A monthly publication by the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative (CRIHI)

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings from all of us at CRIHI,

As we begin our work mobilizing local faith communities, we would like to focus on some of the best advice around to help local faith communities get this right.  Much of that advice is coming from those working in Community Development around the world.  So for the next few months, we're going to share some of what we're learning on that front.

It's also that time of year when our hammers start swinging together again with Habitat for Humanity.  We have the Interfaith Habitat kick-off details for March 5, and how to get involved in this year's project running through to the end of May. We hope to see you there!

Plenary is also right around the corner, on the morning of March 20th.  So mark your calendars!  

Lots of great work ahead.  Let's do it together!


February 2019



A Unitarian Faith Reflection
Community Development Series: Part One

Upcoming Events

Interfaith Habitat Works 2019!
Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

Faith Reflection:  Unitarian

Belief and Action

It is not enough to believe in God, even with the purest doctrine, the ideal creed, and the highest devotion - to the point where we are nominated for sainthood.

Instead we must express our faith in explicit action: in building paths to effective remedies, in structuring a better society, in responding to the perils of our time.

It is not enough to believe in the grace of God, to wait, to sit back, and to depend on a bolt from heaven - no matter how firm, or trusting, or confident we feel in our faith.

Instead, we must act in the absence of God: seeking out the needy, identifying injustice, risking controversy, knocking on the door of failure, but walking steadily toward Jerusalem.

It is not enough to worship, pray, and bow down, as if offerings will purchase heaven, as if meditations will alleviate hunger, as if hymns will still the cries of the poor.

Instead, we must stress the primacy of love over piety, the primacy of service over servility, the primacy of sympathy over a safe, timid, and smothering obedience to an old ritual.

Reflection by David O. Rankin, from the book "Dancing in the Empty Spaces."
Submitted by Rev. Audrey Brooks
A Primer in Community Development; Part One.

So you're interested in working in your community...   

As you begin, consider the following insights from those involved in community development work.

Look before you leap!  What do you see?

How do you see me?

"Imagine that my neighbours only saw me by the the empty half of my glass.  He's the old guy with heart problems...   How would they treat me then?" - John McKnight

Here's a true story 
Not so long ago, in a city not unlike our own, there was a church community who wanted to find a way to give back to their community.  So they did some driving around in a few neighbourhoods where there was a lot of poverty.  After a while, they found an area where they saw a lot of young families with kids, but no place for the kids to play.  But there was a big empty lot there.  So they called up the city and discovered that this piece of property was actually zoned as a public park, but no one had built it.

So they did a fundraiser, purchased the materials, loaded up the trucks in the church parking lot, and went out with a crew of volunteers.  After a few hours, they completed the task,and invited the neighbours for a celebratory BBQ.  Gradually two circles formed; one of neighbours and one of the church volunteers.  Eventually, a few of the church volunteers went over to talk to the neighbours and asked what they thought of the playground.

The neighbours answered honestly.  "Actually we're a little discouraged about this.  You see we had our own plans to build a playground here.  This empty lot...  We were the ones who got it zoned as a playground.  But you never came to talk to us to see what we wanted or what we thought." 
The point in telling a story like this is not to heap abuse on the efforts of well-meaning volunteers; it's to get us thinking about unintentional consequences, and about what a better approach might look like.  So consider these questions:
  1. When this church community looked at this neighbourhood, what did they see?  Did they see it by the full half or the empty half of the glass?
  2. What was their relationship with the community like throughout the process?
  3. Was there any harm done unintentionally to this local community?
  4. What might they have done differently that would have made this a very positive example?  
Consider this chart that provides a helpful framework.   It asks us to consider how we do things as parents, churches, governments, or other institutions.  We hope it will help you discover how to do the work of loving our neighbour and our community in a way that nurtures health and vitality in each other (sharing from the full half of our glass).

How should I do this..?

Here are a few points to consider when engaging your community:
1. Successful community development is asset-based, internally-focused, and relationship driven.
2. Lasting change comes from within the community. 
3. Engaging people’s skills is a priority.  (work with local assets; the full half of the glass)

“to be effective community-builders, faith congregations need to function as both ‘faith communities,’and place-based communities.” 
  • As Faith communities, they should understand and lift up the gifts and talents of its members.
  • As Place-based communities, they should play a role alongside other entities within their specific neighbourhood, discovering and engaging assets in the local community.

What can this look like?  Consider this true (slightly better) example.
Another church community wanted to get involved in their community and get to know their neighbours.  So every Sunday morning, they did a March for Jesus in the blocks surrounding their church.  They put a Ghetto blaster on a stroller (old school!), and picked up garbage or cleaned up Graffiti as they went.  Over time, they began to meet and have conversations with their neighours.  Some neighbours were inspired to fix broken windows and clean up their yards.  Eventually, the neighbours shared that they had difficulty getting rid of larger junk.  So the church set up a dumpster on their property to help local neighbours clear out their garbage.

More to come...
There is much more to consider on this, but we hope to continue this series on community development in the Neighbourly over the course of the next few months.

Do you have a story or an example to share as to help us as we learn together?  Please send it our way!  Email:
Key stories and examples in this reflection were featured in a January workshop hosted at Southpointe Community Church called "Helping without Harming" by Diaconal Ministries Canada and World Renew. 


CRIHI Plenary Gathering
Wednesday, March 20

Come join us as we consider our work together as a movement, including a discussion of the new Local Area Network project. 
Doors will open at 9:00; event begins at 9:30 with lunch to follow at 12:00.
Special invitation by eventbrite coming soon!

Interfaith Habitat Works Project
March 5 to June 5, 2019

CRIHI and her partners at Habitat for Humanity invite you to come join us as people of many faiths put boots on the ground together building homes for people.  This year we are hoping to rally 600 volunteers to this project, so help us spread the word!

Ways you can get involved:

  • Volunteer on a build or at a ReStore: Volunteers can come out either individually or as a group. Beginners are welcome and all equipment and tools are provided.
  • Feed the volunteers: contributions of lunches or baked goods are welcome.
  • Attend the Kick-off and Wrap-up events


Here is the link to Habitat's Interfaith page where you can sign up your groups, download posters and information, and find answers to your questions:  

We also have a promotional video for you to share with your community:

...and don't miss the Kick-off!!

Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities
Welcome Home
One of the biggest reasons people struggle or fail as they come out of homelessness into housing is loneliness.  Welcome Home assembles and trains a small team of volunteers to walk with someone as a friend.  This is a one-year commitment to go for coffee, go bowling, take long walks, to encourage and pray for a fellow human being on a tough stretch of the road.  ​To find out more information about volunteering contact the Welcome Home Coordinator at 780-378-2544.

Get Firsthand Experience
CRIHI's website has a strong list of opportunities where volunteers can learn by serving.  Here's the link:

Get involved in your Local Community
Visit or Join your Community League - engage in your neighbourhood's efforts to build community, go for coffee with the leadership, and learn about some of the justice issues taking place in your neighbourhood.

Explore the social dynamics in your neighbourhood
Unsure what the needs are in your community?  MAPS Alberta is a great resource to see how your neighbourhood stacks up on a range of social demographics.  Explore their Social Atlas and numerous other useful resources at:
Connect, Contribute, Inspire!

Join our Learning Community!
The Interfaith Housing Initiative was formed in response to a City of Edmonton and Province of Alberta commitment: the Ten-year-plan to End Homelessness.  Faith leaders from across the city came together to say, “Addressing homelessness is important to our communities too!  How can we help?”

Get Involved! Join the conversation! 
Sign up for our email newsletter and learn with us.  This is a monthly publication where we will be provide good information, generate ideas that work, tell each other’s stories, and share how communities and organizations around Edmonton are responding to the needs of Edmonton’s most vulnerable.

Share your stories with us!
A good story reminds us of what is possible.  The work of providing help, support and home to a neighbor is nothing new, and people of faith tell many stories that inspire.  Stories from today, or stories from a thousand years ago; we want to hear them!  Share the stories of compassion, hospitality that inspire you and your community so that their sharing can inspire others around Edmonton. 

Submit stories and insights to
Contact Us:

Mike Van Boom
CRIHI Housing Ambassador
(780) 554-2703

Religious and spiritual communities working to end homelessness in Edmonton
Copyright © 2019 Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative, All rights reserved.

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