I want to introduce you to various sides and aspects of the life of Sam Breakey, our Alberta Area Minister.
Sam is a pastor to pastors, has a clear mind as he communicates God’s grace and order to individuals and churches all over the Alberta Area. Sam is compassionate and wise, he is endlessly patient (I have personally experienced this) and does not seek the “limelight” but points people to the Lord he serves. Like William Carey, Sam wants people to think not of Sam Breakey but of Sam Breakey’s Christ.
Sam is a very good writer and creates and communicates policy very well indeed. He is constantly illuminating difficult areas at the personal, committee, Area of Union level (Bill Hall quoted McManus recently when declaring that a group of buzzards was called a committee which fed off the leftovers of others….enough said).
Sam has been part of two things recently that I wanted him to tell you about; the first is his memberships (along with me, in Calgary) in the Edmonton and Calgary Mustard Seed Boards. These two ministries are quite different as Sam will explain. The second thing that Sam will fill us in on is the Ottawa Street conference which he attended as a Calgary Mustard Seed board member. The conference adopted a covenantal statement that is attached and I believe to be extensively helpful and which I support.
Finally, Sam is taking a well earned 3 month sabbatical beginning in July. It is a well deserved time of renewal, reading, reflection and time with family (like Nancy, when she’s off from school where she teaches music). I wanted Sam to share with us his hopes for his sabbatical and ways in which we could pray for him.
Hugh Fraser (a gifted pastor in deed) will sub in for Sam during his break.
So, this is a Sam Breakey issue, but as Sam would have it, it is not about him but Sam’s Lord and Saviour. I am very thankful to be working with you Sam… may your sabbatical bless you and Nancy and your family.
Easter Season 2006
- As to the Mustard Seeds –
- Victoria of course was first under Gip Forester, followed by Calgary then Edmonton.
- The two Alberta Seeds are jointly sponsored by NAB – ABA and BUWC.
- As to character/passion the Seed in Victoria is built on a congregational model. It was intended to be a church for street people which, cares for needs on the side.
- Calgary began in the same mould but quickly became an inner city mission that offered ‘chaplaincy’ among other services to clients. The focus has become engaging people of the city to respond to the needs of the inner city in such a way as to enable clients to move beyond street life to self dependency.
- Edmonton sought first to become a congregation like Victoria but eventually became totally focused on responding to the current inner city need. Numbers have significantly increased through the provision of meals, a food bank, and programmes. A year ago the Board wrestled with the question – Are we a church or a service agency? And decided that the Edmonton Seed would intentionally be both. While supplying the needs of individuals was paramount a new focus would be placed on creating an inner city congregation that would integrate inner city and missional focused people from other churches who would choose to make this one their home. While ‘being church’ is not the primary purpose of the Seed like Victoria, there is a determined emphasis upon community and discipleship.
- My sabbatical – will be for four months including holiday time. My plan is to break that time into three phases – Rest, Renewal and Re-entry. The first phase will involve stepping aside from all responsibilities in both body and mind. It will take some discipline to accomplish the later but celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary on a trip with Nancy will make a difference. The second phase will focus on personal development, coming to grips with how I engage in ministry and developing healthy habits. The third phase will prepare me through reflection and study to enable me to better respond to the systemic challenges of pastoral and congregational life.
Recently I had the incredible opportunity to attend the semi-annual StreetLevel Conference in Ottawa. While the primary purpose of the event was to renew and encourage ‘street ministry’ workers, I was asked to attend as a member of the Mustard Seed Boards in Edmonton and Calgary. While there I looked over my shoulder to the mid-eighties when I was directing a ministry that focused on reintegrating those released from prison. I realized how much I could have benefited at the time from a conference such as this.
The conference was the largest to date. Organizers expected 150 but eventually there were 400 delegates from all across the country, not including a waiting list. Intentionally, the theme speakers all came from Canada. Many of those who attended had at one time lived on the street themselves. Their stories always included a chapter wherein a hand without judgement was extended their way. I particularly recall a dialogue between two executive directors of the largest street missions in Canada talked about how when they first began the ministries they each could only read at a Grade 2 reading level.
Three items particularly impressed me at the gathering. The first was the simple yet profound trust street level workers have in the power of the Gospel. Second, I recognized a deep passion to respond wholeheartedly to the words of Isaiah 58:6-7, and finally, the vibrant camaraderie being produced within the national team.
The city of Ottawa, two days before a new government was initiated, provided the opportunity to send a message to political leaders. Hundreds of signatures were penned to two large mounted copies of a document entitled “Ottawa Manifesto,” one in French and a second in English. I added my name and two more after they received an electronic copy of the document; namely our BUWC President Sam Chaise and our Executive Minister Jeremy Bell. You will find the text of the historic document below. A full page of advertising space was purchased in the Ottawa Citizen and excellent coverage was provided on television.
O T TAWA M A N I F E S T O
Regarding homelessness in Canada
Presented by the Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness at StreetLevel 2006, Ottawa, Canada
We, the members of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness, and other signatories, are representative of the many Canadian people of Christian faith who believe that the care of poor and vulnerable people of all ages is a central tenet of our own faith, of good government, and of responsible, compassionate citizenship. We have already committed signifi cant personal and organizational resources to this purpose. We have witnessed the rise of homelessness as a crisis of disturbing proportions, and of societal, systemic and individual complexity. Th e time has come to add to material action a clear, creative and challenging public voice.
We believe that Jesus Christ was and is the unique Son of God, and that he lived, died and was resurrected for our salvation.
We believe that the Bible is, in its entirety, God-breathed, and that His voice may be heard clearly throughout. And we are convinced that the teaching and example of Jesus, together with the repeated testimony of the Bible, reveal that God specifi cally values those who are poor and rejected as having been made in His image, and, therefore, as inherently precious to Him. We are convinced of the fundamental dignity and worth of each and every human being, without qualifi cation.
WE ALL NEED HOMES, NOT JUST HOUSING
A home is more than just four walls and a roof. It’s a whole life situation that means being welcomed into a safe, secure and dignified place to live; healthy, nurturing relationships; the opportunity for education, meaningful work for reasonable pay; and to worship, dream and play in vibrant community. Housing initiatives need to take these values into account, and aim at creating far more than “affordable” space.
WE ARE MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT
Drastically diff erent life circumstances can create the illusion that we are inherently diff erent beings, especially when those external differences are ones that may frighten or repulse us – such as homelessness. Th ese perceived differences allow us to distance ourselves still farther, until we can easily justify our non-engagement with people who are homeless. Yet the closer we get to people, even those whose experiences, circumstances and proclivities seem completely foreign to us, the more essentially similar we find ourselves to be.
People who are homeless have the same needs and longings we all share.
COMPASSION DEMANDS ACTION
Compassion is more than a feeling. Genuinely caring about people motivates us to take action. We must, therefore, apply ourselves to learn why people become homeless or are trapped in poverty, engage in social and political advocacy, make a point of getting to know people who may live outside our own “comfort zones”, and seek to share our time, abilities and material resources. All of these energies are directed at eff ecting material change – such as dignifi ed housing, meaningful work, or access to health care or education – in the lives of the people for whom we have compassion.
GRACE AND MERCY ARE FOR ALL OF US
Choosing to help only those who “deserve” help and leaving behind those whose behaviours we may disapprove of is prejudicial and not Biblical. Th e grace and mercy of God, upon which we all rely, are, by defi nition, only for people who are undeserving and/or guilty. Christians, knowing themselves to be by nature undeserving, ought to be able to identify with those who appear to be homeless or poor because of their own behaviours. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
IGNORING POVERTY IMPOVERISHES EVERYONE
Abandoning people to poverty increases health problems and welfare rolls, and sometimes drives people to crime – all major burdens for governments, and therefore, tax payers. Th e generational entrenchment of poverty diminishes hope (the capacity to dream) and the sense of personal value in the individual. Children, the unrealized potential of our nation, when they are born into poverty, start life so far behind others that they may never be able to catch up. Th e whole of society is enriched when the creative gifts of the poor are supported by governmental and social systems that affi rm the value of what they have to off er. When people are shut out because of their poverty, poverty itself “snowballs”, at once increasing our societal burden and diminishing our societal capacity.
Homelessness in Canada is a clear and concrete manifestation of this truth.
JUSTICE AND MERCY DEFINE GOOD GOVERNMENT
Believing that our progress is measured by our standard of care for the least privileged among us, we expect good government to formulate policy that not only works toward a level playing fi eld, but off ers “second chances” to people who have failed or done wrong. We believe that justice ought to be primarily restorative rather than punitive. We recognize that both social policies and budgets are declarations of a government’s moral intent. We will off er whatever support we can to government initiatives that are just and merciful, and will continue to use every means at our disposal to press governments at every level until such policies are made a priority. We believe that homelessness will be a priority for policy makers concerned with justice and mercy.
POVERTY BELONGS AT THE CENTRE
The Bible teaches clearly, and consistently throughout, that care of people who are poor, oppressed or marginalized is intrinsic to both the announcing of the gospel of personal salvation, and the purpose of government. Throughout western history, when governments and the church have put care of such people at the centre of their agendas, both have flourished. For perhaps 150 years, the general political and religious trends in the western world have been aimed at reducing poverty – with a significant level of success. In recent years, however, these positive trends have diminished and further marginalized people who are poor, sometimes to the point of criminalizing certain aspects of poverty. We believe that, if this trend continues, it will ultimately be disastrous for our country and our churches. Th e church in Canada has a responsibility to provide moral leadership by making a priority of caring for people who are poor, and particularly people who are homeless, in its own budgets and activities.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITY DOES NOT EXCUSE CHURCH APATHY
While various levels of government clearly have a responsibility to address these matters, the church must not succumb to a theological dichotomy whereby we construe the church’s responsibilities to concern only the spiritual, and the government’s only the physical. As communities of faith, we have different capacities than governments or social service organizations. We must be ready to provide creative leadership in some circumstances, and partnership or humble servanthood in others, in order to create realistic, dignified and sustainable options for people who are homeless.
CHRISTIAN GROUPS MAKE GOOD PARTNERS FOR GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES
Christian groups have for many years been the largest non-government service provider to the poor and homeless in North America.
In fact, many social services now funded and directed by government were begun by such groups. Since Christian teaching and practice encourages the development of functioning communities, a high level of volunteer participation, and the donation of money and other resources, we can often achieve more with less, adding value and off ering a wealth of experience and healthy community context to government resources. Already existing Christian communities off er a holistic context for the development or implementation of services and programs that government is not equipped to create on its own. We encourage Christian groups to support and partner, wherever possible, with government initiatives aimed at the substantial reduction of homelessness, poverty, and their root causes.
THEREFORE, TO OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO STRUGGLE WITH POVERTY
AND HOMELESSNESS, WE COMMIT TO…
LEARN all we can about the systemic, sociological, economic, cultural and spiritual defi cits that have left them in this state.
We will listen carefully to them, for they are our greatest teachers. We will seek out the knowledge others have acquired, and teach what we ourselves have learned to those who want to care more eff ectively for people who are poor or homeless;
ACT with diligence and integrity to create with them healthy, nurturing relationships, and safe, secure, dignifi ed homes;
SPEAK on their behalf when their own voices are not heard, and support them in speaking for themselves, to the end that Canadian churches, governments, media and businesses would make the substantial reduction of homelessness, poverty and their root causes a high priority; and
COOPERATE with others committed to these baseline objectives, respecting diff erences of approach and philosophy.
BEFORE GOD, WE MAKE THESE COMMITMENTS IN THE PLACES WHERE WE WORK AND SERVE,
IN OUR COMMUNITIES OF FAITH, AND IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES.