Friday, May 13, 2011

What will the Youth House Look Like?

At first the focus of the Youth Working Group was to discuss the programs for the Saint John Youth House.  We asked the main questions, "Who would this house be for?" "What will it offer?"  "How long can youth stay at the house?" "How will it compliment what is already taking place in the city for at-risk youth?"

Over time we began to ask, what kind of building we would need to facilitate our program?  What would it look like?  After several pitiful attempts at drawing circles on a flip chart it was clear we needed professional help.  :)  At this point Brendan Bates of Toss Solutions came to the table.  Brendan and the Toss Solutions team have really captured the vision for the youth house in that they all have a warm and homey feel and they are functional as well.  Toss Solutions provided three beautiful conceptual drawings.  What is remarkable about their work, aside from its quality, is that their time and skill have all been donated to the project.  This is a significant contribution for which we are truly grateful.

Option 1

You can see in Option 1 that we would use the building that housed St. James Church before its closure 6 years ago.  In this option the the building would be completely gutted.  A concrete slab would be laid with supports for a second storey.  The sanctuary would be removed and the steeple would likely be removed as well.

The first floor would include a small suite for a house parent(s).  The house parent(s) could be a responsible theological student or university student who would supervise the youth house for credit.  The intent is that the house parents would be mentors to the youth living at the house.  The ground level would also have office space, and common space including a library, games room, multipurpose space and kitchen.

The upper floor would be divided between female and male sleeping quarters.  Each side would have a common space and bathrooms.

The benefits to this option is that it would preserve the St. James building.  The community would most likely appreciate this.  Most Anglicans would as well.  Also there is ample space in this design.

The drawbacks to this option are that ongoing maintenance costs would be high.  A stone building in Saint John needs to be repointed every 10-15 years.  Stone buildings are also not energy efficient.  In order to maintain the integrity of the walls a percentage of the heat needs to radiate through the walls.

Option 2

Options 2, as indicated, is on the St. James site but it would a new build.  The exterior design has not been fully developed.  The intent, however, is to have an exterior that compliments the surrounding community

Like option 1, it would be a two storey building.  If the site allowed for it, Option 2 would also have a basement.  In this option common areas and the female bed rooms would be on the ground floor. 

The Upper floor  would include a quiet room, the House Parent's Suite, the male bed rooms, and a library.

The benefits of option 2 would be an new and energy efficient building.  

Option 3

I won't lie.  I'm personally leaning toward option 3.  This is the latest conceptual drawing offered by Toss Solutions.  In this option, the facade from St. James is preserved.  It would be a unheated and supported by the new structure.  The main doors would be removed to allow an entry way into a roofed courtyard.  I love this because it gives the feeling of sanctuary without any barrier.

In this option female bedrooms, common areas, staff areas and the small suite are all downstairs.  The upper level would house the male bedrooms and bathrooms only.

This option beautifully preserves the historic while blending it with a new and energy efficient building.  

So, there you have it.  These are some possible ways the Saint John Youth House may look.  Please post any questions or comments you may have.  I would especially appreciate comments from the committee to fill in any details that I have not.  Cheers!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where will the Saint John Youth House be located?

          At this point nothing is set in stone as far as the location of the youth house. One possible site is St. James Broad St. in the South End of the city.  This church which was closed about 6 years ago could again be a centre of hope and healing for the community.  One of the advantages of using this location is that it is somewhat removed from more concentrated areas of the drug and sex trades in our city. Yet, it is close enough for clients to access programs and high schools.  It is also on a major bus route.   
                  The Youth House is more than just a shelter.  We hope it will be a community.  It will be a place where each person is valued and respected by those living/serving in the House.  We also hope to encourage a sense of value in the surrounding community.  We hope to work with the youth in being a beneficial presence in the South end, if this is the area selected for the youth house.  A big part of this selection will depend on the support of the wider community. 

The Saint John Youth House

In the past 15 months my role in the Archdeaconry has developed from that of discerning a direction for our shared ministry to that of actualizing a shared ministry.   After 8 months of walking, talking and praying we were given a vision for ministry.  That vision is to address youth homelessness in Saint John, NB.  There are around 200 homeless people between the ages of 16 and 24 in our city.  These youth are living in unsafe environments with their families of origin, are couch surfing with friends, are living on the street or with predators (Drug dealers and/or pimps).  Our task, as we see it, is to partner with existing agencies that address youth homelessness.  In particular we hope to provide emergency housing for youth and thus strengthen the programs already in place through agencies like The John Howard Society, The Resource Centre for Youth, and One Change.  Together we believe we can provide a continuum of care that will make a difference for youth.  By providing a stable and safe environment alongside case management and educational programs we believe our Church can greatly improve the lives of many young people.  Breaking cycles of poverty and abuse today will create stronger communities tomorrow.
          Please be praying for us as we establish a board dedicated to the construction of the Youth House, and a board to direct the running of the Youth House.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The image above is of St. Paul's Church in Lewisport, NL (Thanks to Noel Loveys at This is the location where, in my 13th or 14th year, two significant events took place. The first is that it was here where I first attempted to drive a standard vehicle. The second is that this is the place where I first experienced what I have come to recognize as God's call on my life to be an ordained priest. The first experience is easy to describe - it was a terrifying and absolute failure. (I can still hear the shrieking). The second is much more elusive. However, I am finding that as I live out my calling certain aspects of it are becoming more clear to me. I'm including this in my blog because lately I have been feeling unfulfilled and listless. I'll get to why in a moment. For now, I feel that if we as a church are not feeling an excitement about our vocation it may be because we are not living it.

I experienced my discontent while I was on vacation. I had one really great week in St. John's, but my other two weeks were less than I had hoped. All my friends were working. I had no where to go and nothing to do. Before too long I was feeling rather depressed. I began to fret about going "back to work" when all of a sudden the thought of continuing my ministry in the South End gave me a real sense of peace. I became excited and more focused than I had been in days. I could not wait for my vacation to be over. All of a sudden my feeling of restlessness and apathy began to wain - I had a purpose again.

That day, which happened to be a Thursday, I prayed using the order of prayer in "Celebrating Common Prayer - The Pocket Edition." God spoke powerfully to me through the Old Testament Canticle from Isaiah 42:5-8a. Check this out:
Thus says God, who created the heavens,
Who fashioned the earth and all who dwells in it;

Who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it,

"I am the Lord and I have called you in righteousness
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

"I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind..."

The first part of this canticle is establishing who God really is - He has rightful authority and is in charge over all the earth. This is not a distant authority but a close relationship as is shown by God's provision of our very breath. This speaks to me of the freedom we have to walk intimately with God, to serve him through others, to make mistakes and even fail for God has given us grace to do even that. (Unlike failing at driving a standard, there will be no cause for shrieking - for God's grace is sufficient for us even in our failings).

The part that really jumped out at me was God's calling to walk in an upright manner before him. With his call comes his support. The purpose is to be his covenant to the people - Just as he promised Abraham - we are to be a blessing to the nations. How? By being light that people may see.

Now, I am not one to dump on vacations. I usually love vacations! But this experience brought to light a couple of things for me. First, I am hungry for community. While I was on vacation, and for the last several months, I have missed having a faith community to be a part of. I've taken steps to correct that this week. I've even selected a church to be a part of. That means I will have a community to worship with, to care for and be cared for by and to partner in mission with. Second, I have come to question churches that lack vitality, focus and action. Have they taken a vacation from their vocation? There is only one way to get it back. Together, let us allow God to lead us by the hand to be the blessing he has called us to be. This will require time to prayerfully discern God's will for us in our various contexts. It will mean reclaiming our vocation.

Practically speaking my vocation has been less than what it should be. I have limited my calling to something I do. I have defined my calling as my profession. The problem with this is that God does not want to reign in my professional life - he wants all of me. The same is true for His Church. Church is more then Sunday worship or mid-week programmes. Church is the family of God, present in the world as witnesses to the light. For me that light is expressed most fully in peace. (This is not a sleepy feeling - but is rather one of fulfillment, abundance, and excitement). My prayer is that Christ's Church may embrace God's calling fully that we may truly be a blessing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Well, June came and went with no blogs. Sorry about that. I was gone for three of the four weeks. I went to a Silent Retreat at the Villa Madonna, Clergy College in Fredericton and Boys Adventure Week at Camp Medley. I experienced different but vital aspects of community at each of these events.

Perhaps the biggest stretch for me was finding community at a silent retreat with 30 or so other people. How can one find community when you can't look at others let alone talk to them? After a couple of days I found that is was possible. Community was experienced in our common attentiveness to the Holy Spirit. With this revelation, practices like casting my gaze to the floor when passing by another ceased being cold for me and turned into a reverent awareness of the other. I felt like I was bowing to acknowledge my sister or brother as we passed each other in the hall. This community was formed by the awareness that we were on a common journey together. It was very rich.

It was easy to find community at Clergy College. All of us were partners in ministry. We were there to learn and get filled up, (this could be taken literally - the food was delicious and plentiful,) with knowledge and fellowship. There I found I had a common understanding with others, and a common need to rest, study and enjoy each others company.

And then there was the boys adventure week. We began as strangers. 4 Campers in their mid-teens, 3 Priests and 2 other Leaders. We did not have community at first, but community happened through shared experience. We shared our stories. Together we experienced things like stalking the lantern, canoeing during a down pour, suffering through my snoring... (I guess I missed out on that particular experience), and sharing adventures up and down the Saint John River all the while trying to figure out what it means to be a man of God. I feel closer to these guys now than I did at the first of the week because of the time spent.

I've been doing a lot of reflection in the past few months and even years about the need for the church to be a true expression of authentic community. Too often I believe we have been distracted by our agendas (to fill the coffers and the pew) and methods (you name the programs that, like fads, have come and gone over the past 20 years). This need for community came to a head for me while reading a book by George E. Hunter called The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity can reach the West...Again. This book stressed how actions speak louder than words, that Christianity is caught more than taught, and that the most powerful tool for evangelism is Christian hospitality. Hunter painted a beautiful picture of the the Church as the Gathered Community. How do we move from buildings and programs to this kind of understanding of ourselves - and not just by knowing it but by living it?

How about a two pronged approach to share Christian community with those living and working places like the South End? The first is simply to eat with others once a week. The goal here would be to have fellowship with other Christians while inviting our neighbours, co-workers and people we meet on the street to eat with us. The aim here is simply to bless them through hospitality and to get to know them. Just picture it: half a dozen groups meeting weekly sharing the love of Jesus naturally with relative strangers around a dinner table. The only organization required is to know where and when the group is meeting and who is bringing what to eat. Simple, right? Who knows, maybe we could even organize larger community parties two or three times a year just to get the word out and celebrate this kind of community.

The second prong is to introduce people to the faith by way of a Christian Life Community (CLC) - or something like it. CLC's are small groups that approach the Bible and its members in very personal ways. I have nothing against Bible Studies - its because of a Bible Study on Romans that I am a committed follower of Jesus today. However, I find that sometimes Bible studies are intimidating to seekers, and they allow people to hide behind arguments and opinions so that real connection between people is difficult. In a CLC hiding is more difficult. Here's an example of an outline of a CLC:
  1. People gather and share how they are coming (Ex. I am coming frustrated and weary; expectant, hopeful, blah).
  2. There is a time to centre - either music is played or there is silence
  3. Scripture is read, followed by silence and the same passage is read again
  4. People are asked how the Music and/or the Passage spoke to them (This is done in order, and passing is always an option).
  5. After a time of silence people are invited to share how God spoke to them through other members in the group.
  6. Break
  7. Teaching (On prayer methods, Aspects of God, Bible, etc)
  8. Discussion

In my experience CLC sessions last between 1 and 2 hours. The merit to this approach for me is that it dispels the notion that you need to have a degree from a Bible College in order to participate. It also address pertinent questions that the Ven. David Edwards asked recently in regards to mission: "How accessible is God?" and "Can we provide a space for people to access God?" One of the basic understandings of our faith is that God wants to be known by us. Through these meals and small groups I think we can create the space for that to happen.

God is calling us into deeper community. We were created for it. It is when we gather together, like at my silent retreat, that we can discern our common journey through the highs and lows of life. It is through this awareness that we can discover common needs: namely to belong and to be loved - Just like my experience with Clergy College. And finally after we have invested the time the sense of community will deepen through the time invested and the experiences shared - just like Boys Adventure Week.

So... Anyone free for dinner?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Prayer Action

When I tell people that I do a lot of prayer walking throughout the South End I usually get one of two responses. The first is the look of scandal and sometimes even horror. As images of soap boxes and exorcisms race through peoples' minds all they can get out is, "You do what?" I guess they would not see such things as beneficial for an outreach ministry. I tend to agree.

The second response is that of simple confusion. Many people are not familiar with prayer walking. So I thought I would describe last Friday when I went for a prayer walk with my friend John.

I met John at the Bucks at about 9:30 Friday morning. Sometimes John and I will catch up there but on this day we went straight out to the Lower South End. Though we at times walk with no clear direction, this time would be different. Based on several experiences that I had over that past week or so I hoped to pray over specific areas.

We walked past the Booth Centre and sat by the big Celtic Cross at the end of Prince William St. We prayed for the workers and children at the South End Day Care. We prayed as we felt led: that the children would be safe and healthy, and that God would provide for the day to day running of the day care.

Before we moved on, John reminded me that we should pray for our walk. I couldn't believe that I forgot this important first step. So we prayed that God would go before us; that the Lord would show us when and how to pray; that we would be open and responsive to anyone we met. Then we thanked God that we could minister in this way.

From there John and I went to Rainbow Park. We prayed that God would bless the young families that use the park. We prayed that the funding for the park would come soon. As we were praying by the Community Garden, envisioning how it could be a focal point for the community I was given an idea. "John, do you have a Frisbee?"

John and I had been praying for some time how we could break into this community. We wondered, "Could it be so simple as a game of Frisbee?" Just think about it: two or three people getting together in the park with nothing other than a Frisbee and cooler full of pop. Most people love Frisbee, and this may be just one way that we could get to know some of the locals. Who knows someday we may even throw in a Pizza at the Park and have a meal with soon-to-be-friends. The excitement we felt with this idea shows for me that this is Spirit led. So, I can't wait for our first try at Frisbee Fellowship.

Following this John and I prayed for the Saint John the Baptist RC Church. We prayed that they would be unified behind a common mission to see the Kingdom extend into the surrounding neighbourhood.

And that was a day. It took about an hour and it was incredibly uplifting.

Now I understand that Prayer Walking is not the most enjoyable activity in the winter but thankfully Spring is hear. If anyone would like to join me in this quiet but exciting ministry please let me know. I'm always up for a stroll.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What do you do every day, anyways?

People often ask me what I do on a typical day in my ministry in the South End. I’m not always sure what to say, as I have not yet had a typical day. So, I’ll describe what today was like, and then add some tidbits at the end.

My day began with Morning Prayer at 8:00 am. I have a prayer corner set up in my apartment by a window that looks over the South and Eastern sections of the South End Peninsula. I feel a strong burden to pray for the people here. My prayer focuses especially on the elementary school, the Tannery Building that is now being erected, the Vineyard and St. John’s the Baptist Church and the Retirement home. I can see them all clearly from my little prayer corner.

Following my prayer time I walked up to Stone Church to check on a few things for youth group and to touch base with the gang in the office.

At 11:30 I was at the school with dozens of hyper elementary school students to walk them to St. John the Baptist Church for the Chicken Noodle Club. This was my third Chicken Noodle Club experience. It is proving to be exhilarating. I look forward to it every week.

I then walked back to Brunswick Square to meet with a local priest to discuss the prospect of shared ministry in the South End. I find such meetings daunting at times, but confident that God’s plans are perfect, and His will will be done.

Following this, I met briefly with David to discuss my progress thus far and to consider future activities - (people to contact, ways to enter more fully into the community, etc.) I then prepared for youth group which was held from 7-9 pm. Tonight, after we caught up with the youth, Sarah Ranson and I took them to the Lower South end to pray.

On other days, such as Fridays, I usually go to Germain St. Baptist to help with the Teen Lunch Program. There are other days when I speak at various groups to spread awareness of my ministry and the needs I discover in the South End and to request prayer and other forms of support such as partnership in ministry. The rest of my time is typically spent walking and praying through the South End, preparing sermons, setting up meetings with Christian leaders and others involved in the issues affecting those in the South End and working on the Diocesan Committees I am involved with.

I hope this sheds some light on what I am doing from day to day. I would appreciate your prayers for me and for the people of the Lower South End. It is my sincere desire that together we would recognize and receive God’s wonderful love more fully.