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Room in the Boom? No Fixed Address…

No Vacancy

 These past few weeks I have been attentive to the challenges of living in a community with a booming economy. There have been major changes present in the last ten years as Newfoundland and Labrador has adjusted to the wealth that has been brought with the presence of ‘Big Oil.’ There is a positive economic outlook for the province, one which is emphasizing improving and adjusting community infrastructure. There is an influx of wealth and wealthy families. There are numerous housing developments cropping up on the North East Avalon peninsula. There are more amenities available, and larger companies (retail and commercial) are finding their homes with us. We are even being featured on prime time television with the increase in publicity through NL Tourism ads, and The Republic of Doyle. All this promotes a sense of pride and joy when speaking of this place I call home.

There are also the changes that are harder for me to endure, given all this wealth. In the community where I serve, Mount Pearl, there is a vacancy rate that is less than one percent. Families are finding it harder and harder to afford to live, given increases in costs due to inflation.  A minimum wage of $10.00/hour is no longer viable for many, and increases set for the near future are not keeping up with the cost of living.

There are huge increases in crime in the province, and communities are trying to tackle the influx of biker gangs and organized crime fueled by the drug trade. There are increases in stress levels in families, and violence against women and against pets seems to be on the rise.

In all of this, I found myself attending a conference on Housing and Homelessness in St. John’s this past month. At the conference I was amazed at the efforts, passion, and ingenuity of many, from many diverse segments of society. Professionals of almost every walk of life were engaging in dialogue, and bringing meaning and action to the table, for the sake of those who seem to be getting lost in the ‘boom’ of Newfoundland and Labrador.

During this conference I was pleased that many of the professionals that gathered were open to engaging with the faith community (multi-faith) in order to address the hardship they saw.  We as church are not only invited to listen and observe, but also we are being called to enter into partnership with the community, with the wider world.

These are exciting prospects for the church, I believe, for we have long been caught up with the expansion and upkeep of the physical, concrete structures that we have been entrusted with, as we attempt to provide spiritual and pastoral care to those both within and outside the community of faith. These dual roles at times bring me conflict and stress, for I find it a struggle to operate as manager and pastor. How can I abandon the responsibilities of persons as I deal with the challenges of a facility? How can I let a facility and an organization suffer while caring for individuals and families?

The conundrum seems to me to have some points for us to consider as church.  It is no secret that the Anglican Church, like many mainline denominations in Canada, finds itself in the present day to be high on physical infrastructure, and low on membership. There is a necessity for the redistribution of resources for those in need in the St. John’s Region. We need to identify the immediate need, supportive need, and long term need of persons in our area. If persons do not have enough to afford to live, can we not take a look at how we are using our resources?  The churches that may have difficulty paying bills because of the escalating costs associated with heating and lighting large expansive spaces, may like to consider sharing space with those in the community who have no fixed address.

We must be a church that models openness and innovation within a community framework. We should remember that our roots are in a child who had no fixed address, who was given a manger when there was no room in an inn. The blessing and heritage of the Christian Story is a story of a redemptive, caring community, founded in the death and resurrection of Jesus, not in the sanctuaries that are adorned with effigies and monuments that so often I see bereft of vibrant, transformative community. We must open our doors, and share our buildings with those who have no place because of the great disparage between wealthy and impoverished in this society.

David Burrows

About David Burrows

David Burrows is a priest of the church, currently serving in parish ministry within the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, a place he has called home for the past fifteen years. He consistently engages dialogue and action with the wider community through creative outreach projects. Cycling, kayaking, writing, and driving fast cars are distractions in his life.

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7 Responses to Room in the Boom? No Fixed Address…

  1. Try opening the doors through-out the week…………………………

    • David Burrows

      Absolutlely Gordon. A closed building can be one of the biggest deterrents to the wider community. We must be open, and we must risk

  2. Great blog this week… It’s a struggle for many for sure. Because of the ups and down of the economy, sometimes people may find it hard to open up to the possibility of sharing, because they are clinging to what they have and are afraid that it may only be short lived… It sounds selfish, but it’s a reality for many. Take me and my husband. Right now we are fortunate, both with full time jobs, a home and a child. But, at the end of March, we will be living on one income because my husband will no longer be employed. What do we do then? I hold on to what we have right now, in preparation for what may be….

  3. ” In 2007, the Anglican Church counted 545,957 members on parish rolls… The 2011 Canadian Census counted 1,631,845 self-identified Anglicans… This means 1.1 million Anglicans in Canada are NOT coming to church. We need to find new and innovative ways to reunite with these people

  4. We are seriously in need of Pioneer Ministry that reaches out to all by going forward to a community, not sit in the Vestry and wonder what is required. I would gladly accept the chance to do more, for more. Let’s find out if the Primate of the ACC will adopt the challenge.

    I have been active in seeking this role for over 4 years and yet find little interest except we are looking at this. People are in serious need now.

    • David Burrows

      Ron, good suggestion, yet I do believe that there is no one magic ‘ministry’ or ‘programme’ that will fit the bill. In each community I have been in, reaching out, and responding to the issues of poverty, housing/homelessness has taken different forms. One size doesn’t fit all 🙂

  5. Same kinds of problems here in Saskatchewan! Many people call it a “boom” but what it means is that one sector of the economy (in this case Oil) makes lot of money and so speculators push prices up because the wealthy can pay, but then those in all the other sectors suffer. The so called “boom” is a lopsided affair where some get richer but many are impoverished even further.
    The cynical side of me sees that by motivating my parish to support food banks etc. for the working poor we are actually facilitating this profiteering. The charity of my parishioners supports the existence of an economic class which is inadequately cared for by either private or “public” (government) endeavours, but whose hard work and spending is nevertheless used to keep corporate profits up. Is it possible that without meaning to, we are indirectly contributing to the ongoing exploitation?
    Then the hopeful side of me considers that converting infrequently used church space into affordable housing might just be a win, win, win situation.

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