. The local police department gifted a vehicle to Choices for Change to provide transportation such as delivering meals to those who live rough.
In looking back there is a deep sense of joy in being able to identify the Holy Spirit at work right from the beginning – the three churches, each in their own way, seeking a way to help. And these strands being gathered together in a timely manner to fulfil a need identified by Choices for Change.
We know this only goes a small way to ease the social problem. In doing this we have become more aware of the need to advocate for housing so our less fortunate sisters and brothers can move from a survival mode to a living mode.
In the meantime, we give thanks to God for the work that is being done by the staff and volunteers at Choices for Change, by the churches, by the agencies, by the residents of the community. Here the story comes to a halt … but does not end. Thanks be to God.
Rev’d Lorraine Brooks is the Deacon at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Stratford.