New Vi­sion on mis­sion of jus­tice and re­newal

A Chris­tian­ity of mu­tu­al­ity, jus­tice, restora­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - DIXON CHALLONER AND REV. IAN SLOAN Dixon Challoner and Rev. Ian Sloan are mem­bers of New Vi­sion Church Coun­cil.

Two churches came to an end. An­other was born: New Vi­sion United Church. There re­ally wasn’t an amal­ga­ma­tion — the best-be­fore date had ex­pired on the two for­mer churches, and they came to an end. In their place, a com­mit­ted group of Hamil­to­ni­ans gath­ered to­gether to be a church in the ur­ban core that was in­clu­sive and di­verse, cel­e­brat­ing the iden­ti­ties of those most ex­posed to so­cial marginal­iza­tion. The group breathed new life into old bones.

We think Hamil­ton is like this. We aspire to be a part of a Hamil­ton that is like this.

Three years ago, The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor broke the news of the for­ma­tion of the new con­gre­ga­tion and the end of the two down­town United Church con­gre­ga­tions, St. Giles and Cen­te­nary. In do­ing so, the news­pa­per com­mented that Cen­te­nary and St. Giles were two of dozens of con­gre­ga­tions which, in “the next decade,” might no longer be able to af­ford to oc­cupy old and trea­sured build­ings.

New Vi­sion came into the prop­er­ties of St. Giles and Cen­te­nary when the two for­mer con­gre­ga­tions ended. New Vi­sion does not in­tend to sell ei­ther. It is ac­tively seek­ing part­ners to work with it to do more than re­tain the build­ings. We be­lieve a church ex­ists pri­mar­ily, and most im­por­tantly, be­yond the bricks and mor­tar. We be­lieve a church must be an ex­pres­sion of com­mu­nity-wide shared hope and vi­sion.

New Vi­sion be­lieves that Hamil­ton as­pires to a vi­sion of beloved com­mu­nity. “Beloved com­mu­nity” was a watch­word of Martin Luther King Jr., a key phrase for him and an as­pi­ra­tional image for so­ci­ety’s turn­ing away from race-based dis­crim­i­na­tion to­ward the unity of all races. As Hamil­ton wel­comes refugees, as we wel­come new­com­ers from around the world; as the tra­di­tional peo­ples of the lands are ac­knowl­edged anew as treaty peo­ple by those of us who are set­tlers, such a beloved com­mu­nity of all the races can come into view. But beloved com­mu­nity en­tails more than the unity of the races.

Beloved com­mu­nity ends the marginal­iza­tion of per­sons of mi­nor­ity sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity. Beloved com­mu­nity ends the marginal­iza­tion of those liv­ing in poverty.

For our part, New Vi­sion seeks to be a way for peo­ple in Hamil­ton to be­come bet­ter neigh­bours and friends. We think beloved com­mu­nity orig­i­nates in peo­ple see­ing each other and be­ing seen. We’re not ask­ing if God ex­ists or not, we’re not ask­ing whether any­one be­lieves God ex­ists or not. We sim­ply don’t think those are very good ques­tions.

The more press­ing ques­tion for us is, “What’s pos­si­ble, and how can the peo­ple of Hamil­ton shape a re­newal of Hamil­ton that brings that re­newal into the long arc of jus­tice?” New Vi­sion is part of a move­ment that looks with love and jus­tice at the en­tire com­mu­nity so that we can all say about any one part of our com­mu­nity, “that alone is not us, that alone is not ‘beloved com­mu­nity.’” We aspire to some­thing more than ren­o­vated homes and ris­ing prop­erty val­ues. We aspire to racial har­mony, pos­i­tive in­ter­faith space, the recog­ni­tion that in­di­vid­ual and com­mu­nity as­sets are an en­dur­ing con­flu­ence of pas­sion and cre­ativ­ity by which neigh­bours are truly ap­pre­ci­ated and loved. The long arc of jus­tice beck­ons us. Beloved com­mu­nity is be­fore us.

In­deed, New Vi­sion as­pires to a Chris­tian­ity that is only be­gin­ning to come into view: a Chris­tian­ity of mu­tu­al­ity, of jus­tice, of restora­tion and re­pair of neigh­bour­hoods and of per­sonal re­la­tions; a Chris­tian­ity of the heal­ing of in­di­vid­u­als, whether they are known to us as friends or as en­e­mies.

We want to join that sort of Chris­tian­ity, and we think it is al­ready here in our neigh­bour­hoods.

The long arc of jus­tice beck­ons us. Beloved com­mu­nity is be­fore us.

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