In 1982, in the second year of Toronto West Presbytery's Mission Strategy program and following on the identification of Jane-Finch and Parkdale as priority areas of need for United Church presence through a community ministry approach, Judy Shand was hired as the Mission Strategist to bring this together.
At that time two fledgling ministries were in place, one just developing at Jane-Finch with its first full-time staff after successful summer projects, and an ecumenical approach in Parkdale, then known as the Parkdale Community Ministry. Jane-Finch was developed with strong support from the Mennonite community who had started their own ministry in a neighbouring building, and we enjoyed a collaborative ministry with them for a number of years. In Parkdale, early development work had brought about a partnership among the then two Anglican parishes, the Presbyterian, Baptist, United churches, and the Sisters of Zion. A joint funding agreement established a position for the Parkdale Community Minister whose office was located in a small apartment north of Queen Street on O'Hara. Toronto West Mission Strategist Judy Shand sat on the Steering committees of both of these ministries for a number of years, working to develop programming, secure funding, support the ministers, and provide liaison to the Presbytery.
Starting in 1984, Judy Shand began a new project with Davenport-Perth United Church. As we reviewed future options, we linked with a neighbourhood action committee in search of a site for much-needed service delivery in this historic but under-served area. Through five years of joint partnership with neighbourhood activists, the City of Toronto, Public Health, Children's Aid, area schools, libraries, and politicians a plan emerged to build the existing Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre on the church site, and to reframe our ministry there to include a community ministry position which would respond to the need for a spiritual component in the multi-service approach to the new development.
All of these ministries have been initiated with funds from the Mission and Service fund of The United Church of Canada. As it became apparent that M&S dollars could not sustain the operating budgets of these ministries, and when Parkdale became exclusively a United Church ministry, the Mission Strategist began to work with the Presbytery to build alternative funding strategies that would secure the on-going budgets of these three Presbytery ministries. In addition, as it became clear that there was need for an umbrella committee of the Presbytery to support community ministry, Judy Shand was instrumental in establishing the Community Ministry Support Committee which continues to be a meeting place for shared planning, mutual support and interpretation of this work to the Presbytery and wider church.
The Community Ministry at the corner of King and Dunn Street in the heart of Parkdale opens its doors to its multicultured, multitalented and multichallenged neighbors to offer a wide variety of opportunities to gather, cook and create new community connections.
As a ministry we don't only feed the stomach we also try to reach out spiritually and feed our neighbors food for thought. Many people in Parkdale have a past history of struggle with organized religions and so we try to offer them a space to reflect upon past hurts and to find ways to forgive ourselves, each other and sometimes even the church.
Much of our ministry in Parkdale is organized around our kitchen, but it is grounded in our community connections.
Davenport Perth Community Ministry (DPCM) is situated in what was once a major industrial area of West Toronto. Despite the pressures of higher unemployment and lower family income, ours is a vibrant community, home to over 40 cultural groups.
DPCM was established by Presbytery at the time of the redevelopment of the Davenport Perth United Church property to create Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Health Centre (DPNC). DPCM has worked in partnership with DPNC on several employment initiatives including the forming of a Davenport Perth Employment Resource Centre. We worked with five other organisations on a Tenant Support and Eviction Prevention Initiative at Pelham Park Gardens public housing community. This programme is especially concerned with residents who have mental health issues, and whose housing is at risk.
We continue to work with a group of parents in Pelham Park, Frontier College and the school library, to run a Reading Circle for young children. This year we are helping the youth organize a basketball team and play in a city-wide summer league, and getting the parents together to have a family camp week at Five Oaks where they can have some much needed recreation and do some community development. We are now working closely with Davenport Perth Community Church to build a new model for urban community-based ministry. Our partners tell us that we are contributing a grounded, spiritual presence which is much appreciated.
Jane Finch Community is situated in the North West of the city. Although the neighbourhood is considered a low-income community with a high ratio of public housing developments, it is rich with cultural diversity and a caring spirit. This community, with representation of over 120 cultures, was a recent recipient of the Trillium Caring Community Award for excellent "achievements in the face of limited resources and difficult circumstances". The Jane Finch Community Ministry provides community development support and works in collaboration with the Firgrove public housing community and larger Jane Finch area. Through partnerships, the ministry has been able to provide many meaningful programmes and initiatives such as: recreation programmes for youth, arts and crafts, community and cultural festivals, educational upgrading and employment programmes, a monthly food bank, community kitchens, student nutrition programs, individual and group support, community organising and exploration of community economic initiatives.