Archive for January 2012

Wisdom in a time of “austerity”   Leave a comment

You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;

when you’re kind to the poor, you honour God.

Proverbs 14: 31 (The Message)

These are words of wisdom for all of us in this time when powerful public figures advocate “austerity” measures that slice through Canada’s social safety net.

Affordable housing in Toronto   Leave a comment

A new house in Willowdale

The following letter was submitted to The editor of The Toronto Star:

January 27, 2012

Letters to the Editor

The Toronto Star

One Yonge Street

Toronto, ON

Dear Sir;

On Tuesday, January 24, 2012 the CEO of Toronto Community Housing, Len Koroneos, wrote a column in support of the TCHC proposal to finance repairs to TCHC housing by confiscating other TCHC housing. His proposal seems to be as sensible as cutting a hole in one sleeve of my shirt in order to patch a hole in the other sleeve.

Currently the appointed Board of Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) is proposing to sell off at least 675 units of TCHC housing, and use the money gained to finance repairs that are necessary in other homes that TCHC manages. This would be taking affordable housing from those who need it to provide repairs to affordable housing to a fortunate few. Some might say that it is like robbing Peter in order to pay Paul.

The argument that Mr. Koroneos advocates boils down to a justification for repairing the homes of TCHC tenants by using money from the sale of other TCHC housing. If implemented, this means that the TCHC would have fewer homes available to rent at a time when the waiting list for affordable housing is getting longer and longer. It also means that Toronto will be moving away from a healthy community model of providing a variety of housing types in communities throughout the city.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? It is obvious that neither the City of Toronto, nor the Province of Ontario, have adequately funded the TCHC. TCHC tenants have been robbed of the money fro repairs to their homes in order to prevent tax increases for homeowners and businesses. This has resulted in a situation whereby many homes of TCHC tenants have been permitted to fall into disrepair. Some homes have been neglected to the point where they cannot be occupied without a substantial investment in repairs.

As a citizen of Toronto who wants to have affordable housing for all who require it, I am asking this question about the accountability of the TCHC Board, and the political elite who appointed this Board. Who is responsible for the decisions to under-fund the TCHC? Do these Board members live in TCHC housing? Why did the political elite not provide adequate funding for necessary repairs to TCHC housing? Do they permit their homes to fall into disrepair?

Each week I meet people in my parish who are marginally housed, and some who live on the cold concrete of Toronto’s sidewalks. There are tens of thousands of families on the waiting list for affordable housing here in Toronto. These are people who deserve a place to call home. Providing affordable housing to those who need it is a sign of a just society. We can do it.

The proposal by Mr. Koroneos would reduce the number of TCHC housing units. It does not deal with the fundamental issue of under-funding the TCHC. It also has the possibility of leading us down the road to the ghettoization of social housing in our fair city. If accepted, this would make the present Board as culpable as former TCHC Boards for an injustice perpetrated on the poor of Toronto.

Repairing the funding model is a more appropriate way for the Board of the TCHC, and their political masters, to invest their time and energy. Their current proposal seems to be as sensible as removing one door from the house to replace a broken door in another part of the house.

Yours truly;

Rev. Allan Baker, Newtonbrook United Church

cc Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Housing

cc Margarett Best, M.P.P.

Cc Mayor Ford

Cc Councillor Ainslie

A Prayer for Changing Times   Leave a comment

This path leads to ...... ?

The following prayer is based on Mark 1: 14 – 20

which was the Gospel reading for January 22, 2012

A Prayer for Changing Times

Life-giving God,

You touch our lives with healing and renewal;

with both death and resurrection.

Yet we live as if life and all creation were static.

Even in the midst of changing times

we cling to the familiar

and we hesitate to embrace new ways and new life;

we avoid risk,

and we fail to exercise our spiritual muscles of faith.

Help us heal our timidness;

may we remember the rewards of risk,

and we ask your forgiveness for our reluctance to respond

to the call of Jesus: “Follow me.”   Amen

Where will your story take you ?   Leave a comment

Chicago - The Bean

On the evening of January 18, 2012, I drove south on Yonge Street in Toronto, Canada towards the 401 highway. I noticed an intriguing slogan on a billboard for a high rise condominium development. The words on the billboard read:

“Where will your storey take you?”

The use of the word “storey” is what linguists might label as a “homophone”. In Wikipedia, a homophone is defined as:

“A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning.”

I wondered if people in the 21st century are asking:

“Where will your story take you?”

The power of our stories to determine our reality is a theme of David Korten’s book, “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. The final chapter in that inspiring book is titled: “Change the story, change the future”.

On his website, David Korten presents a matrix that compares and contrasts the “Empire Story” with the “Earth Community Story.” It can be found at:

When we first arrived at Newtonbrook United Church, Shari and I did a workshop on the topic of Korten’s book, contrasting the “old story”of Empire and domination with the “new story” of an inter-dependent earth community. The current controversy about the Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipelines is an example of two stories being in conflict with each other. When I reflect on these controversies, I think that the question for rational people is:

“Where will this story take you?”



“Where will this story take your children and grandchildren?”


Choices we make   Leave a comment


“Every tomorrow has two handles.

We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety,

or the handle of faith.”

Henry Ward Beecher

Generosity   Leave a comment

Like clouds and wind without rain 
   is one who boasts of gifts never given.

Proverbs 25:14 (NIV)

The Proverb above was used as a part of the invitation to the offering on Sunday, January 15, 2012. The people of Newtonbrook United Church were engaged in worship as a part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and their worship was offered at the 255 Finch Ave. West site of the amalgamated congregation.

Green Awakening Network   Leave a comment

Green Awakening Network

The Green Awakening Network is a group of congregations of the United Church of Canada in the City of Toronto. We have come together to share ideas and experiences, in partnership with others, on how to respond to the challenge of climate change and how to reduce our “carbon footprint.” At this time our partners are Greening Sacred Spaces and the Centre for Church Development Leadership.

As a “network”, this is not a formal organization and it is intended to act more like a faith-based resource on climate change among UCC congregations. We hope that it will be an inspiration and a catalyst for action for the wider community in which we are located.

The Green Awakening project also provides a focused and action-oriented opportunity for networking among congregations interested in “eco-justice”.

For more information on this exciting initiative – an “awakening” – go to: