Around Town: Churches supporting community, charities need a hand

Every night high-rise dwellers in Vancouver’s downtown core raise a cheer for health care and other frontline workers in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outpouring of goodwill is heartwarming, and illustrates just how widespread are the acts of kindness and the genuine desire to do good in our culture right now.

Thank you to all the people who are carrying on with their daily work despite the fears they must be feeling; there are so many examples of valour and perseverance, mostly unnoticed, that deserve praise.

So, it seems a bit odd to be highlighting ways in which Christians in particular are working for the common good – but this is, after all, Church for Vancouver . . .

Carrying on

Volunteers at Salvation Army Boundless, offering ‘to-go’ lunches. Photo: Karen Giesbrecht

The main way churches are helping out is by doing what they have been doing for a long time, but even more intentionally (not least, by looking after their own members).

One friend who has lived and ministered in the Downtown Eastside for many years recently said, “If it weren’t for the faith communities people wouldn’t be eating,” adding that “while it is important to stay home, we are still called to help.”

Ministries such as Union Gospel Mission, the Salvation Army, Mission Possible, Catholic Charities and others are working harder than ever (see stories here and here).

Some church ministries around Metro Vancouver have been forced to close down – the free children’s clothing store at my church for example – but many people and ministries are discovering creative new ways to help.

Churches supporting community

Here are a few bright spots – and one thing I particularly appreciate is that they are working with already-established community services.

City Dream Centre

City Dream Centre is preparing 1,000 food hampers.

City Dream Centre is gearing up to feed families and seniors:

In response to the current crisis, City Dream Centre is working with the Surrey School Board to deliver 1,000 food hampers to families from our inner-city schools and other families in need in our community, many of whom rely on school feeding programs. We will also distribute hampers to seniors who are without a support system in place to help them keep food in their cupboards.

Supporters can donate $50 per hamper, or volunteer to pack and distribute hampers, and more. Go here for details. Several churches are supporting City Dream Centre, including Peace Portal Alliance, Village, Citizens and Horizon.

Horizon Church

Speaking by video on their Facebook page March 27, Horizon Church lead pastor Craig Millar said:

Some people have asked, what are we doing to help the community? We’ve already done some simple things to reach for people with some foodstuffs and various things, but on a larger scale we wanted to do something. So our council met this week and we have set aside $10,000 to partner with four different groups in the city that are already doing a tremendous job. We’re just going to come alongside and help in that way.

Those four groups are the Surrey Food Bank, Cloverdale Community Kitchen, NightShift Street Ministries and City Dream Centre.

His wife, and fellow lead pastor, Shanda encouraged those who are not in high risk groups to consider volunteering, adding, “We don’t want to recreate something; they are already active in our community . . .”

Christian Life Assembly

In Langley, Christian Life Assembly has outlined its current efforts on its ‘Reaching Our Neighbours’ page, which spells out four areas of activity:

  • Food Drive: “CLA will be a drop off site for donations toward food packages for families in need with in our city of Langley”
  • BC Food Boxes of Love: “This year, CLA, we are coming to you with an opportunity to provide BC “Food” Boxes of Love to these families. We are committing to providing groceries on a weekly basis for eight weeks to 150 families.” At $25 per family per week, the total cost will be $30,000.
  • Neighbourhood Cards: “Use this printable card to reach out to those in your neighbourhoods and make an impact by showing love and compassion in the midst of fear and uncertainty.”

April 2 update: The Langley Advance wrote about CLA and Village Church: Churches offer food hampers for low income families at Thursday pickup event.

Village Church

Village Church has come up with a ‘How We Can Help During COVID-19’ page:

If you are in need and you’d like to request help:

1. Village Deliveries – If you need help getting what you need, we’d be happy to deliver! Click here to learn more.

If you’d like to volunteer to help, here are some practical ways:

1. Langley Adopt-a-School program family support. Sign up here to serve families in need who typically rely on the breakfast and lunch programs that schools provide. We have a big list of families who need support!

2. Surrey Adopt-a-School program hampers for families. Both packers and deliverers are needed starting April 1. Email [email protected] and we’ll get back to you with instructions.

3. Food Banks – Give to your local food bank. Donate food and view their list of needs – Abbotsford, here. Calgary, here. Coquitlam, here. Langley, here. Surrey, here.

4. Drop off food and clothing donations to Surrey Urban Mission. Deliver during office hours at 10776 King George Blvd, Monday – Friday between 10 – 11 am.

Immediate food needs:

    • Yogurt, cereals, fruit and veggies.

Other immediate needs:

    • Men’s underwear and warm men’s socks
    • Men’s sweatpants and jeans
    • Men’s hoodies
    • Colouring books, pencil crayons and activities for people (their homeless population) to do while in isolation at the shelter
    • Coffee

5. Food items can be delivered to NightShift Ministries as well, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for details.

6. Village Deliveries – We need drivers for Village deliveries. Click here to learn more.

7. Be neighbourly!

    • If you are doing a grocery run, reach out to your neighbour, friend, co-worker, to see if they need anything while you’re already out. Let’s help reduce the amount of people who are making grocery runs.
    • Have a green thumb? Plant a pot of flowers and deliver to your neighbour.
    • You can also offer to help people who could benefit from your tech skills, for example, helping someone file for unemployment, helping an older neighbor get set up with a Google Home or FaceTime to connect with loved ones.
    • Host online game nights (HouseParty is one app option)
    • Host Netflix parties
    • Call your local seniors home to see if there are any seniors who don’t typically have anyone to talk to and ask if you can be a relational support for them by phone – a Criminal Record Check may need to be done.

8. Donate blood – Blood banks still need donations. Visit the website here to book an appointment and to see their guidelines around donating amid COVID-19.

Broadway Church

In Vancouver, Broadway Church offers two choices under its ‘COVID-19 Help’ button:

  • ‘I Need Help’ asks whether the visitor would like a free food hamper; a call because they’re feeling lonely; access to free groceries; or access to to-go meals.
  • ‘I Want to Help’ offers the chance to deliver groceries; volunteer at the church’s CityReach food bank; or serve to-go meals, either in Vancouver or the Tri-Cities (where the Broadway PoCo Campus meets).

Broadway always operates the CityReach Care Society (“helping people prosper”) out of The Warehouse (just down the hill from the church) and out of the Port Coquitlam church.

Charities need help

Several groups are urging the federal government to support charitable organizations.


The Globe and Mail is keeping close track of the spread of COVID-19.

Last week I posted a story introducing an initiative by Cardus; the article began:

Think tank Cardus has issued a call to action to governments, philanthropic foundations and ordinary Canadians to throw an immediate financial lifeline to Canada’s charitable sector.

The federal government’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably focused on businesses and households, but it has been mostly silent on Canada’s 86,000 registered charities – “society’s shock absorbers when crisis hits.”

Cardus is therefore calling for immediate, extraordinary financial support to charities in order to protect their operations and capacity to provide crucial front-line services during and after the pandemic crisis.

Go here for their full ‘Call to Action.’

Imagine Canada

Imagine Canada, which “works to bolster the charities, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs,” sent out a press release May 26 which began:

Wage subsidies and funding announced last week by the federal government to help charities fight homelessness and prevent violence against women are an important first step, but much more government stimulus is needed to ensure charities and nonprofits survive the pandemic, according to Imagine Canada which represents 170,000 organizations in Canada’s social good sector.

Based on extensive consultation with sector leaders across Canada, Imagine Canada is projecting that three months of mandated social distancing and the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 will cause charities to lose $9.5 billion and layoff more than 117,000 employees of which the vast majority would be women.

Go here for the full statement.

Emergency Coalition of Canadian Charities

More than 200 charities – including many Christian groups such as Citizens for Public Justice, KAIROS Canada, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and World Vision – have asked Ottawa for a $10 billion stabilization fund:

The leaders of over 200 Canadian charities have written a letter to the Government of Canada asking for urgent financial support to prevent the irreparable collapse of the sector, and their vital programs, due to the COVID-19 crisis. Canada’s charities are a critical  part of the Canadian economy, contributing more than eight percent to Canada’s GDP ($162 billion in 2017) and employing more than ten percent (1.4 million) of working Canadians.

Without immediate support from the federal government, most Canadian charities will have to lay off massive numbers of employees, greatly impeding their ability to support vulnerable people and communities. Many are facing a very real threat of permanent closure.

Go here for the Emergency Coalition of Canadian Charities’ full statement.


Canada’s two major ecumenical bodies (Canadian Council of Churches, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada), along with the major group representing Christian charities (Canadian Council of Christian Charities), sent a letter to Prime Minster Justin Trudeau March 27:

Re: Increase in Wage Subsidies

Dear Prime Minister,

We listened with interest to this morning’s announcement of an increase in wage subsidies to be made available for small and medium-sized businesses, from the 10% announced earlier this week to up to 75%. This is a significant measure that will benefit many Canadians.

Such an increase was sought by many in the charitable and not-for-profit sector, which is also substantially impacted by this crisis. It is not yet clear, however, whether the expanded wage subsidy will also be available to registered charities, as the 10% subsidy is. We would welcome clarification on this point.

Again, we thank you for your continued efforts to serve and support Canadians during this time.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr. John Pellowe          Pastor Peter Noteboom            Bruce Clemenger
CEO, CCCC                            General Secretary, CCC            President, EFC

The same three groups had sent a letter March 24 – ‘Re: Gratitude for including registered charities in recent COVID-19-related announcements.’

Apr 2020

COVID-19 Global Church Hackathon – April 2, 2020 - April 4, 2020 at All Day
Postponed: Healing for Nations – April 2, 2020 - April 4, 2020 at All Day
Suspended: 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil – April 2, 2020 - April 5, 2020 at All Day
Webinar: Empowering & Developing Leaders Using Alpha – April 2, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Vancouver Pastors Prayer Zoom Meeting – April 2, 2020 at 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Cancelled: Kairos Burnaby (Tuesday evenings) – April 2, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Postponed: Journey Home Community 15th Anniversary Celebration – April 3, 2020 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Postponed: Iron Sharpens Iron Conference – April 4, 2020 at 8:30 am - 3:45 pm
15th annual Lenten Vigil for the Silenced – April 4, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Postponed: Rally in Support of Delta Hospice Society – April 4, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Cancelled: Gardens - a sacred oratorio – April 4, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Registration Closed: The Way of Compassion: A Lenten Prayer Retreat – April 5, 2020 at 9:45 am - 4:00 pm
ELO Webinar: N.T. Wright on 'Christian Leadership in the Midst of a Pandemic' – April 7, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Webinar: How to Launch Alpha Online – April 8, 2020 at 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Postponed: Love / Sick by John Cariani – April 9, 2020 at All Day
Postponed: Sole Matters: John Fluevog – April 9, 2020 at All Day
Now Full: Tax Clinic (by appointment) – April 9, 2020 at 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Cancelled: Vancouver Chamber Choir: St. John Passion – April 10, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Full: Webinar: Missional Commons – Where are We Now? – April 14, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Webinar: Living Wisely and Loving Well in the Current Crisis – April 14, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Webinar: COVID-19 and migrant/undocumented worker – April 14, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Cancelled: FaithCARE: Growing Restorative Congregations – April 15, 2020 at All Day
Webinar: How to Launch Alpha Online – April 16, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Full: Webinar: Missional Commons – Where are We Now? – April 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Cancelled: Overdose National Book Tour with Benjamin Perrin – April 16, 2020 at 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Cancelled: Almost Silent Retreat – April 16, 2020 - April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Postponed: Betty Spackman: A Creature Comfort – April 17, 2020 at All Day
Webinar: COVID-19 and the Majority World – April 17, 2020 at 6:00 am - 7:30 am
Canadian Youth Worker Prayer Call (every Friday) – April 17, 2020 - April 24, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Charter Day Webinar: Celebrating Canada's Fundamental (and Sometimes Forgetten) Freedoms – April 17, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Webinar: SOGI 123 – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – April 17, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Webinar with Derek Sloan, Candidate for Leader of Conservative Party of Canada – April 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Cancelled: New Eyes for Reading the Old Testament – April 17, 2020 - April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Postponed: Gospel Boom: The Astounding Growth of Worldwide Christianity – April 17, 2020 - April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Postponed: Tim & the Glory Boys: The Buffalo Road Show – April 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Postponed: Journey Home Refugee Support: Volunteer Training – April 18, 2020 at 8:45 am - 3:00 pm
Postponed: Brave Love Ladner – April 18, 2020 at 1:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Postponed: Alzheimer Café – April 18, 2020 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Postponed: Tim & the Glory Boys: The Buffalo Roadshow – April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Postponed: Jazz Vespers in the Valley: Greta Matassa Quartet – April 19, 2020 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Postponed: Tim & the Glory Boys: The Buffalo Roadshow – April 19, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Webinar: Prayer in a Time of COVID-19 with Brian Heasely, International Prayer Director for Prayer 24-7 – April 21, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Postponed: Roddan Jubilee Lectures: Stephanie Allen – April 21, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Postponed: Pallay: Andean Weaving of Liturgy & Design by Daniela Amestegui – April 22, 2020 at All Day
Webinar: John Lennox on "The Corona Crisis: How Should Christians Think, Act & Lead?" – April 22, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
EarthDay 2020: Towards a Green and Healthy Recovery – April 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Postponed: Pallay: Andean Weaving of Liturgy & Design by Daniela Amestegui – April 22, 2020 at 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Postponed: Spiritual Care Series: Caring for Aging Seniors (Thursday mornings) – April 23, 2020 at 9:30 am - 12:00 pm
Webinar: Social Isolation & Political Tribalism – Reversed Now, or Intensified? – April 23, 2020 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Webinar: Moral & Ethical Choice in Video Games – Are My Games Corrupting Me While I Shelter at Home? – April 23, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Virtual Cafe A Rocha – April 24, 2020 at 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Global Prayer for Tech – April 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Cancelled: Loreto Aramendi Concert – April 24, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Postponed: Everyday Theology Seminar: Share a Meal, – April 25, 2020 at 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Virtual Earth Day 2020: Uniting from Home, with Katharine Hayhoe – April 25, 2020 at 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Cancelled: Spirit(us): The Baroque Mentorship Orchestra – April 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Good Seed Sunday – April 26, 2020 at All Day
Coronavirus and the book of Job with John Walton – April 27, 2020 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Missional Commons Webinar: God and Neighbour – April 28, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Virtual Event: Business as Calling – Speaker Donna Cheung – April 30, 2020 at 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Missional Commons Webinar: God and Neighbour – April 30, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Reaching Your World: How to Share Hope During Social Distancing – April 30, 2020 at 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
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