As a deacon and servant of Jesus Christ called to live out a vocation in the Diocese of New Westminster, I am thankful that more and more local Anglicans are becoming aware of the Metro Vancouver Alliance and are joining with this broad coalition of faith communities, labor unions and community organizations. As members of MVA we can have greater opportunities to build what Jesus and his followers call the “Reign of God” among us. Others may use different names, but the strengthening of social support networks that benefit not only the most vulnerable among us, but all of us is a work Christians are called to as part of the Mission of God.
Like most of my diaconal colleagues, my diaconal ministry is to the world outside the church, witnessing to its relevance as a vehicle for positive social change and an agency of social justice. I am privileged to be part of organizations like MVA, the First Call Child Advocacy Coalition, and the Living Wage Campaign — non-partisan organizations with a passion for making those with decision making power more aware of issues surrounding poverty, housing, transit, social isolation, human rights (particularly children’s rights) aware of the need for change.
As I sat among Anglican representatives at the October 9 Municipal Accountability Assembly sponsored by Metro Vancouver Alliance, and knew we were part of an organization made up of over fifty organizations, I was renewed with the hope that together we can do something. Here we were – the Venerable John Stevens representing Bishop Melissa, members of the diocesan Eco-Justice Unit, contingents from St. Catherine’s, North Vancouver, St. Clements, St. James, St. James Social Justice Group, St. Laurence, and St. Thomas side by side with Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Baptists and Longhouse Council of Native Ministry. The crowd of 800 also represented members of the Canadian Labour Congress, CUPW, Unifor locals, CUPE and others. Rounding out group representation were contingents from Habonim-Dror (Jewish youth), the Association of Neighborhood Houses, the Burnaby Homelessness Task Force, Smart Change, the Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC and several other agencies.
We welcomed the four mayoralty candidates for Vancouver as well as other local politicians and candidates for election and proceeded to hear the stories of those affected by inadequacies in social connectedness, transportation availability, support for those in poverty and current housing availability. In response to these presentations, all four mayoralty candidates committed to MVA proposals and agreed to be part of future meetings around these issues.
What is MVA committed to on your behalf as Anglicans in the Diocese of New Westminster? Here’s a quick outline:
1. Social Isolation:
- creation of sustainable clusters where neighbours can get to know one another, build trust and tackle local issues (remember our “Take Back the Neighborhood” workshops?)
- Use of neighbourhood clusters to reach out to other communities, particularly aboriginal, youth, refugees, and immigrant communities
- Support of other MVA campaigns around housing, transit and poverty
- Support for the transit referendum campaign proposed by Metro mayors
- Advocacy for affordable transit in the region for all
3. Poverty and the Living Wage:
- Campaign for every working person in Vancouver to be paid at least the Vancouver Living Wage (as determined by the Living Wage Campaign which provides Living Wage information for all areas of the Province)
- Work toward all MVA member organizations becoming Living Wage Employers
- Support the Mayor of Vancouver, Council and city staff in introducing a Vancouver Living Wage policy
- Promote the Living Wage to other municipalities and employers
4. Homelessness and Housing:
- Identify areas for positive bylaw change in the area of affordable housing
- Work with MVA members to develop innovative solutions to the affordability crisis
- Support cities in the development of covenants that lock in truly affordable purchase and rental housing in perpetuity (I presented to Coquitlam Council a few weeks back on this issue on behalf of the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Affordable Housing Task Group and the Tri-Cities Ministerial Association)
My prayer is that Anglicans will become an even stronger presence in the MVA and will be the impetus for other faith groups to join in. Here is ‘grass roots’ ecumenism at work.
If you have an opportunity, get a group together from your parish and attend the next MVA Leadership Institute being held on November 7 and 8. Visit metvanalliance.org for details.
“Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world” ~ Howard Snyder
Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam, and a blogmaster at NW AnglicanBlog. Your comments and offerings are welcome.