Toronto West Presbytery Community Ministries at Jane-Finch, King-Dunn and Davenport-Perth are a direct outcome of its Mission Strategy endeavor begun in 1981. Then, following a sister project in Toronto Area Presbytery, Toronto West Presbytery initiated a Mission Strategy project and hired staff to facilitate it. Frances Coombs was the first Mission Strategist and worked with a Task Group of the Presbytery, headed by The Rev. Stephen Mabee, and the first consultations were held.
Looking at the ministry in Toronto West and the needs of the neighbourhoods within the Metro West area, the communities of Jane-Finch and Parkdale came into sharp focus as priorities for the development of a response of The United Church to areas of demonstrated high need within the bounds of Presbytery.
Working together with the support of the Mission Strategist, Beverly Hills, Downsview and Riverside-Emery United Churches focused on the Jane-Finch community and established a ministry along the model of that already working under the Mennonite Church. The first Community Minister, Ms. Peggy Campbell, was hired in 1982 and work began in an office provided, free of charge, by The Toronto Community Housing Corporation in the Firgrove building. Since that time there has been continuous ministry provided under the leadership of Peggy Campbell, The Rev. David Murata, and Barry Rieder, all Community Ministers covenanted with Toronto West Presbytery. For the first years, oversight of this ministry was conducted by an Advisory Committee struck with membership from the sponsoring congregations and designated members from Toronto West Presbytery. Operating funding was from a Mission Support grant and contributions from individuals and congregations, with grants for programming from time to time from government and foundations.
Response to need in Parkdale started on a different path. Through network-building with the local ministerial and neighbourhood service agencies, Frances Coombs was able to initiate an ecumenical ministry with the co-operation of the local Anglican, Baptist and Presbyterian churches and support from the Sisters of Sion and both Parkdale United Church and Emmanuel Howard Park United Church. A local office was set up in 1982 and Maylanne Whitall (Maybee) served as the first Community Minister of the Parkdale Community Ministry. Funding was secured primarily from Anglican and United Church sources (Mission Support grant), with the other denominations contributing small amounts. This ministry continued as an ecumenical venture and with the support of the TWP Mission Strategist through 1986. One of the challenges of the ministry during the early years was the expectation that it could take over, remodel, and develop programming at the house owned by the Parkdale Foundation, later to become known as Shalom House. Several attempts to seek funding for a community house were turned down, but in 1988 a Ventures in Mission (VIM) grant and a loan from TUCC (later paid by Toronto West Presbytery Corporation) made the development and staffing of Shalom House (1339 King Street West) a reality, and it became the focus for a renewed United Church ministry. The first Community Minister at Shalom House was The Rev. Nan Hudson, followed by Sue Crowe-Connolly, Eleanor Belfry-Lyttle and Jodi Hoar. In 2004 the ministry, now named King-Dunn Community Ministry (2003) to distinguish it from Shalom House(a ministry of Parkdale United Church), moved to Emmanuel Howard Park United Church and operates there as an independent co-located ministry.
As with Jane-Finch above, core operating funds have come from Mission Support grants and Toronto West Presbytery sources once the VIM grant was exhausted. Program funds have come from government and foundation sources from time to time.
The Davenport-Perth Community Ministry was the last to be developed and covenanted in Toronto West Presbytery. In 1983 the Presbytery was approached by the Davenport-Perth congregation for approval of a grant of $70,000 to replace the roof. As there were no grant funds available in that amount and the Presbytery could not support a loan because the congregation did not have the capacity to repay one, a Commission, headed by The Rev. Bert McAvoy, was struck to review United Church building use in the area. The properties reviewed included Davenport-Perth, Westmoreland and St.Paul-Pietro Valdo United Churches. In the course of its work, the Mission Strategist contacted the City of Toronto to determine development plans in the area (Bloor Street to St. Clair and Ossington to Keele). Through that contact we gained knowledge of the City’s efforts to support a Neighbourhood Action Committee made up of local residents and agency workers in the Davenport area. Their work had concluded that there was high need for a multi-service centre in the area but there was no property available to build one. This, with the Commission’s support, opened the door to an extensive negotiation among Davenport-Perth congregation, the Presbytery and the evolving Neighbourhood Action Committee, who worked together to create a plan for the redevelopment of the church and manse to house a new neighbourhood centre. Significant capital for the redevelopment of this historic site came from various levels of government, church and foundations and the new neighbourhood centre building opened in 1991. As a part of its review of the congregation, and given the opportunity emerging, the Commission also recommended that a new community ministry be established to complement a half-time congregational minister and work in collaboration with the on-site community services. A VIM grant was sought and granted and the new community ministry began in 1986 with Patricia Lisson as the first Community Minister, followed by Bob McElhinney, Rennie Keates, Sue Crowe-Connolly and Irene Ty.
As with the other Toronto West Presbytery Community Ministries, operating funding has been from Mission Support grants and Toronto West Presbytery Corporation sources and congregations.
APPOINTED MINISTERS: In each case, the Community Minister is an appointee of Toronto West Presbytery. These appointments have been treated as one-year, three-year and sometimes no appointment has been made, just assumed. In 1995/96 we were questioned by the Division of Ministry, Personnel and Education (national) about regularizing these positions, and this led to a determination that these are Presbytery ministries, with Presbytery-appointed staff (i.e. Presbytery is the employer). A first Human Resources Committee was established in the restructuring of 1996 but it did not take hold, leaving open the question how Presbytery’s accountability for the ministers
was to be exercised and how contracts were to be reviewed and revised. A standard contract with terms of employment was drawn in 1996 and has been used since that time along with reappointment motions. In the Presbytery re-structuring of 2002-03, a Human Resources Group was again established and mandated to exercise oversight of the employment relations with Community Ministers. That group is in the process of fulfilling its mandate.
GOVERNANCE/ACCOUNTABILITY: Since the early Mission Strategy consultations, these ministries have evolved through a series of governance structures. The first structural supports for them came from local advisory groups made up of church representatives, ecumenical partners, and ministry participants. The structure was informal and each ministry existed in a loose relationship to the Presbytery except for funding approvals which were sought in relation to Mission Support Grant (formerly Block Grant) submissions. No long term funding strategy was in place when the ministries began and they existed without any security beyond the annual funding cycle. Ministers experienced isolation and a sense of unclarity about the Presbytery’s will to “own” these ministries. In an attempt to address this, they worked with the Mission Strategist to propose a co-operative, non-competitive working style and the creation of a new standing committee of Presbytery, the Community Ministries Support Committee, which was established in the late ‘80’s. This committee provided a base for mutual support and accountability, a shared approach to budgeting and funding strategy, and to communicating this work within the Presbytery and congregations. Presbyters June Hill and Juanita Ruse have acted over the years as supporters, advisors, listeners, questioners, advocates and friends to this group which continues to meet informally (monthly) since the restructuring of 1997 when the Standing Committee was disbanded and the Community Ministries were each assigned to a Cluster. The Cluster experience provided a broader exposure to selected congregations and was intended to be a base for oversight and support in the same way as it was for congregations. Previous to this, the Community Ministry Support Committee had also proposed and implemented a cluster plan which divided the Presbytery’s congregations into three groups and assigned a community ministry to each. These clusters worked with the ministries to promote their work and to encourage funding support (walk-a-thon, Community Ministry Sunday’s).
Each Community Ministry has had and continues to have a local Steering Committee which acts to advise on day-to-day mission and vision development and implementation, provide budget review and act as a sounding board for staff while providing on the ground input to the ministry from the participants’ point of view. These are structures made up of local participants, Presbytery representatives, and the Community Ministers and they relate to the Presbytery through two avenues: to the Human Resources Committee providing input for performance reviews and evaluation; and, to the newly formed Community Ministries Commission (October 2004) regarding operational decisions for the ministries. (Mandates of these two groups are appended to the file copy of this report as Appendix I & II.)
Each ministry provides an Annual Report and audited statement to the Presbytery and its budget is reviewed as a part of the Mission Support Grant process, then finalized once the grants have been made. Financial statements are submitted quarterly to Toronto Conference in advance of grant draws.
FUNDING STRATEGY: These ministries are significantly different from others in the Presbytery in that they do not have a local base of voluntary givers. In fact, they all serve in communities where significant poverty is an on-going challenge, and the prospect of generating income for operating budgets from participants is simply not possible. Therefore, as ministries of The United Church and Toronto West Presbytery they are entirely reliant on church sources for operating funds. Budgeting begins from zero each year and, in cases past, unexpended funds have been returned to sources or draws on grants made have not been accepted if not needed. While there have been government and foundation funds awarded for programs, these sources will not fund the operating budgets of United Church ministries. Some designated funds have come to the ministries and these are held to be drawn down for special projects or to assist with operating deficits when required, and are the only funds carried over from year to year.
Toronto West Presbytery Community Ministries were established in the 1980’s when there were more funds available, primarily through national United Church sources (Mission Support and Ventures in Mission funds). Over the years those sources have either been discontinued (VIM), or have declined. In an effort to be responsive to the changing funding environment and to attempt to secure a financial future for its ministries, Toronto West Presbytery has worked at developing a capital pool, held by the Toronto West Presbytery Corporation, to increase its contribution to and responsibility for the Community Ministries. Resources from the sale of church properties have been committed to the Corporation and it funds the major part of the budgets each year, and in 2000 Toronto West Presbytery entered into a five-year informal agreement with Toronto Conference to hold assets from the sale of property and use them to support the Mission Strategy of the Presbytery (community ministries, ministry development etc.). Mission Support grants have declined from covering 70% of the operating budgets in the ‘80’s to an average 30% for the past five years. Grant requests for the 2005 fiscal year were cut to an average 15% in the most recent allocation cycle. Attempts to generate further donations from congregations have met with a mixed response and have declined significantly in the past two years since the Cluster structure was dropped. This leaves the Toronto West Presbytery Corporation in the position of being the single largest funder and it is now drawing down capital at the rate of $135,000 in 2005 to cover what are already lean budgets. At this rate of expenditure and without new capital, the Corporation funds will be depleted within 15-18 years.
This comes at a time when the general social environment is increasingly stressed and there is increased reliance on our ministries to be responsive to local need. Government sources for income support have been drastically cut, other social services have been cut or eliminated, and the depth of need in these three marginal communities has increased. The demand for support from our ministries is on the rise. This generates the question of the will and intention of The United Church of Canada to continue to be a participant in response to the biblical injunction to “seek the welfare of the city” and to be responsive to the needs of those least resourced in our community because their lives and their welfare matter to us as stewards of and witnesses to God’s love and justice.