August 27, 2013
by Valerie Maier ““ PWRDF Diocesan Representative, Diocese of Ottawa
How do you raise awareness about poverty issues? What are some steps we can take to fulfil our baptismal covenant? What can we do to lessen suffering in the world? And is there a contemporary way to mark the Lenten season when Christians traditionally attempt to lessen material consumption and focus on spiritual growth?
Last January, the Ottawa Diocesan Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund Working Group considered these weighty questions and came up with a response they called the “˜Parish Poverty Challenge.’ The idea was for parishes across Canada to hold an event during Lent, to support PWRDF, and to inform people about poverty issues.
From this kernel of an idea, a national program developed that gave scores of parishes an opportunity to educate, inform, and build communities of hope and compassion. The Parish Poverty Challenge provided people with a chance to express their faith and take steps to build a more truly just, healthy, and peaceful world.
The PWRDF Ottawa Group contacted parishes in every Canadian diocese and urged them to come up with their own ways to inform members about poverty at home and abroad, and to raise awareness about how PWRDF helps to alleviate the social injustices that poverty causes.
Three dioceses took part: Ottawa, Saskatoon and Kootenay. Parishes across the country from Ottawa to parishes in the Kootenay held poverty lunches and suppers. St. Mark’s Saskatoon had a PWRDF Soup Kitchen Sunday. St. George’s in Westbank, BC held a bistro night with specialized coffees, music and games. The Church of the Epiphany, Ottawa, held a continental breakfast, and a whiskey tasting event took place at St. Paul’s, Kanata.
The cathedral in Kelowna, BC decorated coffee cups with statistics describing the true face of poverty in Canada and around the world. Parishioners took these home to fill with the change they spend each day on coffee and tea. After several weeks they brought cheques for the funds collected as a PWRDF donation.
All Saints, Ottawa celebrated their new organ by organizing a hymn sing. One parish made marmalade, while others in Saskatchewan and BC baked “˜tasty tortes’ and other special delicacies.
The Poverty Challenge wasn’t all about eating and drinking. It also involved engaging in education and spiritual growth. Christ Church Bells Corners in Ontario held a Lenten speakers’ series, and the spiritual team at Ottawa’s women’s shelter organized a “˜virtual pilgrimage’!
Parishioners learned that UNICEF believes as many as 30,000 children die each day due to poverty, and that 38% of the people in Canada relying on food banks are children. Nearly half the world ““ over 3 billion people– lives on less than $2.50 a day, and the cost of poverty to Canada has been estimated at some $80 billion a year.
The Lenten Poverty Challenge raised around $15,000, but more importantly it drew Anglicans across the country together. Our thoughts, prayers and actions were raised in a common cause to understand and alleviate the injustice that poverty creates.