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The Church: A Community of Visionaries

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.”

The Holy Spirit descends on the people. The people are in frenzy—people are talking in tongues and understanding various languages. Those watching do not know what to do or what is going on. “What does this mean?” they ask. Peter reminds them of the words of the prophet Joel above. Peter’s quoting the prophet Joel got me thinking about the dreams of the people of God.

Lately, I’ve given myself permission to dream.

Lately, I’ve given myself permission to dream—to hope for something that might, to some, seem unrealistic. I have started to dream about the Church’s response to various social justice issues—one of them being the refugee crisis. I’ve been imagining the possibilities to broaden and deepen the Church’s role in refugee ministry. All this dreaming and imagining has led me to ask: what if all kinds of congregations from all over the denomination were partnering with settlement service agencies?

Let me paint the picture for you: a congregation establishes a partnership with a local settlement service agency to connect with refugees. Through this partnership, the congregation’s refugee ministry is expanded and enhanced. The members form friendships with refugee newcomers. They enter into service of their neighbours, and their commitments to biblical justice, hope, and hospitality deepen. They learn from those trained in the area of immigration and settlement. They begin to understand the discrepancies between policies and practice. They begin to see that the Church can do more.

What if all kinds of congregations from all over the denomination were partnering with settlement service agencies?

One CRC classis envisioned this kind of partnership—and, since then, has put it into action: Classis British Columbia North-west. This classis has established a partnership with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C to broaden and strengthen their involvement in refugee justice ministry. Members of the classis have been able to foster relationships with those residing in the transitional housing of ISS’ Welcome Centre, particularly members of First CRC Vancouver, whose building is next to the Centre. Additionally, the classis’ decision to partner with ISS led to the creation of a refugee chaplain and community mobilizer through First CRC. This partnership and the formal addition of a chaplain position has led newcomers coming through ISS to receive the relational and community support they need from both ISS and the church. Presumably, this partnership has also benefited ISS of B.C. and its clients.  

Are you dreaming with me yet?

Are you dreaming with me yet? Here are five ways that your congregation can establish a partnership with a local settlement service agency:

  • Participate in trainings, workshops, and educational opportunities offered through the agency
  • Ask the agency about the available support network and resource base—and share your connections and resources with them as well . Do you have a resource that could fill a gap for them, whether time, talents, or treasures?
  • Brainstorm with the agency creative ways to develop a partnership. If you have a resource that they need (office space? volunteer power? connections to social networks?), how can you work together to help meet the needs of newcomers, refugees, and immigrants?
  • Volunteer at a local settlement service agency
  • Learn about the policy challenges that the agency is experiencing and how they affect refugees. How could your congregation lend your voices in support of theirs to take down barriers to successful refugee support and integration? Though many settlement workers wish that their organization could formally hold advocacy events, their close relationship with the government makes this impossible. 

Maybe these ideas are a bit ambitious. Maybe it’s not realistic for a church to establish a fully formed partnership with a settlement service agency (although the story of First CRC counters that kind of thinking). Maybe some think that it’s little crazy to put these ideas out there in the first place. I understand the hesitations—I really do. And yet, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we can dream dreams. Let’s dare to be visionaries!


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