Open Table grows in numbers and sense of community
Published in IMAGE, Sandy Hill Paper
There’s free food, the opportunity to meet lots of people and don’t forget to bring containers for leftovers. That’s how the Open Table advertises their monthly meal program for University of Ottawa students that has grown to serve up to 100 per month. As its numbers increase, so does the community and strength of relationships within the program.
Nov. 29 marked the third Open Table meal of the year for the Sandy Hill community and Centre 454, the basement of St. Albans church on King Edward and Daly Ave., filled with students eager to chat with one another and share the home-cooked meal.
The uOttawa and Carleton Open Table partners with 12 churches in four denominations of Christianity to provide a free monthly meal to any student who shows up. Emily Sams, community development coordinator, said she sees it as an important form of alternative ministry.
“Sometimes you don’t have the resources to make healthy and nutritious meals. Open Table was started to give students the opportunity to connect with different churches… and for churches to look after students and make sure they’re taking care of themselves,” she said.
Since the uOttawa Open Table’s launch in 2009, Sams said the goal has always been about creating a safe and welcoming space for all students. This September she said there was a huge growth spurt in the program, serving a record of 91 students at Centre 454. The Carleton program started last year after the success of the service at uOttawa.
Zack Ingles, staff manager of Open Table, said these growing numbers show that the service’s focus on “radical hospitality” is an important one.
“It’s serving students with no strings attached and doing it in Christ’s name. For those who want to go further with that, those options are there,” he said. “But for those who all they want is a free home-cooked meal, we see that as an opportunity to engage with a student we would never see otherwise.”
About one third of students at Open Table are international students, Ingles said. Regardless of whether students are involved in faith groups or not, he said it “becomes this safe and comfortable space” to meet people in the community.
Juliana Colwell, fourth year university student, has attended Open Table for the past few years and it was through the program that she heard about St. Albans which she now is heavily involved in as an intern and part of the music team. Colwell said for her it provided much more than food.
“It has given me the opportunity to meet some of my closest friends and have a guaranteed home cooked meal once a month,” she said. “Not only do you get to enjoy a meal, but you also find out what else is going on in the community.”
Ingles said it’s free food on the surface level, but “there’s a lot you can plug into like building relationships and community.” In the coming months, he said he expects the numbers will continue rising.
“Nights that we run out of food are the best nights because it means we’re doing something right, we’re spreading the message,” Ingles said. “If we’re rationing food out that’s an awesome problem to have because it means what we’re doing is a meaningful ministry in Sandy Hill.”
For more information about Open Table, go to their website at www.theopentable.ca.
Power in a Name: St Albans Re-naming service for Parishioner
Published on Crosstalk: https://issuu.com/ottawaanglican/docs/2015.11_crosstalk_-_revised/c/scn0y2a
“There is power in a name,” began Rev. Mark Whittall’s homily at St. Albans on Sunday Sept. 27.
All eyes were glued to the front from a congregation made up of friends, family and community members, some who had never been to church, others regular parishioners. Regardless of background, there was a buzzing energy in hearing original liturgy on Re-Naming a Transgender parishioner.
Rev. Whittall described the problems of the “them vs. us” mentality in Mark 9:38-50 as he explained how “people who are queer and transgender in our society and in our church understand this dynamic only too well. They know first-hand the barriers and boundaries that we set up to define who is in and who is out.”
It was Eliot Waddingham’s re-naming service, a non-binary transgender St. Albans parishioner who goes by the pronoun ‘they’. Waddingham, a history student at the University of Ottawa, is involved in St. Alban’s music team and Altar Guild, is the leader of a Bible Study and was St. Albans student intern last year. They’re a face every parishioner knows from enthusiastic announcements at church and is one of the first people to introduce themselves to anyone new walking through St. Albans doors. Waddingham attended many churches after moving to Ottawa five years ago, but stuck with St. Albans for good reason.
“When I went back the second week people actually remembered me,” they said.
Waddingham grew up in a religious Anglican household in Kingston and said it wasn’t until university they “have to start critically thinking about things you thought were fact your whole life. One of the things I started evaluating was religion and what God actually thought about people who were queer because I had met some people who were queer at this point and they didn’t seem like bad people.”
Waddingham was taught growing up that God created all people straight and deviating from that path was wrong. But after taking gender classes at university they “couldn’t understand how God could send these people to hell for who they love or how they dress.”
This led them to the question: “what if God made me non-binary Eliot?”
They began going by the name Eliot last year and are in the process of legally changing their name. But since the church had always been a big part of Waddingham’s life, they picked out liturgy from "Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality," and with Rev. Whittall adapted it to fit a St. Albans service.
The liturgy then went to Archdeacon Peter Crosby, who said this is the first service of its kind in the Diocese he’s seen in his 30 years of ordained ministry.
“When we’re doing something new, like a re-naming ceremony of transgender persons, it’s important as a way of expressing pastoral care… and who we are as a community to the person,” he said.
Bishop John Chapman approved the liturgy for trial use. Although it’s a new step for the Diocese, Crosby emphasized the church’s “experiential discernment” approach.
“Sometimes you have to take a few steps along a road and look around to understand where you are and get a clear sense of what you need to do,” Ven. Crosby said.
Rev. Whittall also referred to this in his homily, admitting we can’t understand everything but we can offer an accepting and loving community of support.
“The truth is, I may never be able to understand what it’s like to be a non-binary gendered trans person. I don’t even know if I said that right,” he said, followed by a chuckle from the congregation. “But, at least in our better moments, by the grace of God, we are able to be generous by offering our support to a fellow traveller who bears the name of Christ on their faith journey.”
Looking around the church, smiles and teary eyes all faced up at the altar. The people sitting in pews, craning their necks to get a good view, all had different backgrounds and reasons for being there. But when Rev. Whittall finished the homily, he turned to Eliot and echoed the thoughts painted across the congregation.
“Eliot, we will walk with you.”
For more information on Eliot’s experiences on gender and faith, follow their blog: http://eliotinterchange.com.
September, 2015 Echo
Mission volunteers welcome students at St. Albans annual fall BBQ. Read the article here, courtesy of the Lowertown Echo.
Campus Ministry Intern Reflects On His Experience
Crosstalk, May 2015
During this academic year I have had the privilege of participating in the St. Alban’s Student Internship Program. We’re now quickly approaching the end of our placements and I must say it’s hard to be stepping away from such an enlightening time in our lives. Thanks to GIFT funding for this internship, I have gained invaluable experience and have met some wonderful people. As interns we’ve practiced the likes of Lectio Divina with each other. With Rev. Mark Whittall’s guidance we’ve come to intentional outlook on all that we do.
Though on an individual level I only have a true appreciation for my particular placement, let me take this opportunity to share with you precisely what it has done for me. Inmy time working in Campus Ministry I was given more than just a job placement, more than just understanding the administrative aspects of the ministry. I’ve been given an irreplaceable group of friends.
I've watched our church’s Young Adult Campus Club grow from five students to eighteen. Over fifty are now involved in one way or another with you Young Adult's group. Our group meets once a week to discuss hot topics. questions, coffee, and snacks. Our main goal is to share and listen to each other’s experiences of faith in relation to the topic covered. Every gathering is approached with a high level of respect to the point that friendships carry on outside of our meetings. I’ve had students personally tell me that the sense of community we’ve been able to create has given them a place that feels like a home away from home. I’ve been told that our close-knit family has made moving into a new city and understanding faith from multiple perspectives into an enlightening experience.
I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Zack Ingles, the Youth and Young Adult Pastor. We’ve been on multiple training and youth retreats and have spent time on campus sharing our club’s message with students. Through his leadership and friendship he’s taught me invaluable lessons on both being myself and working with the diverse field of young adult ministry.
In March we worked together with two other active friends to host our very first Young Adults retreat in Gracefield, Quebec. Sixteen of us gathered together and focused on what it meant to be a community and how we go about forming supportive and motivating community.
Though my placement has had an enormous impact on me, I can see how the additional focus on opening our arms to young adults has benefited St. Albans. Though it's hard to end my placement, I look forward with great excitement to the next generation of interns. Thank you to all my friends at the St. Albans @ uOttawa Club. Thank you to the leadership team at my church. You've given me unforgettable memories and have helped me grow as a person and as a member of my community.
Campus Ministry Intern 2014/2015
It's Bono Meets Bible Studies
January 19th, 2014
CBC Ottawa Morning dropped by St. Al's @ 5 for our U2Charist: "That's the traditional eucharist infused with a whole lot of Bono."
Youth 101 Back to Basics
In March 2014, St. Albans youth minister, Zack Ingles and a host of other youth workers from Ottawa joined the Anglican Diocese of Montreal for their Youth 101 workshop series. Below is a reflection from Elizabeth Robertson, MTL Youth Team:
"It’s tempting, when working with young people, to get caught up in a whirlwind of planning and programming and projects. It makes sense; these are tangible, measurable ways of spending time with our youth. We can put them on a calendar and list them in the parish bulletin and say, “look, we have a youth program!” And there’s nothing wrong with activities in and of themselves. They can be a lot of fun. But surely youth ministry is more than just another extra-curricular activity. So if we take away all the bells and whistles, what’s left?
Focusing on values rather than organizing lots of activities seems like a simpler way of ministering to young people. And in some ways, it is. However a youth ministry based on values is much more difficult to measure than one based on programming. It takes courage to trust that what you’re building is important. You have to be able to withstand the internal and external pressure to be doing something all the time. Which is why it felt so good to get away for a quiet weekend together to share, reflect and pray."