Embracing the Spirit update - March 18, 2021
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30 Ministries in 1


During their strategic planning process a few years ago, Humber Valley United Church realized some things:
  1. There were 72,000 seniors in the constituency; one of the highest number of seniors living in a single area 
  2. 8% of these seniors were living in poverty
In 2019 they were already running 10 different programs that were of interest to seniors, including book studies, bible studies, presentations, and a women's and a men's group. But since October 2020 this has expanded to 30 different programs that are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually rewarding to those that attend.

Today, there are 200 participants in weekly and monthly activities, with over 5,000 participations in 2020. There are regular attendees across Toronto, the United States, and even globally. There are two staff and 60 volunteers that make this all possible!

Listen to all of the new ways that Humber Valley is providing ministry, from memoir writing sessions to arts and crafts to walking groups to chair yoga.

Sharing the Sacred and Putting People First

The desire for connection has never been as omnipresent as it has been over the last year. Sharing the Sacred is a ministry that has deeply leaned into this yearning and identified that a huge barrier is that we simply don't know how to connect and that there are few spaces to do so. Sharing the Sacred is all about how to make open spaces that encourage this type of connection between people.

The main practices are about creating cohesion around the head, heart, and hands. 
Head = meditation practices and being still. Just stopping to be. 
Heart = story sharing which is something that is so natural to all of us as story people. 
Hands = the spiritual practice of art.

During these gatherings, a community of over 75 people has formed since starting in February 2020. There has been new leadership wanting to create their own open spaces for others to join in. Most recently, this ministry has formed a partnership with Emmanuel College and plans to continue to support new leadership and genuine connection in this way.

Watch the whole story.

[Photo by Mara Ket on Unsplash]

EDGY Conversations and Events

Remember to check out EDGE’s Calendar to see what is coming up!
  • Sustainability Cohort – starts April 22. Every Thursday at 4:00 p.m. ED. Please RSVP to
  • EDGY Conversation – every Monday at 1:00 p.m. ET (not including holidays). Just show up!

Hopeful Economics unConference

Wow! What an incredible three days. Day 1 was packed with inspiring speakers. We heard from:
  • Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu, who shared some of the history of social justice. His engaging presentation and message that our humanity connects us to each other was a powerful way to start our speaker lineup.
  • Patrick Duggan, who shared that the global economy is really a part of “God’s Economy” but cannot be the sole focus.
  • Kevin Jones, Stephanie Swepson-Twity, and Aaron Kuecker who dove into the economic impact of churches.
  • Darnell Fennell and Lauren Hodgson, who shared what social enterprise has to do with faith, ultimately declaring that social enterprise is what the church should be doing.
  • Presbyterian Church USA shared some tips and tricks for pitching your community of faith for partnerships. Remember that sincere curiosity may open the door to gifts you had not considered.
  • David LePage shared a brief history of social enterprise. David and the audience engaged in fruitful discussion after his presentation. 
  • Rosalind Lockyer shared best practices she has learned since founding PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise. An emphasis on place-based innovation in rural settings was strongly encouraged.
  • Adele Halliday and Murray Pruden provided a workshop that offered some proposed guidelines for making equitable financial decisions with an emphasis on BIPOC. Participants worked through a case study in breakout rooms to create a vision, a relationship, a path, a dialogue, and a story.
  • Wayne Miranda discussed the role of social enterprises and systemic change. He left us with these questions to consider: 
1. What's the system you seek to change?
2. What is your theory of change?
3. Could social enterprise work?
  • Alia Abaya closed out our first day of speakers with another session on pitching for partnership. She highlighted the importance of considering both immediate value (increased capacity, shared cost etc.) and intrinsic value (diversity of thought, expanded ecosystem, motivation etc.).
While waiting for Day 2, attendees were encouraged to check out the exhibitor booths and connect over discussion boards. We had more interactions during our unConference than the average event on Whova. People were inspired to connect!

Day 2 had two fishbowl sessions and an interactive game. The fishbowls brought together people of faith and then people in the social sector to discuss the meaning of hopeful economics. After each fishbowl, attendees were split into breakout rooms to discuss. We witnessed panelists make genuine connections to each other and model how to approach our small group discussions.

Our last session of the day was an interactive design thinking game. Attendees were split into breakout rooms and given hypothetical resources (100 glass jars, a design agency, and a shipping container) and asked to design something that would address the problem “attitudes to mental health”. Some groups used the jars as a message carrier, others used them to serve drinks in a café. Some groups decided the shipping container could be moved and others used it as storage. The most inspiring part was that every idea presented sounded possible the resources given! No one gave up and said there’s nothing we can do.

On our final day we decided to throw out the agenda and let attendees decide for themselves what they wanted to discuss. This truly embodied being an “unconference”. During each session three breakout rooms were open with a specific topic. Participants were encouraged to attend whichever group they were drawn to and move around between groups as desired. By the end of the day 12 topics had been covered and our debrief was uplifting. We’re thankful to all attendees for keeping and open mind and adapting to a sudden change in schedule.

Check out our emcee Terrell McTyer (Disciples of Christ - New Church Ministry) kicking off the event with amazing energy.

Huge thank you to everyone that made it possible and all the attendees that brought their enthusiasm each day. Watch future Embracing the Spirit newsletters as we will be releasing new videos from these speakers over the next few months.
[Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash]

Embracing the Spirit is a learning network and innovation fund. It offers funding and support for innovation ideas hatched out of faith communities and communities in ministry. Some of the stories and best practices that are happening throughout The United Church of Canada are shared in this newsletter.

If you have an idea that you want to launch, reach out and tell us about it! Proposal deadlines are quarterly, and due on the 15th of the month: January, April, July and October. Find out more

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