Remember the Justice and Faith Project? Surveyors called people and organized conversations in CRC congregations across Canada to learn what justice means to Canadian CRC folk and what they’d like to do about it. We learned *a lot* together (find the results here). One of the key findings was that more than 85% of Canadian CRC members believe that doing justice is an essential part of Christian faith. Wow.
More than 85% of Canadian CRC members believe that doing justice is an essential part of Christian faith. Wow.
All the justice-related ministries in Canada* got together to respond to these results, and realized that we needed a person dedicated to supporting and coaching congregations in Canada as they live into God’s call to do justice. And here we are! Cindy Stover has just started working part-time as Justice Mobilizer for the CRC in Canada.
So without further ado, here’s a little Q & A between Cindy Stover and Do Justice editor Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan.
You’ve worked with a lot of ministries! Tell us a little about how you got here.
I’ve had the privilege to be a part of a lot of different justice initiatives, from working for a youth focused non-profit for 10 years, to travelling to various countries to support development projects, assisting survivors of human trafficking, to participating in the CRC campus ministry at the University of Toronto (Wine Before Breakfast), and even helping out with my local neighbourhood association. It may seem like a lot of disparate interests, but I’ve always found a way to get involved with things that are, at their core, about working for hope, dignity, and reconciliation.
Sometimes we act as though social justice and faith are separate parts of our lives that don’t have much to do with each other. How do you see justice and faith as connected?
It’s my understanding that a life of faith is a life of justice. As Christians, we believe in the gospel, the good news that Jesus came to pay the debt of our injustice - for our broken relationships with God, with each other, and with all of creation. Too often, we focus only on how the work of Christ reconciles us with God (which is of course primary), but we can forget that it’s also good news when we repair our relationships with our neighbours, and it’s good news when we seek God’s justice for the world we live in.
It’s my understanding that a life of faith is a life of justice.
Tell us about a time you have been inspired by your church community.
I’m really fortunate to have an awesome church community in Hamilton called Eucharist Church. We’re really a bunch of misfits who have come from various traditions, but who love our city and want to see the Kingdom of God worked out in our community. We’re still quite small, and made up of mostly young families, but this past year we saw the need for refugees to be welcomed to Canada, and so we decided to raise the funds so we could sponsor a newcomer family. Everyone in our congregation rallied around our rather untraditional toilet paper fundraising campaign, (google it, it’s a thing!) and reached out to family and friends for donations.
Once we’d raised the funds, there were quite a few months of waiting to be matched with a family, but rather than feeling like we’d accomplished everything we needed to do, we wanted to respond in the meantime to the newcomers who were already in our city. We held a welcome potluck at our church for a group of Syrian families who had just arrived in Hamilton, and we got to sit in circles and eat delicious Syrian food and get to know our new neighbours. Holding a potluck sounds like a really simple thing, but to me it was so inspiring that my church didn’t just stop at sponsoring one family, but wanted to get to know more newcomers, to build relationships with them, and to find ways to support them as they transitioned to living in our city.
Are there people in our “cloud of witnesses”, in church history or in the current day, that you look up to as people who have lived out our Micah 6:8 call faithfully and boldly?
For sure! My greatest inspiration are my own grandparents. My grandpa was a Pentecostal preacher and both he and my grandma attended the same Bible college I went to, 60 years earlier! Even though they didn't ordain women at the time, as soon as my grandma graduated, she became a travelling evangelist, preaching at those good old charismatic tent meetings. She was an awesome and determined woman of God at a time when single women weren't supposed to do anything on their own.
My grandparents taught me so much about genuine hospitality, getting your hands dirty for your faith.
Later, after their marriage, my grandparents planted churches all over northern Ontario, often literally building them with their own hands with materials salvaged from wherever they could find them. In every town they went to, my grandma not only shared in the ministry with my grandpa, but through her gardening, baking, canning, sewing and knitting, she made sure her family, and many families in the community, always had more than enough, even though they were often getting no income from the churches they were planting. In short, my grandparents taught me so much about genuine hospitality, getting your hands dirty for your faith, and that there wasn't anything a woman couldn't do, especially if she was working for the Kingdom.
What is your greatest hope for this position?
I’m excited to meet congregations that are passionate about justice and to learn all of the creative ways they’re faithfully responding to the work of the Spirit prompting them to act it out in their own communities, in Canada, and around the world. I also hope to be able to encourage and equip churches at every step of this journey, whether they have an active social justice team at work already, or whether they’re trying to discern which area of justice God is calling them to.
Is your church interested in getting more involved in the call to justice? Do you want to talk about your current work with Cindy?
If you’re in Canada, you can contact her at email@example.com or 647-444-4628.
(Americans, you can contact Kris Van Engen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
*Office of Race Relations, Diaconal Ministries Canada, Canadian Ministries, World Renew, Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, Office of Social Justice, Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee