Over the last few months, the news in Canada has a bitter tone when it comes to freedom of thought and religion. A name like Jordan Peterson, the U of T professor at the centre of a controversy surrounding the use of gender pronouns, is being used in conversations in an increasing fashion. Add to this the government's recent requirement for applicants to the Canadian Summers Jobs program to sign an attestation stating they support Canadian constitutional rights as well as the right to reproductive choice, leaves any person of faith or faith-informed ethics wondering how long it will be before people of faith or conscience can live unhindered in our country.
Our government fails to recognise that people of faith or even differing faith values contribute greatly to the fabric of our Canadian society. They are guided in their behaviours precisely because their faith informs them so. If faith groups were to stop their mandate, the burden would have to be picked up by city, provincial or federal government in a way that would ‘hit them right in the pocket book’.
While this post is not necessarily to argue issues at play in our broader Canadian context, the government does in fact need people of faith and/or faith informed ethical values to function in society in such a way that contributes to the health and vitality of our country.
Recently a study group was commissioned in Canada to look at the effect that churches and other non-profit agencies have in their cities and towns. The study, now published online, is titled, The Halo Project.
“Any city’s social infrastructure includes several factors. Key among them would be local religious congregations. It has long been known in Canada that churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have social, spiritual, and communal value. But what if we could measure the value of what they contribute to the common good in their neighbourhoods and communities? That is the jumping off point The Halo Project.
Inspired by similar research in the United States, the Halo Project began to examine and measure how religious congregations fare as economic catalysts. The first phase of this research examined 10 local congregations in Toronto. What we found was that those congregations all make significant common good contributions that have remarkable economic value when measured by traditional economic development tools.
But just how much economic good do those congregations do?”
Do you know what they found? The study may or may not surprise you.
The 10 congregations they examined in Toronto spent more than $9.5M in budgetary expenses, but the common good, or their 'halo effect', through "weddings, artistic performances, suicide prevention, ending substance abuse, housing initiatives, job training – and a whole host of other areas that make cities so much more livable – is estimated to be more than $45 million per year." The Halo Project reports that every dollar a congregation spends is the equivalent of $4.77 worth of services that the city does not have to provide.
Applying that ratio just to the 220 parishes of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Toronto yields a potential annual contribution of $990 million in common good services, and this represents only one religious tradition. The full impact of all religious congregations in Toronto would be staggering.”
I find these results are sobering.
Please do not let the media or anyone else fool you into thinking that the church or other religious groups do no not make a valuable contribution to our society.
It is my prayer that we would continue to build community partnerships that would benefit our community here in Burlington. There are so many people who can be helped and encouraged through the work that we do through God’s people. We do this “work”, not because we have to, but rather because our faith informs our values that we should. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the people of Israel while they were in exile in Babylon.
‘But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’
I trust that if we ever needed to hire summer students to assist us in our mission in the city, we would raise the money as a church ourselves and not have to depend on the government’s program. I hope that Burlington knows that Calvary is here to love them, to help them, to encourage them, and when given the opportunity to talk about the hope that we have in Christ, that we share it with love and grace. For another great article on this topic, I invite you to check out this article.
Our mission at Calvary is, Making Disciples Who Love God, Love People and Serve our World. All three of these phrases come together to point us to Christ’s mission for the church. May we never forget that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to “Serve our World.”
Pastor Aaron Groat
Each week we post about a range of things from the Christian life, faith and more.
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