A YEAR OF HOPE FREE­DOM ROAD

Re­li­gious groups in Win­nipeg worked to­gether in 2015 for a com­mon pur­pose and show com­pas­sion to­ward the world’s refugees

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FAITH - BY BRENDA SU­D­ER­MAN

WHEN it comes to re­li­gion, it’s easy to spot the bad signs: empty churches, di­min­ish­ing cof­fers and de­clin­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

But this is the time of year when peo­ple of faith look for the glim­mers of light, inklings of peace and signs of hope.

As 2015 draws to a close, here are some ex­am­ples of those qual­i­ties in Win­nipeg’s faith com­mu­ni­ties:

For sev­eral weeks last fall, church signs all over the city said the same thing: We Sup­port Free­dom Road. Mo­bi­lized by singer/song­writer Steve Bell, churches across the de­nom­i­na­tional spec­trum pub­licly de­clared their sup­port for an all-weather road con­nect­ing Shoal Lake 40 First Na­tion to the Tran­sCanada High­way.

About the same time, Win­nipeg min­is­ter Lynda Trono and Hindu artist Manju Lodha launched an in­ter­faith cam­paign, gath­er­ing sig­na­tures on pe­ti­tions and cards, and rais­ing aware­ness about the plight of the peo­ple of Shoal Lake 40.

On Dec. 17, that road moved closer to re­al­ity when three lev­els of gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted $30 mil­lion for the project. Later that day, a full house at the Cen­ten­nial Con­cert Hall ap­plauded Bell’s ef­forts for Shoal Lake 40 at his con­cert with the Win­nipeg Symphony Orchestra.

“When it needed an ex­tra push, we could give it an ex­tra push,” Bell says of the cam­paign he led to bring at­ten­tion to the plight of the peo­ple of Shoal Lake 40.

“At the con­cert, peo­ple re­al­ized some­thing sig­nif­i­cant had hap­pened.”

One of those sig­nif­i­cant things is the build­ing the road, but much more hap­pened here. Win­nipeg­gers from many re­li­gions worked to­gether to help their First Na­tions neigh­bours, and Bell dis­cov­ered his voice as an ad­vo­cate for so­cial jus­tice. de­vel­op­ing their parish halls, sanc­tu­ar­ies or adjacent green space into other sorts of uses, in­clud­ing apart­ments and con­dos. All Saints’ Angli­can, lo­cated at the busy cor­ner of Broad­way and Os­borne Street, is work­ing on a de­sign that could in­cor­po­rate hous­ing, com­mu­nity ser­vices and com­mer­cial devel­op­ments.

But be­fore shov­els hit the ground, peo­ple of faith have to shift their ideas about how they use their money, time and build­ings, ex­plains Rev. Brent Neu­mann, in­terim priest at All Saints’.

“Our task now is to think of dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing the work (of the church) that’s equally mean­ing­ful, and making it more rel­e­vant to the so­ci­ety as it is now,” he says.

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