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

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings (or at least trying to be warm) 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.  This month, we focus on our second in the series.

Kick-off is here for our Interfaith Habitat Works project that goes through the month of March.  Still time to get a crew out!  As well, the invite to Plenary on March 20.  We're also excited to announce our first-ever Faith leaders build day on May 1 as part of our Habitat Works project.  We're inviting faith leaders from many traditions to come work together on site.  It's gonna be fun!

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


March 2019



A Judeo-Christian Reflection
Working in my Community: Part Two

Upcoming Events

Interfaith Habitat Works 2019!
Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

Faith Reflection:  Judeo-Christian

Three Hebrew Words

Shalom is a rich word in the Hebrew scriptures. encompassing "universal flourishing, wholeness and delight," according to Christian Theologian, Cornelius plantinga Jr.   Shalom is often thought of as the desire of God for all his creation; characterizing both Eden in Genesis, and in the new creation in Revelation.

Contrasted with shalom, is the Hebrew word for sin.  In Hebrew, the word sin (Chata) literally means "missing the mark; or getting it wrong."  But more broadly, Plantinga explains sin as any human action that vandalizes shalom; causing harm; breaking relationships; resisting, twisting or distorting something good, doing damage in word or deed.

Chata damages Shalom when...
We sin against another person.
Gossip...  abuse...  neglect...  or even by trying to do good in the wrong way.   

We sin against creation.
polluting...   exploiting...   neglecting our responsibilities as stewards and caretakers.

We sin against ourselves.
Accepting lies that fuel either pride or depression.  Losing our freedom to addictions and the pursuit of false hopes.

We sin against our Creator.
denying God's existence and authority; putting our trust for the future elsewhere, and sinning against others, ourselves, or the creation.

The path of restoration and healing relies heavily on Hesed; or the practice of covenant love.  It is a love commitment that binds relationships together for the long term, so that no matter what happens, the relationship holds together.    In the Bible, God forms several covenants with his people to rescue them, teach them, heal them, and restore Shalom.  By practicing hesed, God shows his commitment to his children; a stubborn love that never gives up.

So too, God wants his children to practice covenant love with each other so that our families and friendships are strong, and our communities are warm and vibrant, where everyone belongs and is cared for.  In relationships built on Hesed, we find ourselves in a circle of secure and committed love where we can put broken pieces back together, and find shalom.

As we work to care for each other in our city, may we too seek God's vision of Shalom for each other, reject actions that knowingly or unknowingly cause harm to another, and couch every work of hope and healing in the context of loving relationship. 


By Pastor Mike Van Boom, Christian Reformed Church
Working in My Community; Part Two.

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

As you begin, consider the following insights from those involved in community development work.
In our first reflection on working in our community, we reflected on the following points:
1. Look before you leap!  When learning about a neighbour or a community you are looking to engage with, be sure to spend time understanding both the empty half (needs) and the full half (assets) of the glass.

2. We considered the need to do our work with our neighbour; instead of doing for them or doing (to them) what we think they need without taking the time to listen. 

In this second reflection on doing community work, consider the following...

The Oath for Compassionate Service
  1. Listen first.
  2. Never do for another what they can do for themselves.  
  3. Limit one-way giving to emergencies; then stop.  (Sustained one-way giving creates a dependency; often diminishing a person’s capacity)
  4. Strive to empower the materially poor through employment, lending and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements. 
  5. Keep your self-interest secondary to the needs of those being served.
  6. Listen closely to those you seek to help
  7. Above all, do no harm.
(Provided by Robert Lupton in Toxic Charity)

"Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good." 

Research from around the world has found that shame - a "poverty of being"- is a major part of the brokenness that low-income people experience in relationship with themselves. ...low-income people often feel they are inferior to others.  This can paralyze the poor from taking initiative and from seizing opportunities to improve their situation, thereby locking them into material poverty. 

At the same time, the economically rich ...also suffer from a poverty of being.  In particular, development practitioner Jayakumar Christian argues that the economically rich often have 'god-complexes,' a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which they have achieved their wealth through their own efforts.  ...the way that we act toward the economically poor often communiicates - albeit unintentionally - that we are superior and they are inferior.  In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves." 

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Consider these three levels of help we can provide.    

The urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering.
Giving a sandwich to someone who is hungry; taking someone in out of the cold, or calling an ambulance for someone injured.

Restoring people to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions. 
Assistance finding housing, or a job and reconnection with their family.

A process of ongoing change that moves all people involved to right relationships to ourselves, to others, to God and to the creation.  
Helping someone find a supportive community, belonging, purpose, mentoring, healing from trauma and addictions.

*Warning:  Hurt comes when we apply the wrong intervention.
Example:  Sustained one-way giving (relief work) creates a dependency; often diminishing a person’s capacity.  (points one and three in the oath of compassion.)

Most people in North America are capable of participation in the improvement of their lives, so we should always be doing development work.  "Let's figure this out together." 

Along the way...
  1. Look for systemic issues and then also focus on advocacy. [ie. working (helping yourself) while on social assistance means reduction in benefits.]
  2. The design, implementation and evaluation should be done by all participating.

Here's a great Edmonton example of community development:

The Riverbend neighbourhood is home to a pocket of affordable housing in a community called Brander Gardens.  A circle of local organizations including the school, churches, the library, the community league, and local sports programs came together to develop an outreach program called Brander Gardens ROCKS ( that provides all kinds of different opportunities for the kids and families.  

Riverbend United Church has been a strong partner from the beginning, opening up space for programming, and providing volunteers.  Every year, they host a community meal inviting the broad community including some Syrian families.  But rather than just having church volunteers provide lunch for the community, they chose to invite BG Rocks families to participate in every stage.  So these families help plan the meal, do the shopping, and cook the meal with the church's volunteers.  This shared effort makes for a wonderful and special event that is rewarding for everybody.   

BG Rocks families gathering with Riverbend United Church members


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. 

Plenary 2019 is hosted by:
The Catholic Archdioces of Edmonton (8421 101 Ave)
Doors will open at 9:00; event begins at 9:30 with lunch to follow at 12:00.

Please RSVP at the following link:

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.  There is still time and opportunity to get involved, so come join us!

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:

Special Invite to Faith Leaders! 

CRIHI is excited to announce our first ever

Faith Leaders Work Bee!
May 1, 2019

Habitat work days usually start around 8:30 and go until the later afternoon.  If you as a faith leader are at all able, carve out a day in your schedule to come work on site with leaders from other faith traditions.  A specific invite on this front will be coming out shortly, mark your calendars!! 

...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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