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Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 2 · 4 years ago

Building community with David Lefneski

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

I spoke with David about building community roots and being accepted for who he is. You can read the transcript at https://traceyarial.com/blog/david-lefneski/.

My name is tracieril and I am an apologetically Canadian. Today I am speaking to one of the leaders behind southwest united mission at Church and the mission downtown. Also somebody WHO's on Anglo Family Council and all all round great guy. Here he is. I'm David the Neski and I came to Verdone when there was redund United Church and Cropert Park United Churches in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight, looking for a bilingual minister because they wanted someone to both serve the congregations English speaking but serve their French neighbors. And it's the only church advertisement I saw that one of the bilingual person which I was. So I came to Verdone and we'll well coming from. I came from a fundamentalist background. I was raised in a more pentecostal Baptist model of church and evolved towards the reformed reformation, Protestant, more mainline church. I was coming out of a French Presbyterian church in Rosemouth. I was coming out of the closets slowly and and feeling that my orientation was an issue for some and really felt when I said here and we're done, who's not welcome and they said what, everyone's welcome. I thought, Oh, there might be hope for me to simply be David Ready in in this context. And that was in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. Nineteen Ninety Eight. I've been here. How many years is that? Seventeen Years, oh, year one to my eighteen here. So I came for a ministry to what was existing at the time a large building on Woodland Fortune United Crawford, who was a smaller building, about two hundred and twenty five in the regular worship between those two congregations vibrant...

...outreach, alive to neighborhood, a sense of not United Church affiliation as much as just we serve our neighbors however we can. Marriage is baptisms. At that time there were efforts collective kitchen and Christmas baskets, but it really was a clear sense the neighbor was at the at the heart of what ministry was about. And since then, in eighteen years, the evolution is pretty incredible. We're actually sending in a space in ver done elementary. We're just yesterday there was a there was a community lunch, there was a what do you call that? Good, good food baskets, good food family, a good food family, and there was the mini market all in one day and then there was team Creuis in after that big, Long Day. Yeah, so it's a funny it's a crazy evolution. Actually it's it's kind of when your heart has to choose in the contractions of decline, whether you let contractions become how do you call that? After the contraction, then it's the growth of the heart if it expands. And as painful as the process is. We went through many years of questions, looking at our ministry, at money, at building, and thinking God's given us and with an inheritance from our forefathers and mothers and faith, they've invested in building and we said, you know, we can do better than just heat a building, we can be more active in our community. Took many years, but in two thousand and seven, two congregations joined together this agree to sell the bigger building, which cost but thirty seven thousand dollars to heat a year, and we felt it was just too too much for a one hour or a limited use and it wasn't...

...a building that could have adapted easily to community use at that time. So we sold. We took money. We invested that money and we were without a home for the office and a reach and the principle of the local school said Hey, we have room and we went to Lester B Pearson, who said we'll make a partnership with a rental space that you pay, but the partnership will include working with our youth and food needs and clothing needs. We're in a could be this faper. This is what people they've have all these a community here. You know, that could colded the schools like an inner city school. There's lots of needs, are various, various levels, and we said yeah, we can handle that. So it really we were defined and coming into the space by the community and what are the needs of the community? And this is now twound seven. Were two thousand and sixteen, so nine years it's we gave up a an address. We came to a school in the corner of our rolls and Verdone our official addresses through the school to reach our office with mail. But last week the mailman tried to deliver mail at three one, which is a totally illegal address. So hopefully no one from post Canada's listening, and you know it's because that's our number. So a taxi can pick up a senior or get something delivered, but it's not a real number because there's no ideas, there's no address. And what a good model. I like that. No, that's an address, but you do have an address because you still have the church other in the side we kept. We kept are smaller of the two churches. So Crawford Park became a Southwest Church building and this became the mission. And so we're still two locations, which is kind of being our tradition for for decades the offices out of the school and the former nurses office. Breakfast club was one of the first things that happened in this with the school because the needs of children eating every morning. So it's a tri partnership. Breakfast Cups of Quebec,...

...which is now Breakfast Cup of Canada, the school and the mission. So are volunteers who put a kitchen in the mission space at our our expense, so about thirtyzero that we put that money in, always with the blessing of the board, of the school board, and have felt really a good relationship overall with the board because of this end of the Lester d which is the furthest east this school in their whole territory and of all their schools, I would say, as I said earlier, it's kind of an inner city school. So it's not quite the norm of what West Islands about, right, and it's recognized that we can better do this together in a community model. Right. And now, one of the things you had mentioned is when I've talked to you in previous times, that you have a vision for taking this forward to combine the two, the two communities, because you really have a worship community and a community you serve, which includes many of the volunteers actually come from the community to serve too. I mean it's like, yeah, it's a really unique collection of people. And and you were talking about how, moving forward, your vision was much more united, which is really kind of interesting since that's the name of the organization you work for. It. It's yeah, and and that's the both the challenge and the strength. So how do you, as one individual, one leader, encompass those two very distinct missions? I mean, you could be two organizations if you want it to be. We could be. I mean when we put up to stained glass windows in the school at the mission, this good Samaritan and the lost sheep. We kept those because we felt their message was kind of an inclusive message. I mean, WHO's my neighbor? Who is the other? And...

...that story of the Good Samaritan helping caring for the lost sheep. You know's WHO's not included? WHO's on the edge of society or who can't read the sign, the invitation you're sending? Who who's not eating well because they can't get out of their apartment and get to the healthy food choices? Who's alone when they die? I mean very so. You know, when we put those stained glass in this building, in a public building, we're very conscious of its kind of the juck supposition of of what Church and people of Faith and what social justice or outreach and how those are almost in some way their paradoxes. And yet they are. Our motivation is to transform. I mean my Duns, I want to convert everyone to healthy eating, to healthy living, to healthy choices, to healthy lifestyle. I don't have to speak of that as a religious conversion, but yes, we want to bring change and transformation out of a message that we have lived as transform formative. So our sense of faith in God and Jesus, when we follow as Christians has never prevented us from having a Quran on our community table of the church. When people were bashing Muslim brothers and sisters, we said Hey, come to the imam. We read from the Kuran, from the Bible. We Exchange Kuran and Bible and we kept ours on our communion table. And fact, when it was stolen last year from someone who said, probably, what's it doing in a Christian church, because Christians have fundamentalist like everywhere else, and our response was to buy a new one through a Muslim family and reddicate it put it back to remind us we don't possessed truth. We're seeking after truth. And unless we try to transform our community together with school, with CLSC, with mosque, with Christian church, any group in every group willing to take the risk of a generous love and you space for community without it being contingent...

...on faith adhesion or a legions or adherents. So ours is a very alive faith. Maybe one day we have church mission in one spot. That could maybe head being would be re leaving some headaches, but in other ways, how exciting can you get to be probably the only, as we hear, the only school in Canada where a public school has a faith group that is committed to transformational models and community models of working together. That's amazing. So in one sense maybe it's still a good place to me, because the energy is there. We have respect of others. Kids today going to the Manoir, two hundred and fifty Christmas cards, homemade, recycled, singing, giving out those cards and they're looking at me and said the kids said, how do I call you? And I said, well, I'm a minister and Reverend David. I'm a community leader, so I'm David. Oh, he said, I'll call you Mr David. He said. So, I guess that's what they called teachers and I was realized. Just thought that was kind of cute, right. Yeah, that. You know, what do you call leadership? Well, as if it's transformative leadership, it's probably going to change its name over period of time, which has been true for me, has been too for you. What do you mean? Well, the fact I came as Reverend David and then we opened ourselves to more French ministry and then I came out as a gay man when I took over done nine year old as a foster son and the mother accused me of being that had a pedophile and I'm going, I guess I better talk to the elders and leaders of the church. I don't want them to hear that at IGA on band and time right, and I did and the eldership said, Oh, you're our minister and we called you here, we believe in your ministry, you're our leader, so you stay. And when fifteen people left, that's about two thousand and one. So it's quite a few years ago. They left...

...for various reasons, but the majority of a congregation and to this day has simply been supportive. And I'm just David, including my sexual orientation and including being a foster parent, a musician, a gardener, and yes, I'm the minister and community leader. So it's the evolution of what kind of adaptive leadership over time. You know, we can't stay the same and if we, if our titles the same and same job description for the last twenty years, I might be a little worried whether that's a teacher and ministrator, preacher parents, because we should be evolving, we should be changing, growing and risings new challenges. So in terms of you were saying that my name of my podcast is funny because it's unapologetically Canadian. What do you think of when you hear the Word Canadian? Oh my Lord, I'm in Quebec. I came thirty, whatever, more than thirty years ago. How can from Ontario, southern Ontario. I learned French. My first eighteen years were offlan set, complet Nofron said. Then I went into more bilingual. I'd say I use my French here. Probably half half my work is now in French. Anything relating to the public is done in French. Anything we do we do bilingually, in our paperwork and our invitations. We try to do much in our worship, weddings, by a course baptism and in language of choice. For me, I won't tell you how I voted in certain referendums, but I would have stayed no matter the decision, because my roots here of these decades are not relating to Quebec, Quebec versus Canada, but rather, I mean I'm a convert. I learned my French and Franco feel I understand minority status. I understand that as a game man or is a single parent or single foster parent, and I understand the fight that it takes and the courage...

...it takes to have a vibrant culture in the Sea of English in North America and to be disconnected from Europe, sort of its origins, and and yet and have such a vibrant, rich and different history. So I celebrate it and I think the common language where I live in Quebec is French. So the common language would be always bonjour to everyone, and then you switch into whatever language, including English, you might want to speak. And even now, I would say in our recent election in ver done, the candidates all kind of came by the mission and I'm Anglo Family Council president, so I know they were kind of looking for some Anglo English in roads or votes. So you talked to everyone and I'm fairly a political and I know the twenty six for the Turkey meal that are new deputy of the liberal deputy just won the election provincially, will be coming. Monsieur Longley, who's the PQ candidate's probably going to bring some desserts and maybe our Veroniku. Was the accent them act that take or COMEST? None? I had nick. She's Francois de view. Yes, same party we're at. Where that got cut? Yeah, so whatever it's you know what it's like. You know they don't can't send them there. You why they all came by and they it's part of our community and I'd say with an English now sitting as the minority, and we're done. There's a lot of needs and you see us in Quebec. There's so many needs and changes. But what's fundamental, I feel, is we serve, we work together, we build bridges towards each other, we cross pollinate where we can and we don't stand on some political agenda. So...

...my long response is to say I'm Canadian. I'm not even a monarchist. So the Queen, if that's going to throw off certain people, I'm thinking I'm not even a monarchist. So I'm kind of going for me, being Canadian is is is is the generosity I believe in as a Canadian, as being a Quebec Wa adopted, I feel such a privilege place really in Quebec, very integrated and I want I want my the English experience to be an integrated into a dynamic Quebec, not excluded from but included within. So that's a lot of work and I would say that's probably where I'm at. HMM, I don't know answer a question. You answered with a definition of what you think Canadian is. So that's good and I have to think of it more, because how I vote really is determined by the interesting thing is I don't think I mean one of the things. I don't think of myself as a Canadian based on how I vote. For me, it's because I believe in Canada's a big idea, in federalism and the fact that diversity connects and the fact that you actually Canada is stronger when every separate part of it is stronger. So moving to Quebec was very easy for me because it's not just where my roots are from, but for me, the idea of a strong Quebec within a strong Canada and a strong Ontario, I mean Ontario. Northern Ontario would love to separate from southern Ontario, like there's separation movements all over the country and I just don't think it separates anything from the fact that we can all be Canadian. Anyway, I agree with you because fundamentally, what I hear you saying, that's where we're trying to live in, for done, a strong community, community to Baz if the base community is healthy, respected, alive, doing well, feeling engaged, even if they're not in...

...agreement with policies politics, but if they're feeling invited to the table, they're able to eat, find jobs, get to school, learn, educate their kids, be bilingual, trilingual or however many language is a strong Newfoundland, Labrador, a strong Quebec, a strong west from I agree with that, that that creates a stronger whole. I would still affirm in the history of founding people's the first nation of British and French, that there's something very unique in that history when you look across the country, but you come into Quebec you can't deny it. You know that we have some aspects of that history that are very particular, and so they should be, and just recognize them, celebrate them, keep it flowing towards a generosity and when you have to make a decision, if I ever had to make a decision, I would be well, we do have to occasionally. That's a different thing anyway. Thank you very much, David. Appreciate all your time. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. This episode was brought to you by Tangerine, the Best Value Bank for Canadians use my orange key. Eighteen, forty, three, forty five, forty five s one to open your account today.

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