‘Eden’ and ‘Whalley’ are not often found in the same sentence, but you can expect to hear the two words paired much more often now. A gathering at Coastal Church in downtown Vancouver October 7 saw the launch of The Message Canada and Eden Whalley.
The Message Canada is part of The Message Trust, a dynamic incarnational / missional / evangelistic movement based in Manchester, England. Eden Whalley is the first local expression of The Message Canada.
Paul Williams, executive pastor of Granville Chapel, visited The Message Trust in Manchester with a team from Vancouver earlier this year. He says:
To partner with The Message Trust presents an exciting new opportunity through which we might extend God’s love and compassion to the poor, the marginalized, the weak and the most vulnerable. Having seen the work of The Message Trust first hand, I believe Eden Whalley will be the catalyst by which this transformational ministry will spread across the Lower Mainland and throughout Canada.
Three key leaders – Andy Hawthorne, Dave Morgan and Sam Ward – described the vision and how the Eden Whalley came into being.
The Message meets Vancouver
Andy Hawthorne is at the heart of the Message. He is well known in Britain as an evangelist who has been awarded the OBE for his work with young people in Britain’s poorest communities.
Determined to see renewed Christian faith among the disaffected youth of Manchester, he set out to draw them in with music and a lively faith lived in the poorest neighbourhoods.
Beginning in the early 1990s, he and his friends created the World Wide Message Tribe, a band which sold hundreds of thousands of CDs. Eventually his team began to encourage groups of young Christians to move into some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Manchester.
“God wants to pour out his Spirit on the last and the least, he said at Coastal Church the other day. “The gospel is big and bold and changes everything.”
Hawthorne came to Vancouver two years ago, at the invitation of his old friend Bill Hogg, who is national missiologist with C2C Network Canada. Earlier this year he invited a local team to visit his work in Manchester. But it was only when he returned to Vancouver in June that he became convinced that the Message could work over here.
Key to his conviction was meeting Dave and Shaina Morgan, who have already demonstrated a commitment to Whalley, in north Surrey, home to many people living in poverty.
“We need to come alongside this guy,” said Hawthorne. “We want to help guys like Dave Morgan go from being the problem to being the answer.”
Dave Morgan’s story
Dave Morgan has worked in Whalley for the past seven years, particularly with young fathers.
He was the man of the hour at the launch, but that has certainly not always been the case. For much of his life he really was far more the problem than the answer.
The short story is that he was dyslexic, had a terrible relationship with his dad, quit school in grade nine, was gang-affiliated and was addicted to cocaine and alcohol.
Eventually, he said, “I was on the margins, in my apartment all alone . . . my life was shattered.” One day, “I just said, God, if you’re there you’ve got to help me . . . I was just like many people that are sitting on the streets in Whalley right now.”
Change didn’t take place immediately, but the long-term effect of his prayer is dramatic. The bio (testimony) on his website (They Call Me Pastor Dave) describes his more recent history:
Dave is now happily serving God as a husband, and father of three. He is the former director of a program called Stepping Up Young Fathers at Greater Vancouver Youth for Christ and also worked at Village Church in Surrey.
Dave works to encourage and support young fathers and fatherless young men that share his stories and ones like it. In the name of Jesus, throughout the inner city of Surrey is where you will find Dave these days, reaching out to the outcasts of society.
Crime, poverty and homelessness , a recent feature on CBC Radio’s The 180, highlighted the mixed nature of Whalley:
The City of Surrey is eager to re-brand the downtown core as ‘City Centre’, but to people in the area it’s called Whalley.
While it is home to the glossy new city hall and library, the neighbourhood has a reputation among Vancouverites and other Surrey residents for crime and poverty.
It’s not completely unfounded, either. According to RCMP statistics, Whalley has the highest number of reported violent crimes in the city.
Located in the north-east corner of Surrey, it also hosts a concentration of people living under the Low Income Measure.
On The 180’s road-trip through Surrey, we went just blocks north of the new city hall, where there’s a cluster of social services, such as the food bank and a homeless drop-in centre.
The Message hopes Eden Whalley will be the first of many such communities in Canada; they hope to start at least one a year from now on.
Since 1997, The Message has been involved in planting Eden teams at the heart of some of the United Kingdom’s most deprived urban communities. And Sam Ward, national director of the Eden Network, has been in the midst of the action. He moved into Openshaw in east Manchester with his wife Nicci in 2000, and they’re still there.
Ward said, “We try to get people to move in, to live incarnationally,” always in partnership with a local church. “I love Eden, it works.” he added. There are now 40 Eden communities around the United Kingdom.
Ward points out that Eden communities are always set up in poorer areas. In fact, they aim for “the top five percent” (which others might call the bottom five percent). A couple of years ago he researched the nine Eden projects planted between 1997 and 2003, noting their rankings in the English Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) produced by the UK government in both 2000 and 2010. His findings:
The IMD figures are generated from data held on income, employment, health and disability, education, skills and training, barriers to housing and services, crime and living environments. They are the government’s most accurate measure of the relative prosperity of every local area in England.
The amazing news is that in all of the nine local areas where we planted Eden projects in this period, every single one has improved in its ranking. For most, the improvement has been dramatic – and one has leapt 13,000 places (there are 32,482 areas).
Ward expects to be back in Vancouver yearly to see how things are progressing with Eden Whalley and, he hopes, other communities before too long.
To get a better sense of the history of The Message and Eden projects, go to my earlier stories:
* The Message birthed Eden: A modern-day missionary movement (November 27, 2014)
* The Message is thriving in the UK – how about in Vancouver? (May 26, 2016)