Dear Dean: An Open Letter to Dean Del Mastro

Dear Mr. Del Mastro,
I am writing to you with great concern about your address to the House of Commons on October 21st regarding Bill C-304. Sir, so many people in Peterborough are living in horrible conditions or on the street because of the inaccessibility of affordable housing in our community. As a minister at St. John’s Anglican Church I have done funerals for to many friends who have died due to poverty and housing. For you to stand up in the house and say that this bill is “to expensive” pains me greatly. These peoples lives are worth our money and investment.

As a fellow Christian you know that how we love the poor and how we love God are intricately linked. We cannot say that housing them is just to costly, this is not an option. Continue reading

Tell Dean Housing People is Not too Expensive!!

Peterborough is suffering from an epidemic.  It is hidden pretty well, most of us can live our lives without even having to see it, but it is deadly.  It is a housing epidemic.  It is generally accepted that housing that is affordable should cost about 30% of your pre-tax income.  In Peterborough, over 50% of the population spends more then this.  To a single person on Ontario Works (welfare) an average bachelor apartment costs more to rent then their whole monthly check.  A single parent with one child living on OW will pay 95% of their income on a 2 bedroom apartment.  This has resulted in an increase in both Food Bank and Shelter usage in our city over the past couple years.  It also results in many in our community living in rooming houses that are crowded, filthy, falling apart and generally unacceptable.  For these horrible rooms many pay between $350-$500. Continue reading

The Roots + The Arcade Fire = Heck Ya

I am a sucker for covers, and this is one of the best of the last few years. And how could it not be, combine one of the best bands going (The Roots) with a song by a great Canadian Band (The Arcade Fire), what more could you want? This was at a concert in promotion of John Legend and the Roots collaboration album of Civil Rights era songs called Wake Up! which is well worth checking out!

Day #3: IT IS FINISHED!

Today I am finished! I will celebrate tomorrow morning by eating an apple, and maybe some cheese. I look forward to things becoming regular again (in many ways). But today ended with a beautiful vision of what I think the church is called to be. At St. John’s we have weekly Community Drum Circles. There is anywhere between 8 and 15 people who come to these, most of whom do not attend St. John’s. Some are very well off, some are quite poor. Some are close to 70, and some are close to 7. Some are incredibly outgoing, and some are incredibly shy. But what is beautiful about it is that it has become about much more then just drumming, but it has become a community where we care about each other, love each other, speak into each others lives. I love it, and look forward to it every week. Continue reading

Day #2: It’s Hard to Get Excited About a Can.

Growing up, was there ever that friend who was loved by all your friends moms?  You know that guy who your mom would say, “You know, you should invite that _____ kid over, I really like him!”  Well, let me tell you, I was that kid, and still am.  When I first met the beautiful woman who is now my mother in law, we hit it off at once.  Now you may be wondering “Christian, how do you do it?”  Well, let me fill you in, it is all about food.  I love food.  I get excited about food.  And not just that, I am not picky, I get excited about most food.  Mom’s would cook for me, and I would say “Mmm, this is delicious, how did you do this?” and I meant it.  So mom’s would invite me over just to eat their food because I would get so excited about it.  This is the rock on which my Mother-in-law and my relationship is built.  We enter the door of my in-laws, and once my children have been robbed from my arms and been kissed and hugged and squeezed, then Gwenda will say “Christian, I made something for you!” and my heart will start racing and I will eat some great Trinidadian dish (this will also be followed by accusations from my wife that her mom loves me more then her). Continue reading

Gustavo Gutierrez’s Definition of Poverty

“What then does being poor mean? I believe that a good definition does not exist; but we can approximate it if we say that the poor are the non-persons, the ‘in-significant ones,’ the ones that don’t count either for the rest of society, and – far too frequently – for the Christian churches.  For instance, the poor are the ones who have to wait for a week by the door of a hospital to see the physician; the poor are the ones who have no social and economic relevance, the ones disowned by means of unfair laws; the poor are the ones who have no possibility to speak to change their predicament.  The poor are the ones who constitute a despised and culturally marginalized race.  At best, the poor are present in statistics, but they do not appear in society with proper names.  We do not know the name of the poor.  They are and remain anonymous.  The poor ones are socially insignificant, but not so to God.”
-Gustavo Gutierrez Liberation Theologies, Postmodernity, and the Americas, pg. 72

Day #1: I Just Want an Apple!!

I am at the end of my first day on the poverty diet, and I don’t feel hungry, I just feel gross. I started with a package of oatmeal and found myself wishing I had chose the box of cereal instead of the three packs of oatmeal. I was board out of my skull eating it, though it didn’t help that I put in to much water so it was more like cold oatmeal soup (Yes, you are reading properly, I did mess up cooking a package of oatmeal, on which the only direction is add water).

After breakfast I found myself getting up repeatedly to go to the fridge to grab an apple, only to remember that apple’s aren’t on the list. The worst part was I said out loud, “All I want is an apple!” and my daughter responded with “Oh me too, can I have an apple Daddy?” So I had to go to the fridge, get one out, cut it up for her and watch her eat it. At one point I think the little three year old stinker was mocking me proclaiming “Mmm, this is my favorite apple!!” The oatmeal didn’t tide me over very long, so I ended up eating one of my granola bars. Only two more left. Continue reading

Something’s Happening!!

Tonight, to kick off the “Do the Math” challenge, or poverty diet, we held an event called “How Would Jesus Clean Up the Downtown”. It was meant as a time of discussion around how the Church in Peterborough can regain its prophetic voice on behalf of, and with the poor in our city. It was a powerful night! 50 people came from all different churches. There were Anglican’s, Pentecostals, Free Methodist, Christian Reform, United, House Church members, and more. A friend of mine Tamara Mann came and talked about what it is like living with mental illness in our city, and what “Good News” would be for her. A sermon was preached by a dashingly handsome young man (Ok, it was me). Also we had a time to discuss. To talk about what our churches need to do to regain our prophetic voice. Two of the candidates in our upcoming municipal election, Dean Pappas and Tim Rowat, joined us for the evening and listened carefully. All in all I came home very tired but also renewed. Something is happening in our city! Maybe the Church is rediscovering her call to minister and join those who are cast aside by our society.

On the other hand I have been eating fresh food and homemade soup like crazy this evening, because I know that I will be eating mostly canned food in the next couple of days as I do this poverty diet. My wife and I decided that she wouldn’t do it because she is breast feeding. We also decided that my 3 year old daughter would not partake in the diet because we don’t want her eating all this processed food. All this helped me realize that all I can get in this process is a glimpse of what it will be like. Many don’t have that choice. I can choose if my daughter can eat this or not. I can go back to eating whatever I want in three days. I have the choice to binge and eat all the fresh fruit I have before I start this diet. Most people living on these hampers do not have these choices. I pray that God uses this glimpse to push me farther and farther into working to build his kingdom of justice in my community. Amen.