Many Canadian churches are eager to be the presence of Christ in the world – kind, compassionate and generous. But they wonder, “how can we show up and do something to positively impact our neighbours? How can we step out of our buildings and into our community?” For some big-hearted Anglican churches in St. Catharines, Ontario, the Coldest Night of the Year became their cold, bold, and creative way to do just that.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”Matthew 25:35-36
For many Christians (and many charities too), Matthew chapter 25 is an underlying foundation for their charitable efforts. This well-known parable is impossible to read by anyone, regardless of faith, without serious self-reflection. It asks us to evaluate our hearts and our actions. What are we doing to make a difference? How are we showing up in the world, whether in faith or in duty?
For the Anglicans in Action (AIC) of St. Catharines, their lives of faith and these nagging questions were the reason they decided to participate in the Coldest Night of the Year.
The Gathering of Hearts
The Anglican church exists in a parish model – with each church having their own community of souls to care for. While the St. Catharines parishes were siloed, many among them longed to work together to be a tangible presence of God’s love in the community. This desire sparked a meeting of like-minded parishioners, intent on finding a way forward.
The group that gathered aptly named themselves Anglicans in Action. Even though they came from different churches, they were all interested in grassroots, charitable, tangible action that would bring about positive change in the local community. Seeking to be those who show up, notice, and do something. But with no shortage of ways to engage or issues to address, beginning was easier said than done.
A Way Forward
Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) provided the bridge for Anglicans in Action to galvanize action and get going! In their early days, they walked in support of Start Me Up Niagara – a charitable organization who offers services and programs to individuals who face significant life challenges to provide them with opportunities to stabilize, participate, and grow.
Start Me Up Niagara has had a robust relationship with Coldest Night of the Year for a decade or more, so they were ready and able to welcome new and eager teams – exactly like Anglicans in Action. And Blue Sea had everything set up for the Anglicans in Action team leaders to move forward with. One team leader, Diane, reflected:
“It’s very well coordinated. It’s very easy to be part of. It’s very easy to be the team leader, with the website and resources, it’s easy to coordinate even through COVID. We used a few videos and off it went. And it’s a great family event.”
By gathering around a cause that was city-wide, rather than parish-centric, CNOY facilitated the momentum needed to set the group on a long journey of showing up, noticing, and doing. By staying connected to CNOY, Anglicans in Action got to know organizations, build teams, and keep walking – for the last 7 years raising more than $204,500 since.
Today, Anglicans in Action feeds over 1,000 people/week with food kits they prepare for a local food bank, whom they connected with through CNOY. What started as a walk and desire for impact turned into just that: daily food for the hungry. It was the very heart of the hope, the action that mattered most.
Prepared For You
Reflecting God’s love to a community is easier said than done for a church, and yet Anglicans in Action knew it was exactly what they needed to do. Churches need effective and engaging tools to mobilize their congregation of faithful people who long to follow the example of Christ: Feeding the hungry. Satiating the thirsty. Welcoming the strangers. Clothing those in need. Caring for the sick. Visiting the imprisoned.
It’s time to do exactly that: show up, notice, and do.