Archive for October 2011

Guests at Newtonbrook United Church

The following is a letter which we at Newtonbrook United Church send each month to the politicians who were elected by people in the community where we do ministry.

“Some give freely, yet grow all the richer;

others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.”

Proverbs 11:24 (NRSV)

Dear Mayor Ford:

In July 2010 the Council of the City of Toronto unanimously endorsed a report titled; “In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, housing and Homelessness.” This letter is about what happens when governments at all levels fail to take action on reports such as that one. In short, all of us suffer.

For several months I have been forwarding some statistical information about a special ministry of Newtonbrook United Church and the Taiwanese United Church in Toronto. This ministry is to people who live on the margins of our society. I know that you are interested in receiving this data each month so that you too can advocate for those for whom life is very challenging. I suspect that is one of the reasons why you voted in July 2010 to endorse the “In From the Margins” report.

On Wednesdays Newtonbrook United Church and the Taiwanese United Church in Toronto open our doors for anyone who wishes to be our guest for breakfast, or lunch. This program began eleven years ago as an “emergency” service to our community. If you have ever been at this Drop Inn you will know how humbling an experience it is. You are welcome to visit on any Wednesday from 8 am to 1pm.

I wanted to bring you some of our data for the month of October, 2011. The number of meals that we served weekly is as follows:

October 5                                          145 meals

October 12                                        167

October 19                                        155

October 26                                        156

Total                                                  623

This week there were six of our guests who also took showers here at 53 Cummer Avenue. What does it mean to have to go to a church in order to have a shower?

This ministry is funded by generous donations to our two congregations, and does not receive any financial support from other agencies or governments.

As you know, poverty can happen to anyone. Living below the poverty line is a tough job – one that I’d never want to try. It means not having enough money to purchase basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing. Here at the Drop Inn we can provide some of these, on a temporary basis, but our Drop Inn is not the long-term solution. I suspect that you and I agree on that.

Our prayer is that we might work together to improve the health and well-being of every one of the people of this great City of Toronto. We are sending this information so that you might be able to use it to advocate for those who live on the margins of our society.  Toronto City Council has asked that the In From the Margins report be acted upon, and I hope that you will lead them to do so in the areas of Toronto’s responsibility.

Yours truly,

Rev. Allan Baker

Newtonbrook United Church

53 Cummer Ave.

Toronto, M2M 2E5

Cc Councilor David Shiner


Occupy Hope – Moderator Mardi Tindal

Mardi Tindal, Moderator of The United Church of Canada, has shared some thoughts about the “# Occupy” movement in her blog. The following is an excerpt from her blog, that can be found at:

“These actions are deeply rooted in the tradition of the United Church which as early as 1934, in the midst of the Depression, called members and ministers to “to study and understand the existing social order…to arouse the Christian conscience when injustice and intolerable conditions are discovered.” The church’s 2006 report, Living Faithfully in the Midst of Empire, identifies national and global inequalities that threaten life. Indeed the richest 10 percent of adults in the world own 85 percent of global household wealth. This inequality challenges the faith we profess as followers of Jesus.
The Occupy movement has prompted strong reactions.  The New York Times characterized the outrage against the peaceful protests as “remarkably hysterical.”

Much has been made of the fact that the Occupy movement, which describes itself as “a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colours, genders, and political persuasions,” appears to have no coherent goals. What is it resisting? Where does it want to go?
For my part, I see the movement as both a search for hope and a statement of hope, made by people who have come to believe that something is deeply wrong in the staggering inequality of our current society. I don’t think it is required of anyone to provide a complete, documented solution before they’re allowed to express concern. To the contrary, recognizing that “something is not right” is the essential first step toward defining change.

Posted October 26, 2011 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

# Occupy Toronto Movement

I was asked if I was participating in “Occupy Toronto”
My response was that, since I live in Toronto, I do occupy Toronto.

Seriously though, as a song from Buffalo Springfield said,

there’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear.

A comment about the #Occupy Movement, from Jim Taylor, made in his October 23 column, is as follows:

” The system is broke. Tinkering won’t fix it. We need to replace the foundational principles of that system with something better. We don’t know yet what it is. The Wall Street occupation draws our attention to the need for re-thinking what we consider valuable.”

According to Jesus, You have heard it said … but I say to you ….



Posted October 24, 2011 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

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Al Gore in Toronto

On October 14, 2011 we attended an inspiring lecture by America’s Al Gore. The time ended with his challenge to all of us to actively promote a new way of living – a way that we in the United Church of Canada say is, “living with respect in creation.” For me, a key word in that statement of faith is the word “IN”. To live with respect in creation means that we are a part of it; we are integrated with all of the earth and all of life on earth; and the earth is no longer an “object” to be used for our purposes.

Al Gore opened my eyes to one effect of warmer water on the hydrologic cycle. His presentation enumerated, with photos, the number of extreme floods that have occurred in the past year. These are the result of additional water vapour in the air. Warmer air can hold more water; warmer water leads to more evaporation. Warmer water also leads to an expansion of the water – thanks to Alanna Mitchell for teaching me this in her book, Sea Sick. This expansion of water can lead to seaside flooding; another detrimental effect of global warming.

All of these are caused by additional carbon dioxide in the air. Yes, carbon dioxide is naturally present, and the amount varies over time. HOWEVER, there is no doubt about the fact that industrialization and consumerism, lead by western capitalism, are contributors to unnecessary and excessive amounts of carbon dioxide being present. We can change that fact. Al Gore invites us to do so. Thank you Mr. Gore!

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?

And if I am only for myself, then what am I?

And if not now, when?”    Rabbi Hillel

Posted October 21, 2011 by allanbaker in Environment, Uncategorized