Throughout November, we heard from leaders among our community about the various ministries that are carried out both within and without the walls of Met, and the role that our collective giving plays in building this vibrant church. As we plan for 2021, we launch our Annual Stewardship Campaign; if you would like a package, please reach out to us! Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-363-0331 ext. 229. Thank you!
A message from Outreach chair Dorcas Beaton, shared from the lectern on November 22.
In this stewardship minute, I would like to share how your time, talents and treasures are making a difference in the Outreach pillar.
The Outreach pillar is an umbrella for groups sharing the vision of putting our faith into action: Peace and Social Justice, Narthex greeters, refugee support, Out of the Cold (our winter meal program), community services and the FaithHUB network. And while Metropolitan United has a long history of outreach over its 200 years in downtown Toronto, we need only look back to the last 8 months of Covid to find for reasons for why we do outreach and what we are doing.
First, there is value in all people. People who might find themselves in a very rough time in their lives, be it in the park or in a nearby condo. Because of this belief, we already had a community services staff team of Megan and Stephanie who quickly responded to Covid, moving into the park and into the community to deliver groceries to those self-isolating or shut in, identify needs, move people into safer shelter and find solutions that will work -- like a new hospitality tent offering food, connection, hygiene products and a warm scarf. Or a novel restaurant chit program that pays restaurants ahead to offer a meal to a person presenting a Met United chit – supporting both the local restaurant, and the autonomy of the recipient.
Second, the work needed to keep going. Committees like our Peace and Social Justice group nimbly reorganized on zoom to plan services like this one; our Out of the Cold program volunteers started meeting in late summer to find a way to keep as much of the winter meal program running through a carefully planned take away meal version… their biggest disappointment - the inability to sit at table to talk with their guests.
Finally, working together is often the best way to get things done. Our FaithHUB group and a network of downtown community service oriented faith organizations became natural partners during Covid in service and in advocacy. Resources were shared. We have sponsored meals at other sites that were already set up to serve early in the pandemic, and we in turn have received support from other churches, the City, and the Toronto Drop In Network to support our work. Faith in Action.
Outreach really was more of a verb this year – to out reach – to reach beyond anything we could have imagined would be our faith in action. We thank you for your support, especially the donations that have come for Covid relief. The need was and is great. And tomorrow when the city locks down again to contain this virus… we will still be finding ways to OUT REACH on your behalf.
In closing, a reminder from the 16th century in the words of St Teresa of Avila, that captures for me why we do what we do.
“Christ has no body on earth now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on the world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good; yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.”
May it be so.
Linn Holness, co-chair of the Spiritual Learning for Life pillar, shared with us on November 15.
It is my privilege to speak on behalf of Dennis Donovan and myself about the Spiritual Learning for Life pillar. This pillar includes worship and faith formation and education.
Cathedral worship is one of Met’s defining qualities. In our historic and sacred sanctuary we engage in rich liturgy, inspiring preaching and music that touches the soul. With the leadership of our three ministers, we bring ourselves to worship to participate in this shared experience in community.
This past 8 months has challenged us in so many ways and worship and faith formation are no exceptions. From our first online worship services leading into Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter, we learned how to adapt to this new world. As the weeks became months, we refined and deepened our online skills and then in August we returned to our sanctuary. As we returned to the sanctuary for worship, we had the opportunity to have both an in-person congregation including community members who do not have access to technology, and our online congregation together again, as one community of faith.
As worship pivoted, so did our educational activities. Over this time we engaged The GO Project and now have an innovative offering of virtual activities for our youth. Our study groups also made the leap to virtual meetings and continue to feed our souls.
We are grateful to our ministers, our singers and staff who have all done things they might never have imagined a year ago. They bring their amazing talents to lead us in worship. We are also grateful for all our volunteers who generously give their time and talent to make the service work, our readers, ushers and our new version of greeters – the screeners! A special thanks to our worship committee members who have met more frequently and grappled with the challenges. We are grateful to our ministers and Chris Hoover who have continued to offer our Bible study and other study groups virtually.
As we move forward, this time provides us with a sense of what we need to do to continue to improve both our in-person and online worship experience through the upgrading of the technology in the sanctuary as well as continue to support our worship and faith formation activities. So, we are reaching out to you to ask that you prayerfully consider your stewardship commitments for 2021. Whether it is a contribution of your time, your talents or your treasure, or all three, it represents our opportunity to continue to worship on this land and in this space that many have nurtured before, and for which, it is now our time to be the faithful stewards.
And as Gunn ended with a scripture passage last Sunday, I end with this passage from First Chronicles:
“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
On November 8, Gunn Wongsuwan, chair of Congregational Care, spoke to us.
As you all know, programming at Metropolitan is organised into four pillars – there’s worship, arts, outreach and congregational care. The first three are fairly self-explanatory in terms of what they do. But what does congregational care do?
I’m quite new to this role of chair, and if you had asked me this question, this time last year, I would have found it a bit tough to answer. Indeed, when the official board were preparing for the pillar talks earlier this year, a similar question came up. ‘What skills should the minister for congregational care have?’ someone asked. ‘Flipping pancakes’ came an answer.
That person wasn’t wrong. I would even add flipping hamburgers too. Hospitality is among the most visible work of this pillar, but there are a few other things that happen behind the scenes.
The mandate of this pillar is to care for the people of Metropolitan. And it really doesn’t matter what your status here at Metropolitan is; if you are a member, an adherent or only just started coming here. You could have been with Metropolitan for decades, or you might have been attending a few services recently. Regardless of that, there are teams of people working for you and looking out for you.
For instance, there is the Met Care team, which keeps in touch with people who are going through illness, grief or who just need that little extra bit of support – and a number of us have found ourselves in that position during this pandemic. There’s also the Next Gen group, which keeps the younger adults of this church connected socially. There’s the Accessibility committee, which provides recommendations for improving access to the church building. Then there’s Affirming Life, which celebrates the presence and the love of the LGBT community.
Now I know that this is stewardship month, and a lot of us approach this with some trepidation. We’re worried that we’re being asked again to put our hands in our pockets and reach a little deeper.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but, yes, that is what we are asking. However, it isn’t all we’re asking of you.
Our understanding of ‘stewardship’ at Metropolitan consists of three elements. First, is time, then there’s talent, and finally, treasure. Being stewards of the church means contributing your presence within the community – in-person or virtually – and contributing your knowledge and skills, as well as money.
A church building draped in all the fineries of the world, but which lacks the warmth and joy of its people, would feel rather hollow. This is, of course, not to say that financial contributions do not matter.The contribution of your treasure helps to maintain this historic space, where all may come, be inspired and transformed; as well as to maintain the staff and the wonderful music and outreach programmes.
The contribution of your time and talent – your presence, whether here in person or from home, your thoughtful insights, the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow – gives this cathedral the mojo it needs to carry on its ministry.
I should like to end this message with the opening words of the twenty-ninth Psalm:
‘Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.’
On November 1, we heard from Lisa Hems, chair of Visual and Creative Arts.
The Ministry of the Integrated Arts Pillar is one of four pillars that define Metropolitan United Church’s vision for current implementation and future development.
The arts – whether it be the performing arts or the visual and creative arts, are an important aspect of life at Metropolitan and for many it is a form of rejoicing and even prayer.
As we listen to our choir, or various soloists, Ben on piano, or our youth, we know how important and what an essential part of Met’s service and worship music is. Metropolitan’s reputation for excellence here goes well beyond our church.
Then there are those extra curricular activities; a concert, a theatre production, children’s summer camp. When we have fun together.
We continue to try and build our participation in the Visual and other creative arts and we thank our volunteers who come out and offer their expertise, teach, share, and set things up. For example:
These activities help build connectivity and community, and engage people of all ages. The creative power of the arts build self-expression, provide spiritual uplift, healing and enhance well-being. ART benefits our congregation and the wider community.
It might be harder in 2021 to find creative artistic ways to connect during a pandemic, but even more reason to give. We each have our own special talent and ability to provide stewardship, either with providing the time and energy or the funds to assist with new projects. HELP keep us growing. All of this gives us an opportunity for engagement, for you to grow in spirit and community. Art is …not just about something some of us do. It is about who we are collectively, and Whose we are... an act of worship.