Abbotsford – snapshots of faith 2
BY PETER BIGGS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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SITUATED mostly to the north of the No. 1 Highway, some 30 minutes from the Port Mann Bridge, Abbotsford – aptly named ‘city in the country’ – is a fast growing population centre. Access to the city is easy, there are four main exits into Abbotsford indicating something of its size.
Abbotsford’s growing population was 141,397 (2016 Census). Projections by the City are for the city to over 200,000. Plan for 200K is an impressive updated Community Plan anticipating Abbotsford becoming the ‘hub of the Fraser Valley’. There are innovative surveys on a variety of topics. abbotsford.ca go to Plan200K
There are scores of Christian ministries that are based in Abbotsford. More than can possibly be included here. The author has highlighted some to reflect the remarkable range of good works done in the name of Jesus in Abbotsford.
Involvement with our Punjabi neighbours, adequate explanation and acknowlegment of the Indiginous Peoples, M2W2’s inspiring work with prisoners, Youth Unlimited, Telecare Crisis Line and Communitas support of the disabled…. alas are a few of the many omissions.
The city has been described as ‘the buckle of the Bible Belt’. All told Abbotsford has around 80 churches. Northview Community Church however dwarfs all others in numbers of attendees – thought to be over 3000/week with five services..
Historically the city has had a significant ministerial. In the late 1990s, the ministerial became The Abbotsford Christian Leaders Network (ACLN) with an intentional vision to represent Christians in leadership and not have a primary focus on pastors.
Tim MacIntosh (pictured left), Senior Pastor at Heritage Alliance is the Chairperson for the ACLN. “I grew up in Vancouver, Abbotsford is different. In a restaurant you often over hear people referring to faith or church here. Also pastor’s groups (ministerials) were more localized, here we have one organization for the whole city. Although smaller clusters of pastors meet informally,” MacIntosh said.
He spoke of a long tradition of good things happening citywide with the churches, with some 15 or so years ago being the golden days. “However I do see a recent regrouping of churches connecting and working together,” he said. “Twice a year we hold Sunday evening ‘Together’ gatherings of worship, sharing and prayer, they have imparted a unique blessing (Psalm 133).”
Last September the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope ran out of funds for its breakfast program. The ACLN put out the word to churches and rescued the program by raising $35,000. Last fall 13 churches all offered the Alpha course at the same time and raised $8,000 for two large lite billboards and four bus shelters, along with joint ads in the The Abbotsford News.
Dave Murray, previously a Pastor heads up The Food Bank. “Over the 17 years I’ve been here we’ve evolved into ‘More than a Food Bank’ offering free Dental, sports camps for kids in the summer and other supports,” he told The LIGHT.
Asked what he is struck by of late at the Food Bank Dave responded, ”There is starting to be a onslaught of seniors. When one partner dies or perhaps there is a divorce, the remaining one simply cannot make ends meet.” He estimates they are seeing twice the number of seniors they did from last year, and are instituting a home delivery program for the many who simply don’t have transportation or are shut in.
Every year the Food Bank engages 37 schools for food drives and have 47 churches that also support them. “This year food donations are definitely down,”
“There is starting to be a onslaught of seniors, twice that from last year”
Social agencies in a number of municipalities have been in the news of late due to the mounting problems associated with homelessness and illegal drug use. Like Maple Ridge in 2015, last year saw a ‘tent city’ established near the Salvation Army.
The LIGHT spoke to Ian Pollard – Executive Director of The Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue. The Centre delivers an impressive range of services.
“We have rooms for both men and women which are conveniently situated around a comfortable, common area. Up to 24 beds are available each night of the year. Both Residents and guests from the community enjoy daily breakfasts/lunches,” Pollard shared. In 2016 the Centre served 159,000 meals (up 40K from 2015). Over 200 people were housed and 8,750 bed nights provided. The program component within The Centre of Hope includes such things as art classes, recreational activities, gardening and volunteering opportunities, and field trips, while continuing to provide the programs already in place such as Supportive Independent Living program, Foot Clinic, and Adult Day Program.
Though not mandated, spiritual care is provided through discussion groups, one on one conversation, and opportunities to pray with our Chaplain or our staff. “This safe environment where clients can remain throughout the day makes a significant difference in their lives and in our community,” Pollard said.
Centre of Hope 2016 Stats:
- 156 Referrals to Detox, Treatment, Recovery and Transition
- 664 Gifts given to children through the Angel Tree at Christmas.
- 563 Emergency food hampers given out.
- 20 Schools received our snack program distributing healthy snacks.)
- 49 Kids sent to camp www.careandshare.ca
• Abbotsford Christian School (ACS) Pre-school to Grade 12 abbotsfordchristian.com
• Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI) Pre-school to Grade 12 meischools.com
• St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary School – Grades 8-12 stjohnbrebeuf.ca
• St. James & St. Ann’s School – Kindergarten to Grade 7 stjameselementary.ca
• Cornerstone Christian School – Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 9 cornerstoneschool.ca
• Columbia Bible College – an undergraduate seminary (Mennonite) columbiabc.edu
• Summit Pacific College – an undergraduate seminary (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) summitpacific.ca
Lando Klassen’s HOUSE of JAMES is one of the last Christian bookstores remaining in the Lower Mainland. Big box stores like Costco, online shopping and the rise in popularity of eBooks have caused most Christian bookstores to close. The store has diversified with a coffeeshop, live music, gifts and offers strong customer support.
“We moved from Mission in 1983. Around 2008 we got into toys and opened our coffeeshop, along with a live music stage seating around 90 most Fridays/Saturdays”, Klassen said. Asked about trends he’s discerned over the years he responded, “I am seeing a dropping off of people attending church regularly, along with migration from church to church. As well people are reading less Christian books, younger folks getting their information in ‘bites’. One UFV prof told me that it’s a real challenge to get students to read books!”
Along with diversifying his ‘product’ Lando shared how much joy he gets helping customers find books/bibles that suit them. “That personal touch you can’t get from Amazon” he said. houseofjames.com
LIFE Recovery offers two residential programs for women struggling to overcome drug and/or alcohol addiction giving women a safe, drug-free environment filled with prayer, hope and loving community. Nighty-eight percent of our Residents have suffered trauma,” she said. “We use the 12 step model and individualize our approach to each person. Each home has a ‘house mom’ 24/7. Residents are encouraged to attend churches and may stay with us for up to 2 years.” LIFE Recvery ministry is set to open a third home this summer, allowing them to increase their capacity to 28 beds. Their Thrift Store is prominent at the western end of South Fraser Highway. liferecovery.ca
It’s been four years since the infamous ‘Chicken manure incident’ where Abbotsford City employees dumped manure on the site of a homeless encampment. Roundly criticized, the City has taken significant steps to address homelessness.
The LIGHT met with Dena Kae Beno who since May 2015 became the City’s Homelessness Coordinator (a new position). Her office looked something like a ‘war room’ with organizational flow charts on the walls, all reflecting something of the complex challenges homelessness presents.
“We are very actively updating our housing strategy, with a Homelessness Action Advisory Committee”, she said. Simultaneous to refining the plan, a number of initiatives are currently taking shape. One of these is the Supportive Housing Project building: 30 (subsidized) rental units opening on Gladys Avenue. A joint initiative of BC Housing, The City and Abbotsford Community Services. The LIGHT talked to Jim who is homeless. “There’s a real stima,” he said. “When you become homeless it doesn’t take long before you ‘look homeless’ and landlords just don’t want to rent to you.” Abbotsford Rental Connect seeks to address this and increase rental options by establishing secure tenant / landlord relationships and a range of supports for the tenant.
Dena works hard at drawing together agencies and the public to gain consensus around such services. “There is no ’silver bullet’ solution,” she said “But a collaborative roadmap of prevention and response.”