In his small book The Canada Crisis, originally published in 1980, Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall wrestles with hopes and despairs that are uniquely ours as Canadians. While I commend the whole of this little book, two concepts have stuck with me since reading it. First, that in order to truly hope, we must become intimately aware of the particular despair that is in our midst (to that I say amen). Second, that one hangover of the imperial Church project of our past is that it is very hard for us to identify hope in places not labelled “Christian.” Hall says it this way: “The task of the Church is not to manufacture the hope but… to recognize its signs and help it come to pass. And that is not a role to which sixteen centuries of Christian exclusiveness has conditioned us!” This is good news, friends.
As of March 2021, the synod office has become the 33rd organization to join Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT). GVAT is a collection of non-profits, religious organizations and labour unions that collectively advocate for the common good and on behalf of the least of these in our community. GVAT uses the collective power of these organizations to make change for the better.
At each meeting, there is a reminder of the collective covenant: “We commit to making lasting social change and amplifying marginalized voices within our community. We make space to engage meaningfully both where our interests converge and where we disagree. We know that change is not always comfortable; we strive to broaden our perspectives and seek common understanding. As representatives of the members of our organizations or as representatives of a broader piece of GVAT, we acknowledge that institutional biases are always present. Our solemn purpose is to reflect the greater interests of those we represent, be aware of our individual lenses, and contribute to an inclusive space for all community members.”
Attending GVAT meetings over the last couple of months has confirmed our intuition that the voices of our parishes would be a great fit for this group. The campaigns that GVAT endorses emerge through teams focused on three present crises: mental health and addiction, climate change, and affordable housing. All of these domains have been included in the conversations I have had with parishes about Transforming Futures and about the concerns they have for their communities.
GVAT is a broad community of concern and provides us with the opportunity to identify hope where we find it (even if it is outside of what we would call “church”) and work to help it come to pass. Just as Hall reminds us above, our past makes it very difficult for us to not look for the credit when doing good, but it is vital if we are to become the Church of tomorrow and not just the Church of yesterday.
I would encourage all outreach teams and justice-oriented folks of Haro, Tolmie, and Selkirk regions to be in touch with [email protected] to see if involvement is right for your parish. Our membership allows participation without fees while you discern if GVAT is aligned with your vision