Trinity United Church
June 20, 2021
“Connection not Perfection”
Today we are led in worship by congregants Judy Johnson and Joy Galea.
We thank them for their ministry. To see a video of the ZOOM worship, please click here.
Greeting/Welcome : CLICK HERE for video.
Acknowledgement of Territory
For tens of thousands of years, the lands on which we live, work and worship, have been occupied by indigenous peoples. Much of what we know as the North West Coast of North America was occupied by the Coast Salish Peoples. The territory where Trinity United Church of Port Coquitlam resides is the unceded territory of the Kwikwetlem First Nations.
Let us prepare our hearts and minds for worship.
Call to Worship
One Person is not enough.
Together we are powerful
The world’s problems are many and great.
Together we can change the world.
So many people in our land are in need!
Together we can help them!
So come let us worship God,
And grow with God’s loving strength.
Prayer of Approach
Loving and Holy One,
We gather with you as individuals,
Each of us with unique gifts and abilities.
By your grace, we are one people.
Through your grace, we can do great things.
Help us to worship you now
So that we might bring hope to all the world.
Hymn: “Spirit Open My Heart”MV 79 CLICK HERE
Prayer of Reconciliation and words of Assurance:
In the beginning, God dreamt of a world
where every person is valued as an individual
and where every person has a home.
In the beginning, God trusted human beings
to treat one another with respect,
with care and with justice.
But God’s dream was not humanity’s dream.
And the world as we know it took shape.
Ours is a world where some people live
in a house with three bedrooms.
And other people sleep on a mat in a shelter.
Ours is a world where some people leave the
furnace on high all winter without a thought.
And other people huddle in a shop doorway
on Shaughnessy Street to keep warm.
Ours is a world where some single people live in
spacious condominiums by Lafarge Lake.
And other people with families can barely pay
for a one-room apartment.
As people who follow Christ we are called to hear
God’s dream for us: That one day all people
will have secure and safe dwelling places.
We hear God’s dream and know:
Every person needs a place to call home.
As people who follow Christ we are called to work
towards making God’s dream of shelter and security for all people become reality.
So let us learn together.
Let us listen for God’s word,
Let us sing,
Let us study,
And let us pray.
Then let us act as we seek to make
God’s dream come true. Amen
WE HEAR THE WORD
Telling our “Not-So-Modern” Story:
Where May I Rest? - A Story of Homelessness By Judy Johnson
Denise was tired and cold. It was getting dark, and she didn’t know what to do.
Last night she slept in the car with her partner, Jack. They had found in a quiet spot in Maple Ridge. In the middle of the night the Police came by and asked them to move.
In the morning, Jack was angry because he didn’t get much sleep. He found some crystal meth (because it’s cheaper than heroin!) and got high. He drove to Walmart, where he and Denise argued about his drug-use. She wanted him to stop. That was when Jack kicked her out of the car with her sleeping bag and a sack of clothes.
Denise walked west along the Lougheed Highway, wondering what to do. Although she had used drugs in the past, she had been clean for more than 20 months. What she really wanted was a place to live, to call “home”, to be her own. That way she could stay clean and be safe from Jack’s abuse.
The sky looked grey and wet! She arrived at Shaughnessy St, turned south, then west into Lions Park. Denise had slept on park benches before, but these were too open and exposed to prying eyes. The bush around the park perimeter looked inviting. Maybe she could make a shelter there, beside the Coquitlam River. In the next hour or so, Denise carefully gathered branches and leaves to create a small (but leaky) lean-to. She settled down just as night fell. It started to snow.
Suddenly a man with a flashlight came tromping through the woods.
“Port Coquitlam Fire Department”, the man said. “We’re checking through the bush to be sure everyone is safe. You okay?”
“I-I-I-I’m fine”, Denise replied nervously.
“No candles? No fires? No propane?”
“Okay! Have a good night.” And he left.
Denise breathed a sigh of relief, and pulled her sleeping bag up under her chin.
A little while later, she heard some branches crack! Two dark shapes approached her little hovel.
“Police and By-Laws”, said one, shining a light down onto the ground.
The two Officers chatted quietly with Denise. She was sure they would move her along – just like last night. It was against the law to camp in the bush. They said the alternative was for Denise to pack up and move somewhere else. She explained that she had nowhere else to go, and the Officers listened to her story. They were compassionate and kind in their response.
“Well, we need to advise you that it IS illegal”, said the Policeman, “but you CAN stay tonight.”
“There’s an outreach worker in the park tonight”, offered the By-Law Officer. “We can make sure she comes by to see you. Maybe you can get a ride to the Tri-City Homeless Shelter. It will be better than being wet and cold out here.”
Twenty minutes later Denise stepped down from the van, and walked into the Shelter. It wasn’t a fancy place. But she received a thick mat, a blanket, a small pillow and a hot meal before she lay down to sleep. Here was a warm, dry, safe, place – with no drama about parking, or getting drenched in the wet, or arguing with Jack.
Next morning, the outreach worker talked with her again. They introduced her to someone who is looking for a more permanent place for Denise to live. It will be small and humble. There won’t be much furniture. She’ll need help with rent to begin with, plus support to sort out her life, and look for a job. But she’s clean. Her abusive partner, Jack, is out of the picture. And she has the basics to start her life anew.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
This is the witness of the early church. Thanks be to God!
Hymn: “When A Poor One” VU 702 CLICK HERE.
presented by Judy Johnson: Where May I Live?
In this reading, Paul talks about hardships that people have to endure.
Today I’d like to speak about the hardships of the homeless. If the term “homeless” brings to mind a shabbily-dressed, intoxicated man, living in an alleyway, in Vancouver… think again. The homeless are families (some with children), or young women with degrees, or men with low-paying jobs, and they are right here in the Tri-Cities.
“Homeless” is defined as anyone without a regular home. They might be: in a shelter; living on the street; couch surfing with friends; sleeping in a car; or even temporarily residing with family while they wait for permanent housing to come available.
Many people believe that the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver is where the homeless live. Yes, that’s true. Homeless do live there. The homeless also live here, around us, in the Tri-Cities, in Port Coquitlam.
In March 2020, a homeless count took place. Although the counts were never exact and the pandemic was a factor – making it difficult to enlist volunteers and tricky to find some people - there were 86 individuals identified as homeless in the Tri-Cities. This number is considered to be lower than actual homeless.
Of those 86 people, 62 were housed in shelters like: RainCity at 3030 Gordon, or at various transition homes in the area.
The demographics for the 86 were interesting: Majority were male. About 15% were female. This figure for women is higher than in previous years.
Their ages ranged across the spectrum;
19-24 years old = 10
25-55 years old = 60
>55 = 16 (several over 70 years of age
Since this homeless count, we have experienced a pandemic. When one of us had symptoms of Covid-19, we went to the hospital and were assessed. If the symptoms were mild enough, and didn’t require hospitalization, ER staff simply told people to “Go home and rest.”. Thankfully, the treatment prescribed is easy for you and I. However, those instructions – Go home and rest – are pretty much useless for a homeless person.
Because of this, BC Housing and Fraser Health Authority established an Emergency Recovery Centre for homeless people with Covid-19 symptoms. They took over a whole floor at the Sure Stay Hotel (former Best Western at Brunette and Hwy 1). Phoenix Society, an outreach organization running several shelters in the Surrey area, was brought in to operate the Recovery Centre in April 2020.
It is quite possible that you’ve never heard of this facility. It has been kept fairly quiet for the past year, because they only accept homeless people referred by Fraser Health. No one could just walk in for accommodation. People are assigned a hotel room. They receive three meals a day, and had nursing staff available 24/7 to ensure the Covid cases recovered.
As the homeless people began to recover, they had support services available. This included social workers, counselling, referrals, training programs, and guidance to find permanent housing.
The Emergency Recovery Centre has been an amazing success: They have made referrals to rehab programs, reconnected families, assisted with sorting through red tape to help people replace lost government IDs, helped identify and treat health issues such as diabetes and heart problems. They’ve arranged for proper medications… and helped people find housing!
Although the names are different, the things spoken of in Denise’s story are true. Police, Fire Department and By-Law Officers visit the camps regularly. They check on folks. Ensure they are safe. If they can – they point them in the direction of help. People like Denise could find shelter from the cold and wet.
However… A shelter is just a temporary roof over someone’s head. A bandaid solution. The real answer to homelessness is more than shelter. I’m reminded of the saying: Give a man a fish and he will eat today; Teach a man to fish and he will have food for life.
At Trinity, we have hosted a shelter and provided a meal for more than 15 years. Yet even after all this effort, homelessness continues. It is a never-ending cycle.
Recently someone told me that Finland has no homeless people. I was surprised. How could that be possible?
So I looked into that statement - “Finland has no homeless.” Could it be true?
Finland is of a comparable size to BC.
It has similar geography and a similar latitude to BC.
The population numbers are about the same as BC – 5 million people.
BC has 7 or 8,000 homeless – that we can identify.
We know the homeless numbers in BC are higher… perhaps 10,000; maybe more.
We don’t really know.
Finland has about 4,500 homeless – and I think the number is more accurate than BC’s.
Why so few homeless? What does Finland do?
Well, the Fins provide a home without preconditions.
Just let that sink in for a moment… A home without preconditions.
The Finish believe in “Housing First”.
You can call Housing First a principle, a service model or a philosophy; the main thing is treating homeless people like everybody else. The Fins see housing as a human right. So the Housing First principle means that you give a homeless person a home or a small rental apartment - without preconditions. The person is not required to solve their problems, to cure their mental illness, or to get sober to get a permanent home.
And then, in addition to receiving a home, they get support to solve their issues. This is a simple basic principle of Housing First.
So what about shelters? In Helsinki, there is a service centre for homeless people. It's probably similar to the shelters in BC. You can always go in, no matter your condition. But it's the only one shelter, with 52 beds. The person discusses their situation with a social worker. Together they make an assessment, determine what the needs are, and they try to arrange housing.
How did they make this switch? Maybe the most important structural change in Finland was that they renovated their temporary shelters and hostels into supported housing.
For example, the last big shelter that used to be in Helsinki closed in 2012. It was run by the Salvation Army, and had 250 beds. In 2012 it was completely renovated. Now they have 81 independent, modern, apartments in that same building. They also have on-site staff for support. So this structural change has probably been the crucial thing that has led to this trend of decreasing homelessness.
This is much like what BC Housing and Fraser Health have done with one floor of the Sure Stay Hotel.
What if we did Housing First in Port Coquitlam? We have been thinking of re-purposing Trinity’s church site, and including new housing with whatever we create. This is a time to consider ALL our options, to look at ALL the ways we can welcome others.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said, “Open wide your hearts also”
He encourages the Corinthians to have no restrictions on their affections; to put no obstacle in anyone’s way.
Paul lists a series of hardships people could endure, calamities, beatings, riots, sleepless nights, hunger… he doesn’t mention pandemics (not directly at least).
He says Christians will prevail through kindness, patience, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God.
Is it time to re-consider our future efforts regarding homelessness.
To “Open wide our hearts also”?
Maybe we can learn from Finland. What will it be: shelters or housing.
I believe this: Housing cures homelessness; shelters do not.
May we continue to listen for the call.
May we continue to receive the blessings.
May we continue to respond, “…without restrictions in our affections.”
May we “Open wide our hearts also.”
May we “Christians prevail through purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.”
Your offering: your financial gifts, your gifts of time and skill are what make our ministry possible. If you are not already on Pre-Authorized Remittance, we invite you to participate in our ministry by making a financial gift, either by sending a cheque to the church office, or by going to our website and clicking on the donate now button.
We are blessed. Let us pray:
Holy Three in One,
We give you thanks for our abundant lives.
Bless our offering, our time and our skills.
Our gifts are small but you make them great.
Bless those who will receive these gifts, who receive our services,
either here at Trinity or through the United Church Mission and Service.
May our actions bear witness to your love of the world.
In the name of the one who gave all for all we pray. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and intercession:
Creator God, we give you thanks for the wonders …
…All of creation sings your praise.
We thank you, Holy God.
We give thanks for your ample gifts…
…our thirst for justice and peace.
We thank you, Holy God.
We thank you for the richness of your grace…
…and everyone in between.
We thank you, Holy God.
We thank you for your call to share with others…
…because we are not alone.
We thank you, Holy God.
We pray for all who work generously…
…when we are poor or sick.
May your love abound through us.
We pray for children and elderly…
…and needs someone to listen.
May your love abound through us.
We pray for your wisdom…
…and in Canada.
May your love abound through us.
We pray for ourselves…
…into ever greater Christian faith.
The Disciples’ Prayer
WE GO FORTH
Hymn: “In Loving Partnership” VU 603 CLICK HERE.
Commissioning and Benediction
From high mountain peaks to the edges of the ocean,
from the wind-blown prairie to the snow-covered tundra,
no matter where we live, O God, you are with us:
offering us the protective shelter of your love.
But in this world you created, we need more than love for shelter, so you call us to act in places where housing is not available and not affordable.
You call us to work for justice for all, so that everyone can have safe and secure dwelling places.
Holy God, we hear your call and want to respond.
Give us the strength, courage, and wisdom we need.
Show us how to reach out to those people in our community who need our help. Encourage and guide us on this path to justice.
We pray in the name of the one who was both a refugee and homeless:
we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
By Christa Eidsness, Mandate Feb 2004