A Ministry of Heartening in Disheartening Times

[Empire Remixed was born out of the Wine Before Breakfast community, an expression of the CRC Campus Ministry to the University of Toronto. I am now entering into my 25th and last year in this ministry. And so I think that it is appropriate that I share with the broader Empire Remixed readership a bit of my fundraising initiatives for this ministry. You might want to support our ministry at U of T. Or you just might enjoy the way in which I reach out in a fundraising letter. Brian]

hearten v. encourage, to take heart, inspirit, to have hope

“Hearten” is not a verb in much use these days. In the midst of such “disheartening” times, “hearten” has an almost archaic ring to it. But that is the word that Jesse used in a recent email to me.

Responding to a Wine Before Breakfast service, Jesse wrote:

This was probably the best church service
I have ever been to.
Some of
the same issues I’ve had with church
were addressed and *built upon*
rather than just critiqued.
[The service] revealed another taste
of what faith can really look like
and the scope of its impact on the
world.

And then Jesse concluded:

I am currently quite heartened, and wanted to share that with you.

Jesse is a PhD student in mathematics at the University of Toronto and has become a member of our campus ministry community this year.

At WBB Jesse finds a worship that goes beyond critique. Like many of his peers, his faith has already gone through a process of deconstruction. What he needs are the resources to reconstruct his faith. He longs for “another taste of what faith can really look like and the scope of its impact on the world.” At 7.22 on Tuesday mornings he has encountered that kind of faith, and it tastes good. He has begun to see in a new way the scope of the gospel, and he is “heartened.”

“Heart” matters to Jesse.
Here is his compelling description of Graduate Christian Fellowship:

GCF has an uncannily high proportion of kind-hearted, hilarious
critical thinkers who are intentional about building relationship.
For
me, GCF is a time of peace in a week which has a lot happening.

Isn’t it interesting that the first thing that Jesse says about the hilarious,
critically thinking, relationship building community of GCF
is that they are “kind-hearted.”

I’ve always loved the King James Version of Proverbs 4.23:

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Out of the heart are the issues of life.
Everything flows from the heart.
If you are disheartened then everything in your life is disheartened.
In the absence of kind-heartedness
there will only be a deathly hopelessness.
But where there is kind-heartedness there is peace, there is life.

It is easy to lose heart.
Whether we are facing the big issues of a climate emergency,
homelessness, inequality, rampant violence,
and deep disillusionment with the very structures of our society,
or find ourselves struggling in a highly competitive educational system,
experiencing loneliness, depression, anxiety, and a crisis of faith,
it is a rare thing to be “heartened.”

But maybe Jesse has named what campus ministry is all about.
We are in the ministry of heartening.

There is a certain “lightness” to being heartened.
To be disheartened is an incredible burden to bear.
Jesus offers a liberating invitation:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11.28)

In our campus ministry we welcome all kinds of folks
who are weary from carrying the heavy burden of dis-heartedness.
So when Jesse shares that he is “quite heartened”
you know that members of the staff team are themselves
heartened by his testimony.

And we are heartened by the faithful support that our ministry has received all these years from our various partners. The Christian Reformed Church provides something like 60% of the funds that make this campus ministry possible. Every month we receive  around $2000 from alumni, students and friends who have signed up with a Pre-Authorized Remittance (PAR) program through their financial institutions. And we provide our wider campus ministry community – including students, friends, alumni, and parents – the opportunity to support this campus ministry through our once a semester fundraising appeal.

As you might know, the CRC Campus Ministry to the University of Toronto is in a period of significant transition. You can get a glimpse of what has been going by reading our Strategic Planning in Transition report on our website. There is always a certain level of insecurity during times of transition. And I can confess that there are dimensions of these transitions in our campus ministry that can be disheartening.

So let me tell you what we need to raise before the end of this year in order to find ourselves on secure financial footing going into 2020. At the moment we are in need of something in the range of $26,000 by the end of December.

At Wine Before Breakfast we will be receiving your donations on two Offering Tuesdays – Nov. 26 and Dec. 3. And if you can’t be at either of those services, or you are more connected to Graduate Christian Fellowship or Empire Remixed, we are asking for your donations to come to the ministry before December 31.

Friends, it may sound a tad archaic,
but I like the ring of a ministry of heartening.

Writing to the Colossians, St. Paul put it this way:

I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may
have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of
God’s mystery, that is Christ himself; in whom are hidden all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge, (Col. 2.2-3)

Without encouraged hearts and unity in love,
we are stripped of assured understanding
and the knowledge of Christ himself.

Faith is stripped of any assurance when we are disheartened.

And so we work hard at a ministry of heartening.

You see, if it is true that out of the heart are the issues of life,
then this ministry of heartening is a matter of life and death.

Will you join us in a ministry of heartening through your prayers and your gifts?

In hope,

Brian Walsh

on behalf of the staff team:

Geoff Wichert
Marcia Boniferro
Deb Whalen-Blaize
Carol Scovil
Aileen Verdun

Of course, all donations are tax deductible in both Canada and the United States.

On how to give.

1. PAR. For those who have a PAR arrangement with the campus ministry, thank you. These monthly donations are absolutely foundational to our daily ministry. You can, of course, adjust your monthly giving (increase or decrease) at any time. If you would like to set up a PAR with the ministry, you can get a form for Pre-Authorized Remittances from me. Just send me an email: [email protected]

2. By cheque. Write cheques to “Classis Toronto” with “UT Campus Ministry” on the memo line and either place them in the offering bowl or mail them to:
CRC Campus Ministries
c/o Wycliffe College
5 Hoskin Ave.
Toronto, ON M5S 1H7

3. Cash donations. Place donations in the offering bowl or drop them off at the office. If you would like a receipt, please put the cash in an envelope with your name and address on it.

4. Canada Helps. Go to https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/classis-toronto-of-the-christian-reformed-church/ and then choose UoT Campus Ministry under the “Apply your donation” box.

5. Donations from the United States.

Cheques can be made out to “Christian Reformed Church”
with “University of Toronto Campus Ministry” on the memo line.

And mailed to:

Resonate Global Mission
Attn: Audrey Kinder
1700 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508-1407

[The attention to Ms Kinder is pretty important.]

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian and the CRC Campus Minister at the University of Toronto. He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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