New Vision Notes Friday June 2 2017

Some core-identity activities are before us in the next several weeks.

I am flabbergasted. I said I would have on-line ticketing available for our Third Anniversary Dinner Party and Dance. And I have succeeded! I owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Rob Vanderheyden who worked with me this morning to such a happy outcome.

You can purchase tickets for our fabulous Dinner Party and Dance on Saturday June 17 by clicking here, Third Anniversary Dinner Party and Dance.

Rob is becoming our go-to web tech person. Check out New Vision on the web.

The Faith Commuter Challenge starts today and runs through Sunday June 11. Log how you get to church the next two Sundays on the form at Faith Commuter Challenge. Go green!

Case for Kids, Wesley’s annual walk around Bayfront Park to raise funds for children’s programming, occurs this Sunday afternoon. Registration at Bayfront begins at 1 pm and the walk at 2 pm. There are t-shirts for all who turn out to walk. Register on site as part of the New Vision team, then look for the rest of us.

Sunday June 11 is our Pride Sunday. It occurs this year on the same Sunday we pay special attention to the Trinity, so our theme this year is “New Vision Pride: Beyond Us! ~ The Community of Divine Diversity.” We have as guest speaker Nomvelo Nkomo-Dingani, Afriucan Caribbean Community Outreach Worker for the AIDS Network.

Then Sunday June 18 we celebrate in worship our third anniversary as a congregation. We’ll celebrate as Threshold Partners and hear from a guest preacher who knows us well from afar: Executive Director of the United Church EDGE Network of Ministry Development, Rev. Rob Dalgleish.

See you Sunday ~

Rev. Ian

Council Chair Helen Bradley addresses Hamilton Presbytery

Helen at Presbytery
New Vision Council Chair Helen Bradley address Hamilton Presbytery at Marshall Memorial United Church

By Helen Bradley

February 2, 2016

It’s my pleasure to present an update on New Vision United and our progress as a new birth congregation. With the support of Presbytery and the Conference, General Council’s Mission through Finance has provided financial backing of our investment in developing new ministry with a line of credit to help meet New Vision’s goal of being a new self-sustaining congregation in Hamilton’s urban core.

Requests for Proposals for the redevelopment of the former St. Giles site were issued, and we have identified a developer whose prospective plans mesh with our goals for the property while maintaining elements of heritage significance. They are currently conducting due diligence into the feasibility of their project.

Behind me you see evidence of two significant developments in our church life. Our New Vision logo features a cross without borders and flames or leaves which symbolize the diversity of beloved community. Our marketing group spearheaded the logo development and is working on our branding and communication strategy.

The Affirm United sign is displayed in celebration of New Vision being recognized as an affirming ministry, which the congregation unanimously supported. I would like to share with you Our Affirmation of Inclusion: “We affirm the inclusion of people of every ability, income level, age, gender, race, family type, gender identity and sexual orientation in the membership, ministry, leadership and life of this congregation. We celebrate the gifts and graces of all people.” This past Sunday we shared a joyful celebration with representatives from Affirm United and Rev. Joan Robertson, our guest speaker.

To underpin our goal of reaching out to the Urban Core, we held a study called “Ninety Percent of Life: Deepening Understanding”, to cultivate a sense of renewed mission for the New Vision community.  The study was supported by an Investment in Mission and Ministry grant through Hamilton Conference. We are working collaboratively with Evelyn Myrie of Empower Strategy Group, formerly of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, to form linkages with diverse community groups.

Rev. Sloan is undertaking a pilgrimage during his sabbatical leave commencing soon, through a program designed by the Centre for Progressive Renewal, to explore new church initiatives and report back to us by various means, including blogs and You Tube. While Rev. Sloan is away, we will have the support of Rev. Christine Jerrett, our Missional Consultant with EDGE, in building awareness and understanding of these new church expressions. She will work with us to build capacity to go out into the neighbourhood and listen to neighbours, discerning ways we can share with them in God’s vision.  Rev. Michelle Hogman has kindly agreed to be our Pastoral Supervisor, and Rev. Lynn Godfrey will provide pastoral support.

On Sunday we sang “My love colours outside the lines” during our affirming service. It’s fair to say that at New Vision we are “colouring outside the lines”, with the final picture evolving on our journey.

Comprehensive Review Task Group Releases Report

After two years of intensive study and consultation, the Comprehensive Review Task Group is recommending major changes to The United Church of Canada that would revitalize and nurture a range of ministries, simplify governance and administration, and enable the church to live within its resources.

“We believe God is doing a new thing and is calling us to change dramatically so we can participate fully in God’s mission,” explains the Rev. Cathy Hamilton, chair of the task group. “Our current organizational structure is simply not sustainable from the point of view of either our volunteers or our finances.”

“We have consulted broadly across the church and are recommending six significant changes in the way the church operates and in its priorities. We feel these changes would carry the church into the 21st century and open us up to new possibilities and ministries,” Hamilton added.

The 42nd General Council will discuss and make decisions about the task group’s recommendations and any additional proposals when it meets August 8?15, 2015, in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. In the spirit of consultation that has been the foundation of this work, people across the church are encouraged to read the report and discuss it this spring in their congregations, presbyteries, and Conferences.

To read the full announcement and report, click here

Copyright © 2015 The United Church of Canada.

Our mailing address is:

The United Church of Canada
3250 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario M8X 2Y4

Joey Coleman weighs in on future of Centenary building

Appeared Thursday August 27 on Joey Coleman’s web site:
As Centenary Church Looks Towards Demolition, We Need To Talk About the Future of Church Buildings

Another one of Hamilton’s downtown churches is in financial distress, and the 19th century landmark structure could be heading towards sale or even demolition.

Centenary United Church – on the corner of Main and MacNab – wants to be removed from the City’s registry of buildings of heritage interest.

There’s only one reason to ask for removal from the registry – to make it easier to demolition a building.

There isn’t much being listed does to a building, and it’s different from designation. Being listed only delays the issuance of a demolition permit by 60 days (Ontario Heritage Act 27.3), and provides access to some limited City grants.

Without listing, a demolition permit would be granted as a right with no public notice. ‘Permit one day, gone the next’.

Centenary United Church is not a designated building, meaning the “minor alteration” loophole used to demolish James Street Baptist Church cannot be used.

60 Day Delay Allows for Designation Consideration

Recently, a set of listed buildings were facing demolition, and public attention ultimately lead to the buildings being saved from the wrecking ball.

In December 2012, the community was surprised by a demolition request for the pre-Confederation building fronting onto Gore Park at 18-28 King Street East.

There was public outcry, and Council tried to save the building by offering the building owner – Wilson-Blanchard – incentives to preserve the building facades.

The demolition permit was issued in early 2013, as a formality, even as the developer negotiated with Councillors. Even when the developer brought the wrecking ball to the building in July 2013, Council didn’t revoke the demolition permit by designating the building.

There were repeated outcries from the City’s heritage advocates asking Council to revoke the demolition permit.

They were ignored until suddenly, Council voted to designate in December 2013.

If they had not been listed, the wrecking ball would’ve finished the job before anyone noticed.

Centenary United Church – Future Sale?

This brings us back to Centenary United Church, which recently merged with St. Giles United Church to create a new entity called “One Main Street United Church”.

Obviously, any attempt to seek a demolition permit as a condition of sale will result in a similar public outcry by heritage advocates and the neighbourhood association.

Meaning to successfully get a demolition permit, One Main Street United Church must first get the building removed from the heritage interest registry.

On August 21, Helen Bradley, chair of the merged church council, spoke in front of the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee asking for the removal. link to video on YouTube

Numerous times, Bradley spoke of a need to look at disposition of the building now that they’ve merged with St. Giles Church.

As she noted, the listing impacts the value of the building as an asset for sale.

“The property—if you need to sell the property— would be worth less if the new purchaser could not tear down the building?”, committee member Paul Wilson (yes, the writer) asked Bradley.

“Potentially, it would certainly narrow down our possibilities of building disposition”, responded Bradley.

The Municipal Heritage Committee received the church’s delegation and kept the building listed.

They voted to schedule a full designation review for the building in 2021.

The church building’s cornerstone was laid on May 28th, 1866 – its a prime candidate for designation.

Church Properties, Heritage, and Cost of Maintenance

“The Churches are not the villains here,” said Paul Wilson. “You have known property we all enjoy driving past— and meanwhile you have to pay the bills.”

This summarizes the dilemma facing churches across Canada, the United States, and Western Europe.

The buildings are pillars of the culture heritage and character of cities—especially downtown cores—but unaffordable for shrinking church congregations responsible for their maintenance and upkeep.

Large churches – especially those built during the 19th century – are expensive to heat, commonly difficult to retrofit for modern accessibility requirements, and many require costly capital repairs that will cost their shrinking congregations millions of dollars to perform.

They are purpose built for a limited role, the Sunday worship, that society no longer demands.

They are relics, but relics many – likely the vast majority – want to keep.

Adaptive Reuses of Churches

Churches are being converted to other uses. Some uses keep the community hub role of the building such as a frat house in upstate New York, coffee shops (while remaining a church on Sunday), conversion to a mosque, breweries, and even an indoor skateboard park:
Lucky Scooters
More commonly, churches are converted into housing, mostly into condominiums, with a few even becoming private mansions. (Check out this extensive slideshow of a converted church in Annapolis)

One Main Street United is receiving assistance from the United Church of Canada to explore future options for their downtown church.

The United Church is familiar with selling former churches for adaptive reuse into housing. (Here’s a 2011 article from the church newspaper)

Demolition of Centenary United?

While adaptive reuse is common to other post-industrial urban centres, it’s still a rarity in Hamilton.

The land Centenary United owns at Main and MacNab is likely more attractive (and lucrative) to a developer for a new residential tower than it is as a candidate for adaptive reuse.

As noted earlier, there are two obstacles to demolition.

Council’s shown in the case of the Gore buildings they’ll designated a listed building facing the wrecking ball, and because it’s not designated, it can’t be demolished as a “minor alteration”.

What’s Next

What’s next?, this is the question that must be answered in part by society.

Do we increase the tax incentives for adaptive reuse of designated heritage buildings, do we leave it to the market to determine how this church eventually gets reused, or even buy the building as a City?

What’s clear: We need to start discussing what we plan to do with heritage churches that no longer have the congregations to support the buildings that, as Paul Wilson put it so well. “we all enjoy driving past”.

In absence of the conversation, we should be prepared to write new chapters of Vanished Hamilton.

Personally, I see it as a candidate for a great mixed-income partially affordable housing project.

Mother Agnes-Mariam speaks reconciliation

Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross gave her first Canadian talk at the Centenary site on Sunday, December 1 at 2 pm. Her talk was sponsored by the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War. Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross is a Carmelite nun and mother superior of the Monastery of James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria, which has a community of three monks and twelve nuns. Born in Lebanon in a refugee camp 61 years ago, she is Palestinian on her father’s side and has worked in Syria for about 20 years.

Opponents identify Mother Agnes-Mariam with the Syrian regime. She offers no opinion on that, because she is not allied with any but those who seek non-violent resolutions to conflict, and she is willing to ally herself with anyone who genuinely does. She makes no bones, however, about being committed to the continued existence of the Syrian state. The state is not the regime. Without a state, she pointed out to the 100 plus audience at her stop in Hamilton on Sunday Dec 1, a person has no identity in the international community. Without the state, there is no passport. A person might as well not exist as far as the rest of the world is concerned. All the human rights, all the international laws are alienated from a person when they are stateless.

Mother Agnes Mariam speaks at the Centenary site on Sunday Dec 1 2013
Mother Agnes Mariam speaks at the Centenary site on Sunday Dec 1 2013

Statelessness is the very real possibility that motivates Mother Agnes-Mariam and thousands others as they seek to promote a non-violent resolution to the conflict in Syria. Outside military intervention offers no possibility of such a resolution; it will simply exacerbate the conflicts already in play. She stated emphatically and movingly that Syrians need to forgive each other. She said that only with the Holy Spirit will the Syrian people be able to have this come about. I did not not experience her claim for the power of the Holy Spirit as an ideological claim, but rather a faith claim.

Two things that Mother Agnes-Mariam said really stood out for me. She said that Islamists — radicals, extremists — are missing something inside of themselves that needs healing, not punishment, nor fear. She also described many of the so-called “jihadists” as “professional fighters” who needed to gussy up their self-description in order to continue to be “employed”. Hence they describe themselves as religious fighters etc. “But this is not Islam,” she said. One can see how that point relates to her belief that radicals are always missing something inside.

Her comments led me to recollect something from my own rather sheltered past. I recall studying a play called Faust by the English renaissance playwright Christopher Marlowe. The story of Faust is the story of a man who makes a deal with the devil. In the course of classroom discussion of the play, the professor remarked that “heaven is an acquired taste.” 

Indeed. The world is awash with people who are intent on making a hell of right here, so sure that there is nothing more, and so certain misery they can inflict on others is a high calling.

But no.

Heaven. Or peace. Or justice. Is an acquired taste. We can acquire it.

Mother Agnes-Mariam said she would pray for One Main St. I said we would pray for her and all Syrians.

If you Google Mother Agnes-Mariam you will find much controversy. It is noteworthy that non-violence is so controversial.

Among some, that is.


Annual YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast

I attended the Annual YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast this morning at the Hamilton Convention Centre. This is Peace Week (Nov 16-23). I arrived at the breakfast at the early hour of 7:30 am and joined Linda Waugh and a few others to represent The Ecumenical Social Justice Stations of the Cross Committee. The Committee was nominated for the Peace Medal in the adult group category. The big news for us was that the other nominated group “Live Different” won the medal for our category. But the bigger news was keynote speaker Musician/Actor/Author/Advocate Emmanuel Jal.

Social Justice Stations of the Cross Walk 2012
Social Justice Stations of the Cross Walk 2012

Here was our introduction to Emmanuel: “In the war-torn region of Southern Sudan, Emmanuel Jal was born into the life a child soldier on an unknown date in the 1980s. Through unbelievable struggles, Emmanuel managed to survive and emerge as a recording artist, achieving worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with its message of peace and reconciliation born out of his personal experiences.”

He followed his talk by singing his latest single We Want Peace and then took questions and comments. I was struck by one person’s response and question especially. She said, “Emmanuel, you have humbled us today. You cannot be doing what you are doing without a vision. What is your vision?”

Singer and Activist Emmanuel Jal performs "We Want Peace" at the 2013 YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast
Singer and Activist Emmanuel Jal performs “We Want Peace” at the 2013 YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast

His response was to say that he seeks to be realistic. Foremost he wants to tell the world that peace is possible. It begins with the individual, and then expands to those around oneself, and then around the world. But telling is not enough. He talked about forgiveness. He told an African proverb. Hate is drinking poison yourself and expecting the other person to die. Everyone yearns for forgiveness, and to forgive. He learned to forgive those who tormented him and killed many of his family members. It took awhile. When he forgave them, they could no longer live inside him and make him bitter.

Most the attendees were high school students. It was a great lesson to hear.