By The Venerable Bill Gray, Executive Archdeacon and Vicar General, Diocese of Montreal
The Diocese of Montreal regrets that St. James Church, Montreal and the St. James Drop in Centre could not agree on terms for a lease renewal. The expressed desire of St. James Church to ensure that diocesan safe church policy was being implemented is understandable. The Church’s need to provide a safe environment for all the community must be considered while attempting to accommodate the homeless. It is equally accepted by the Diocese that the leadership and directors of the drop in centre chose not to renew their lease. Sometimes it is necessary in times of disagreement, to take a step back, disengage, review and reflect on decisions and arrangements made.
In this respect, Diocesan Bishop Mary Irwin Gibson has stated, “The Anglican Church is committed to being a safe place for all its users. It is unfortunate that the St. James Centre was not willing or able to manage our concerns and so chose to end their lease with St. James Church. We wish them every blessing as they serve their members and their mission to the marginalized and homeless”
It is unfortunate if this situation is being interpreted by some as a lack of support and compassion by the Anglican community in Montreal for the homeless. Anglicans in Montreal have a commitment, passion and diaconal heart for social justice ministry. The Diocese and parishes of Montreal have a long standing history of direct and continued support through a myriad of community and church related organizations and programs that assist the homeless including through St. James Church.
In downtown Montreal, the Anglican Diocese of Montreal has a number of formal and contractual partnerships with many community organizations and programs. Tyndale-St. George in Little Burgundy and Action Refugiés, with continued offices located at St. James Church, targets support for new immigrants. St. Michael’s Mission is housed at the Anglican Church of St. John the Evangelist. Anglicans equally support Mile End Mission. Both organizations offer drop in support to the homeless in a variety of ways. The church building and sanctuary of St. Stephen’s, Westmount, provides a similar, every weekday drop in centre for the homeless. Anglican participation takes a variety of forms such as frequent use of diocesan owned buildings and churches, formal partnership agreements, financial donations and countless Anglican clergy and lay people who volunteer on management boards, engage in fundraising and help provide programs. The Diocesan budget annually provides tens of thousands of dollars to support these programs not including parish and individual contributions.
Other Anglican parishes also offer formal and informal accommodation for the needs of the homeless in a variety of ways. Neighbouring Anglican Churches have provided resources for assisting the St. James Drop in Centre to find alternate resources and accommodation. Amidst many challenges, as a church with a diaconal heart for service to the wider community, the poor and the marginalized, the Diocese of Montreal will continue its commitment to ministry to both the scattered as well as the gathered church.