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
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.