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All About Us   |    In a Nutshell

All About Us | In a Nutshell

City in Focus celebrates the sacred value of the human soul. In a world of performance and competition, we help people make space for spiritual dimensions of life within themselves and alongside others. We create this space through one-to-one pastoral engagement and events that spark thoughtful conversation.

Our goal is to further biblical Kingdom living by ministering to individuals and growing their capacity for purposeful, effective living.

Our constituency includes people of influence in business, education, health, government and ministry.

Our chaplains engage in personal, conversational ministry with people from all walks of life.

Our events are inclusive gatherings that highlight issues of social and emotional health in the context of business and public policy. Through the generous sharing of personal stories, new ideas, lessons learned, and the experience of experts, new alliances and friendships are formed.

By fostering a climate of personal spirituality and growing community connections, we care for the deepest needs of people and thereby improve the lives of families, of organizations and the city as a whole.

 

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The Reality of Sexual Exploitation

May 26, 2017 – Post by Damon Mak

Picture a full bus load of men coming to Vancouver.  And instead of going on a cruise together or sight-seeing, they come to Vancouver to buy sex from exploited women and children.

That was the essence of a comment made by one of the attendees in a conversation I had after the breakfast talk on Human Trafficking hosted by City in Focus last Friday.  

On the panel that morning was Cathy Peters (International Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate), Phil Reilly (Director of Development and Mobilization for IJM, BC), Sister Nancy Brown (Covenant House), and Gwendoline Allison (Foy Allison Law).  The discussion was mediated by Tom Cooper.

Surely human trafficking cannot be that big of a problem here in our beautiful city? We would be naïve to believe that the ads in the local newspapers for nail parlors, escorts and massage services are what they advertise.  Those are the services that publicly advertised; with the emergence of the Internet, many of those services have gone underground.  

Some other comments from the morning:

  • 20% of the prostitutes (women and men) are from the streets, and 80% from the Internet.  
  • 50% of those women are aboriginals.  
  • Globally, the sex industry accounts for $120-150 Billion USD which affects approximately 2 million children who are exploited for profit.   
  • Vancouver is the largest Sugar Daddy city.  
  • There is a child pornography problem right in the city.
  • Canada has the top 3 sites for hosting material for cyber sex trafficking.

With sex trafficking affecting so many people and of such big magnitude, why is there so little being said by our media?  It’s not difficult to deduce why.

The solution is not easy nor simple. It is multi-faceted and complex.  As our panelists pointed out, “Without addressing the demand for buying sex, we cannot hope to reduce the supply of victimized people.”  The way forward does begin locally, here in our city.  Change begins with raising awareness, increased enforcement and improved laws, education, and the pulpit.  

Need for greater awareness.  Without reports to the police, the crime hasn’t been committed; that is one of the reasons why media doesn’t talk about it.  To simply advocate that the victims go to police and report the problem is also to dismiss the emotions especially fears of a each person who are traumatized by their perpetrators.  Our society has turned prostitution into a choice–a choice of work or choice of the individual.  However, if you are poor–it is neither a choice nor is it work.  We need to name it for what it is–exploitation.

There is also a need for increased police involvement and enforcement of the law.  This will obviously require the review of our existing laws around the selling of sex and buyers of sex. It was troubling to hear a comment made during the session that the police often are not (and cannot be?) involved unless a girl goes missing, or has died from an incident.  In Vancouver, there is yet to be a someone charged for the crime.   The directive to take action needs to come from the top levels of our government and lead by the leaders of our city and police.  More, we need funding and programs to help trafficked individuals transition out of prostitution.  

There needs to be improved education.  Some of the girls that are lured into the sex industry are girls; Under aged girls who are too young and naïve to realize what is actually happening.  Trafficking of boys and girls are typically for labour or sex.  This is Vancouver I’m talking about.  Some girls from other countries are lured into the industry with the false promise of better education in Canada.  The poor are being exploited.  Education of our children needs to happen at an early age.  And it needs to begin in our homes; At the core, it’s about helping them understand their value as persons as well as educating them on the dignity of all humans and that all human life needs to be respected.

Lastly, something must change in our local churches.  The Church needs to be at the forefront of the battle in what Cathy Peters summarized as a “fight against evil.”   In other words, the weekly message from the pulpits needs to change. When we are Pro-Life, we need to be concerned about the entire life and all stages of the individual’s life–”from Womb to Tomb” as Tom Cooper exhorted. We need a renewed understanding of who we are as persons made in the image of God.  People, in particular women and children, cannot be equal if they are treated as objects–objects that can be consumed or bought and sold as commodity.  All people are precious in the heart of God.  If the Christian message is simply about being saved and going to Heaven after we die, we are perpetuating the problem.  If the Christian message is about shalom, justice, compassion, love, kindness, rescue and restoration–we, as the Body of Christ, need to take action today to live out what we in fact believe in.  This is a calling to the whole people of God, and we need to work together NOW.

“Having heard of all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce

Damon Mak
damon@cityinfocus.ca

Pilgrimage to Coquitlam: Visiting the Vancouver Focolari Home

On May 30, 2017 some City in Focus staff visited the Vancouver’s Focolari House in Coquitlam BC for dinner and conversation.

The Focolari movement was founded by Chiara Lubich, a Catholic laywoman with profound mystical sensibilities, born in 1920 in the small town of Trent in Northern Italy. Focolari communities are now present around the world, and their lay committed members – the focolarini – live in small single sex communities known as focolares. There are also some married focolarini living in community, and a great number of others who are involved in the movement at different levels of commitment. At present the focolarini number 7,160, living in 742 focolare centres in 83 countries.

Single focolarini take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and they are profoundly committed to living oneness in Christ through the oneness of community life. During our dinner, we reflected on the courage that it takes to live as single people in community as it takes to live as a couple through marriage. Through our encounter with married and celibate focolarini we reflected on the true meaning of vocation – to rediscover oneself in communion with others.

The Focolari movement is also deeply committed to ecumenism –the focolarini come from diverse Christian and cultural backgrounds, and every year Focolari organize and participate in an Ecumenical Week.

Out of the four focolari women who live in the Vancouver area, three are currently working at the Archdiocese of Vancouver, and one is working in the Roman Catholic chaplaincy of SFU. We wish them all the best with their work and their community living.

 

The | Power | Of | Words

Louise posted

After six weeks away from my desk I choose to offer you a delicious podcast for your listening pleasure.

Krista Tippett, host of ‘On Being’ podcast, interviews poet Marie Howe. Her talk had a profound effect upon me. It caused me to recognize my own thirst for the creative.  Everyone is creative and we have been hardwired with a DNA that longs to have the power unleashed.

Marie Howe appears to stumble upon the key to unlocking the power of her words. This leads her to a life devoted to poetry.  Kunitz,  from the American Academy of Poets, observed, “Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.”  Howe composes the poem below as an elergy to her brother, John, who died of HIV Aids in the eighties. It also serves as a reminder to push ourselves to live in the present moment and to find the sacred in the ordinary things.

WHAT THE LIVING DO
Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

 ENJOY LISTENING HERE TO THE PODCAST
Happy Granville Island

Happy Granville Island

Last year the federal government launched a planning initiative to reimagine what Vancouver BC’s iconic peninsula Granville Island could look like. The Granville Island 2040 Plan was a call to set a course for Granville Island’s future and to articulate its shape for the next 25 years.

Aimed to address potential for land use options, including the repurposing of Emily Carr University buildings and the potential expansion of the Public Market, the plan sought to advance the arts and cultural activity, attract new creative enterprise, and address issues of transportation, governance, and sustainability.

Happy City was brought on as a consulting partner for the Granville Island 2040 Plan. Charles Montgomery shared with stakeholder audiences the places where urban design, programming and human happiness intersect. Armed with goals and aspirations, participants were guided by Happy City in a fun and immersive stakeholder workshop to generate new ideas to grow a healthier, happier Granville Island, with the goals and measures reported to lead to further  engagement.

So much scope to do wondorous things on the special parcel of land in our city!

Just another reason to come and hear Chris Montgomery next Friday evening at Rennie Museum.  He is one of the local ‘paintbrushes’ reimagining our city.  We can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE

 

 

 

The Decline of Religion in Canada, or Not.

Unless you’ve added your Pastor as a friend on Facebook, you’re likely not going to see much religious on your feed, if anything at all. And if you still read newspapers, topics related to religion are for the most part absent.  Religion, organized religion, and the number of “church-goers,” is in the decline – but does that mean Canadians are without a faith or any faith at all?

On May 2, 2017 Dr. Angus Reid – Chairman of the Angus Reid Institute – presented on the topic of “Faith and Society: How the forces of a new era will reshape individual and collective religious experience in Canada”.  The lecture was held at St. Mark’s College Vancouver as the 2017 Annual Carr Lecture.  Dr. Reid began by presenting data from the study conducted in April 2017 which summarizes the mindset of Canadians toward religion (source: http://angusreid.org/religion-in-canada-150). The study surveyed religious belief and practice in Canada, and grouped Canadians in 5 categories according to the level of religious observance:

  • 21% of respondents were considered to be religiously committed. Of that group, women were considered more committed.
  • 30% were considered to be privately faithful. This group believed in God and prayed, and desired God; however, did not want anything to do with organized religion.
  • 30% were categorized as spiritually uncertain. These people believed in God–but that’s it.
  • The remaining 19% would consider themselves as non-believers. Unsurprisingly, this group featured a high percentage of young males.

Dr. Reid also made several interesting observations such as education having little effect on this outcome. Immigrants also make up a significant portion of the faithful. The real divide, the data concludes, is between the believers (80%) and non-believers (20%); This data completely reverses what the media and what our “secular society” has suggested in the past few decades. Moreover, while there is a decline in the attendance in churches, Canadians are still claiming to have a connection with God and faith.  Dr. Reid continued by making the observation that faith in our society has brought upon greater concern for others, increased community life, greater charitable giving, and greater satisfaction in family life.

The way forward will be a challenge, but not without hope.  Dr. Reid concluded by exhorting those in the room – including Christians and persons of other faith communities – to be good communicators (as this will be foundational for ongoing and future dialogue), to demonstrate forgiveness, mercy, and unity, and lastly, to develop leadership and be leaders at the forefront of change.

You can find an audio recording of the lecture here.

In a short conversation I had with a Muslim woman prior to the lecture, she made a beautiful claim that, while we have differences, it is our faith that will unite us. This is my first blog post here on City in Focus, and I want to begin by encouraging those who read this blog to be leaders who will demonstrate courage in the face of change, to be the light where there is darkness, to demonstrate love to those who are unloved, and to be persons of faith who live out their hope–hope in King Jesus, hope in a better tomorrow. Together we can transform our cities and the canvas of Canada.

Feel free to comment below or reach out to me at damon@cityinfocus.ca to suggest future topics or feedback anything from the post.

Blessings,

Damon

 

The True Solitude

Post by Louise

It is about now that we begin recognize our need to find a place of true solitude. To dial down and really reflect on the year gone and the year ahead. To find time, without family, friends or festivities, to create a place of spiritual reflection.

American writer, Wendell Berry, in his essay What are People For reflects :

“True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible… In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                     Wild by Emily Hughes

Consider joining Judy Graves, Tom Cooper and others in ‘front-line’ ministry at a Day Retreat, visioned to create that special space to reflect and re-calibrate. Maybe begin a new set of spiritual practices to help you sustain a healthier mission/personal balance in 2017.

More details HERE

 

Quietism

Written by Louise

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon, commonly known as Madame Guyon, ( 1648 – 1717) was a French mystic and one of the key advocates of Quietism.

Quietism was considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, and she was imprisoned from 1695 to 1703 after publishing a book on the topic.Madam Guyon

So wherefore art thou quietism in these dying days of 2016?

Is there about to be a resurgence of this practice which offers devotional contemplation and abandonment of the will. Quietism is the ultimate spirit of passivity. It tries to attain a calm acceptance of things as they are without any attempt to resist or change them.  Trump opponents urge us to resist the temptation towards quietism. But I sense a gentle slide into passivity enveloping many whereby the idea of throwing activism to the wind of God seems appealing – a respite from the pressures of willing and wanting justice and peace to be made evident in our times.

Guyon invites us into the prayer closet with alluring words indeed:

“All our care should therefore be directed towards acquiring the greatest degree of inward recollection; nor should we be discouraged by the difficulties we encounter in this exercise, which will soon be recompensed on the part of God, by such abundant supplies of grace, as will render it perfectly easy, provided we are faithful in meekly withdrawing our hearts from outward distractions and occupations, and returning to our centre, with affections full of tenderness and serenity.  When at any time the passions are turbulent, a gentle retreat inwards to a present God, easily deadens them; any other way of opposing rather irritates than appeases them.”                                                                                                                                           Guyon, Spiritual Progress

I wish that my turbulent passions could be so easily deadened through prayer!

I suspect that 2017 will see a move towards quietism – and its less radical ‘siblings’, meditation and contemplation.

 

Tom’s Christmas Message

candle-banner

One of the most popular scriptures used at Christmas is Luke 2:14,
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward all.”

It sounds delightful, a utopian goal that most of us would desire.

Yet if you look at a fuller translation, the text gets a bit more disconcerting:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people of His gracious purposes.”

So that’s the rub. If, like the angels, we glory in God, and hope to share in the announced benefits of peace and good will among each other, then we must seek to be people of His gracious purposes.

That seems at first sight to be both impossible and unknowable. But the miracle of Christmas is the birth of the baby Jesus and He is the key to the mystery.

If we follow this Jesus and live by his example and teaching then we must necessarily walk in both God’s graciousness AND in His purposes.

Jesus asks us to “love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.” As we increasingly grow in this desire and behaviour, then peace and goodwill among us all increase.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

Merry Christmas

Tom