This webpage is for the people of the Toronto Conference for story sharing and networking.

 A Story of

 

Emmanuel-Howard Park United Church

 Toronto West Presbytery

Rev. Cheri DiNovo tells the story of revitalization within her congregation, and relates it to her recently-completed doctoral thesis.

 

At Emmanuel-Howard Park they asked, “What is United Church evangelism in our church?”  The answer was that it’s inclusivity, hospitality.  The Bible calls us to open our doors and welcome all people.  How do we do that?  These days evangelism goes from God to the marginalized to the church. 

“What is United Church evangelism in our church?” 

The United Church of Canada has become the object of evangelism, not the subject.  Emmanuel-Howard Park church holds 800 people, but when Cheri arrived there were about 50 in the services; not many were in the church school;

hair was gray; and the church survived on rentals and trust funds.  Cheri was hired as an outreach minister with the plan to reach out or close.  They asked first whether they had a good nursery, and they didn’t.  They looked at small group activities and asked, “What are the needs of the community not being addressed?”  They started a single mothers’ brunch; a God-talk group Bible study, changed the liturgy to meet the needs of the neighborhood.  With many Roman Catholics in the area, they have a high liturgy because of their context with so many Catholics.  A Polish prayer group will be started soon, and there are multi-cultural meals.

 

They started a poor service which now gets 60-100 during the high holidays.  Poor people sit on committees.  The Sunday evening service doesn’t use a lot of written material or music from books because some people can’t read or their eyes aren’t great in the evening.  They use call and response and Taize material. Now the church has 50 children in the church school and 100 in the service; 30-50 attend  the evening service regularly.  Givings have gone up 60 percent.

 

Questions/comments:

How did you advertise the second service? 

There were banners and free community supper Sunday nights.  They give tickets for community suppers rather than cash to panhandlers.  The evening service people look after the worship now and leadership has emerged.  Cheri said that when she discovered the United Church, “I wondered why everyone doesn't know about this place”.

 

When asked about resistance to change, Cheri said that if the church wants to die, then you make it happen around them.  Look to the community.  People in shirts and ties are few at the moment, though there’s a group in their 20s and 30s who are getting more involved.

 

Cheri has sat on community groups who might be natural allies of the United Church.  It was a good way of getting to know the community and what the needs are.  Congregants were the ones who knocked on doors. 

 

How do we overcome fear and change in patterns in people’slives?

Look at the community and see what the community looks like; involve those people.  We shouldn’t be putting limits on the level of our hospitality, and see how we can minister to people. 

Look at the community and see what it looks like...

How do we minister to people who comes from other groups like Greek Orthodox or Portuguese? There are huge groups who are open to spirituality.

 

If anyone needs furthur info they can simple email Chri DiNovo

 

 

 

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