A new project in Canada: “dwell”

The congregation is an assembly of people with similar goals. But a congregation is far more than a body of people who gather regularly for religious worship. It is also a place where people interact on other levels. And to help everyone feel at home, the New Apostolic Church in Canada has initiated a new project.

“dwell” is the name of the project that the New Apostolic Church in Canada is rolling out. The word “dwell” contains the word “we”, and stands for a group of people. “The ‘we’ in the middle is important,” Christy Eckhardt, the spokeswoman of the New Apostolic Church Canada, says. “We”, meaning the Church: every congregation and its members. “We want to dwell in peace and oneness and fulfil the vision of our Church,” she says, namely a church in which people feel at home. That is the Church’s stated objective. Any actions by the Church must therefore reflect its mission: creating warm fellowship so that everyone feels welcome and at home. This means that we need to care about our neighbour; those in our church and those around us in the community with whom we come into contact. “The climate should be inclusive, not exclusive.” That means that we should not only think about our own needs but also of people who have special needs.

Examples from the congregations

The new care programme that is being rolled out in the Canadian congregations includes defining certain groups as part of a vulnerable sector that receives specialized care and attention so that their needs are met. Included are children, youth, and senior members, for example. Of course these needs have to be ascertained first. And then ways have to be found to meet these needs. That means that all volunteers in the church in Canada who are involved with these groups in our Church—such as ministers, Sunday School teachers, youth and senior programme leaders—will be screened and receive training to ensure the safety of their charges. “This falls under our Protect Programme,” Christy Eckhardt says. At the same time, the training will cover how to accept and incorporate the needs of the disabled as well as other aspects of pastoral care.

Another aspect that has to be considered is: how do we deal with people who have dietary restrictions or allergies? “Where possible we want to provide a scent-free environment and remind all those who take part in fellowship to consider those who are at risk,” Eckhardt says. “We might enjoy heavy perfumes or like to decorate with flowers that have a strong fragrance, but we have to keep in mind that it might cause health problems for our neighbour. Making these small adjustments can sometimes make all the difference for one or the other and help them to feel safe and at home in our church.”

Safety: a big issue

Providing help in emergency situations is also part of the programme. Automated external defibrillators will be installed in congregations that have safety officers who are trained to use them. Two people will be trained in first aid and CPR in every church location. Finally, the Church is performing safety audits in all of its church buildings, creating fire evacuation plans, and providing training on how to evacuate in case of a fire. The audits and the training will be done by first aid and fire safety professionals. “All of these programmes incorporate the aspects of Care, Help, Respect Inclusive, Safe, and Trust, which, when you take the first letter of each, spells ‘Christ’,” the spokeswoman says. “With Christ we can dwell in peace and oneness.”

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Peter Johanning
Canada, Social commitment, Congregational life