Tag Archives: Leonard Sweet

Why I do what I do

A couple of months ago I put this together from many, many sources (manuals, binders, and internal documents) for the staff I supervise.  It’s a manifesto of hope and it kind of explains why we do what we do at the Salvation Army in Saskatoon.  We have a lot of stuff that says what to do but I wanted something that says, why we do it.  I didn’t know how it would go over when I put it together but staff here and at Mumford House keep asking me for copies.  Every once in while when I find myself browsing jobs on SaskJobs and am stressed out, it’s good for me to read it as well.  If you have any thoughts, leave them in the comments.


General William Booth of the Salvation ArmyWilliam Booth believed in the idea of Soup, Soap and Salvation. This came from his belief that the teaching and example of Jesus, together with the repeated testimony of the Bible, reveal that God places a very high value on those who are poor, rejected and marginalized as they have also been made in His image, and are precious to Him. We are convinced of the fundamental dignity and worth of each and every human being, without qualification.

Drastically different life circumstances can create the illusion that we are somehow different people, especially when those external differences are ones that may frighten us – such as homelessness, mental illness, or substance abuse. These perceived differences allow us to distance ourselves, until we can easily justify us looking the other way from people who are homeless or on the street. Yet the closer we get to people, even those whose experiences and circumstances seem foreign to us, the more similar we find ourselves to be. People who are homeless have the same needs and longings we all share, one of the largest things we share in common is a need for community.

In many ways it is this belief that drove William Booth (and later The Salvation Army) for his entire existence. As General William Booth preached during his last sermon at Royal Albert Hall on May 9, 1912

General William Booth of the Salvation ArmyWhile women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight;
While little children go hungry, I’ll fight;
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, I’ll fight;
While there is a drunkard left, 
       while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, 
       where there remains one dark soul without the light of God – I’ll fight!
I’ll fight to the very end!

Following in William Booth’s footsteps, we offer food, shelter, and a place to call home here at the Salvation Army. A safe place where people can find the necessities of life as well as a place to call home, even if for a short while.

There is a big difference between shelter and home. A home is more than just four walls and a roof. It mean’s being welcomed into a safe, secure and dignified place to live; healthy, nurturing relationships; respectful of boundaries; the opportunity for education; a place to worship, and a place where it is safe to dream and play in vibrant community.

It’s easy to provide shelter.  Anyone can put up a tent or a shed. It’s far more difficult to provide a place to call home. We take the more difficult path of providing a home for our clients because we are driven by love and compassion. Compassion is more than a feeling.  Genuinely caring about people motivates us to take action. It pushes us to learn why people become homeless or are trapped in poverty, it makes us engage in social advocacy. It drives us to make a point of getting to know people who may live outside our own comfort zones, and seek to share our time, abilities and resources. All of these energies are directed at bringing about positive change – such as helping our residents find a home of their own, meaningful employment, serving a meal cooked with care, or helping them access health care or education.

Choosing to help only those who we feel is deserving of our help and leaving behind those whose behaviors we may disapprove of is prejudicial and not Biblical. The grace that all Christians rely on is for people who are undeserving and/or guilty.  The Salvation Army, knowing ourselves to be by nature undeserving, we ought to be able to identify with those who appear to be homeless or poor because of their own behaviors. In other words, we as staff and officers have messed up too.

The cost of our inaction is often higher than our actions. Abandoning people to poverty increases health problems and necessitates increased Social Services spending.  We also know it sometimes drives people to crime – all major burdens for governments and us as taxpayers.  Being trapped in poverty diminishes hope and the sense of personal value in the individual. Children when they are born into poverty, start life so far behind others that they may never be able to catch up. When people are shut out because of their poverty, poverty itself “snowballs”, increasing our societal burden and diminishing our capacity as a community.  Part of what we strive to do here everyday at the Centre is to stop this snowball effect on and in our clients.

One of the ways we do that is to offer “second chances” to people who have failed or done wrong. We believe that justice ought to be primarily restorative rather than punitive. We do that at the Centre through New Frontiers Half-Way House, John School, and the staff’s willingness to continue to work with even the most difficult of clients. Everything we do, even in handling out disciplinary action is aimed at the restoration of the relationship and community.

From this, we take out the following principles

  1. We are here for our clients. They are our reason for existence as a Residential Services department and as a staff. They are the reason we come to work, they are the reason Social Services decides to fund us and why we get paychecks.
  2. All homeless persons have the right to safe shelter which is a universal human right afforded to all human beings regardless of political or religious beliefs, ethno-cultural background, (dis)ability, gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Staff must respect and be sensitive to the diversity of residents. Discriminatory and racist incidents or behaviors are not tolerated.
  3. Despite the situations that lead to a client becoming homeless, the staff must do everything they can to ensure that we find safe, secure, and affordable housing for our clients, whether it be in our residential programs, Larson House, the Lighthouse, another one of Saskatoon’s shelters or even the Saskatoon Police Service.
  4. The Centre will provide an atmosphere of dignity and respect for all shelter residents, and provide services in a non-judgmental manner.
  5. Residents are capable of moving toward increasing levels of self-reliance and self-determination. Shelter staff will work with residents to assist them in achieving their goals.
  6. The Salvation Army Community Services is sensitive to the ethno-specific and linguistic needs of residents. Staff will work to ensure residents have access to culturally appropriate interpreter services if needed.
  7. Gender identity is self-defined. Sometimes this may not correspond with a person’s physical appearance. We accept gender identity as defined by the individual rather than by the perception of staff and/or other residents. If the gender identification is not compatible with our current capacity to house them, staff will work with Emergency After Hours find more appropriate housing (i.e. hotels or other shelters).
  8. Front Desk Staff often have access to detailed and highly sensitive personal information about residents. Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of shelter residents and their personal information is of the utmost importance.
  9. All people who need it will have access to safe and nutritious food. All of the staff has a role in this, whether it be signing people up for twelve free meals, issuing of free meal tickets, accurate referrals to the Saskatoon Food Bank or The Friendship Inn, referrals to coffee houses, helping out with dining room security, or assisting in the kitchen, we do what we have to do to make sure people have access to good food.
  10. The health and safety of residents, volunteers and staff is of the highest importance to The Salvation Army Community Services. Training, policies, procedures and regular maintenance are intended to encourage, improve and maintain the health and safety of all people residing, volunteering and working in the shelter.
  11. People who are homeless have few resources and the shelter system is often their final option to receive the basic necessities of life: food and shelter. We will only issue service restrictions as a last resort and in the most serious cases. If a client is banned, we will work with other shelters, Emergency After Hours, and Social Services to ensure that he or she is housed.
  12. People who are homeless, like other members of our community, may use substances to varying degrees. Everyone is entitled to shelter whether or not they use substances. Even though we may not house them here, we need to find an appropriate spot for them, whether that be with Larson House, the Lighthouse, or another facility. In extreme cases we call the Saskatoon City Police. For clients who insist on using banned substances, we may ask them to find another residence but this is only done after staff, the Residential Coordinator, and the Centre’s chaplain has talked with them.
  13. We have tough jobs that rely on accurate information being given to us. In turn, we will always give accurate and honest assessments to other agencies. Not only for their benefits but so our clients are placed properly.
  14. Shelters are part of a larger network of homeless services and agencies. Collaboration within this network is important to ensure that our goals and objectives as a Centre are being met.

As individual staff members, it means that there are also certain expectations made of us.

Staff will:

  1. Maintain the best interests of the resident as their primary goal. The best interests of a client may not be what they want but what they need or has been defined as a proper course of action by our policies or the Courts. It’s why we send intoxicated clients to Larson House, it’s why we call in CSC clients who have breached, it’s why we monitor probation clients.
  2. Acknowledge the power inherent in their position and strive to minimize the impact of the power differential.
  3. Be respectful of residents, fellow employees, and any other person with whom they come in contact during the course of their duties.
  4. Carry out professional duties and obligations with integrity, objectivity and equity.
  5. Ensure residents have the necessary information to make informed decisions.
  6. Acknowledge that the work-site is someone else’s home, and be mindful of their presence especially in communal and sleeping areas.
  7. Be accountable for all interactions with residents, community members and staff.
  8. Acknowledge when they are in a situation they are not skilled or comfortable to handle, and seek support from colleagues and supervisors.
  9. Work as a team with other Residential staff and other programs in The Salvation Army. At our peak, over 60 staff members work out of here in a wide variety of jobs and programs. Always be on the lookout for how you can help in another area or help out another staff, regardless of whether or not it is in your job description.
  10. Follow their agency policies and procedures around staff behavior and conduct.
  11. Report all violation of the code of ethics to the Residential Coordinator or if needed, the Executive Director.

Staff will not:

  1. Discriminate against any person on the basis of race, ethnic/cultural background, sexual orientation, age, (dis)ability, religious belief, socio-economic status, etc.
  2. Use abusive, discriminatory language.
  3. Impose their own personal beliefs/standards on residents.
  4. Exploit their relationship with a resident for personal benefit, gain or gratification.
  5. Become involved in a resident’s personal life beyond their professional function.
  6. Have personal relations with current or previous residents as outlined in The Salvation Army’s policies personal conduct policy.
  7. Accept gifts or services from current or previous residents, their family, or friends
  8. Perform duties under the influence of intoxicants or consume intoxicants while on duty.
  9. Violate or disobey established rules, regulations, or lawful orders from a supervisor (or Parole Officer, Officer of the Court, or a Salvation Army officer)
  10. Engage in critical discussion of staff members or residents in the presence of residents.
  11. Withhold information which, in so doing, threatens the security of the Center, its staff, visitors, or the community.
  12. Through negligence, endanger the well-being of self or others.
  13. Engage in any form of business or profitable enterprise with residents.
  14. When dealing with Correctional Services of Canada clients, inquire about, disclose, or discuss details of a resident’s crime with any other clients.

Giving Hope Today is more than a marketing slogan for the Salvation Army in Canada, it is our job description in three words and it has always been a hard task to do.

There is going to be days when as a staff we are given responsibilities that we don’t think are totally suited to our capabilities. That’s fine because throughout history, the world has been made a better place by those that do what they are not suited for.

If we are going change the world around us, there are going to be days when the task ahead is going to be hard and hard and demanding and the clients unappreciative. Theologian Leonard Sweet offers quick look back at the Bible and church history gave some time to reflect on the attitudes of those that have made a difference.

The world’s a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, "I don’t do doors."

The world’s a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn’t say "I don’t do preaching in fields."

The world’s a better place because Moses didn’t say, "I don’t do Pharaohs or mass migrations."

The world’s a better place because Noah didn’t say, "I don’t do arks and animals."

The world’s a better place because David didn’t say, "I don’t do giants."

The world’s a better place because John didn’t say, "I don’t do deserts."

The world’s a better place because Mary didn’t say, "I don’t do virgin births."

The world’s a better place because Paul didn’t say "I don’t do correspondence."

The world’s a better place because Jesus didn’t say "I don’t do crosses."

And the world will be a better place only if you and I don’t Say, "I don’t do …"

As staff, every hour of every day, we are here to serve our clients, do everything we can to ensure that people have a home to go to, and in the spirit of William Booth fight for those who have no one else to fight for them. Plus, there is no job quite like changing the world and making the differences in the lives that we do each and every shift.

Jesus Manifesto

Jesus Manifesto Thomas Nelson is releasing a new book called Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. This book will be on special discount from Amazon.com on June 1st, the date of the release.

I got to know Frank Viola a little bit at Soularize in the Bahamas and I have long enjoyed and appreciated his writings since Spencer Burke started to go on and on about his writings almost a decade ago.  Of course over the years Leonard Sweet has influenced and formed my spiritual praxis as much as any theologian.

9 Things I Learned in 2009: From Liquidity Crisis to Sovereign Debt Crisis

Dr. Leonard Sweet 30 days after 9/11, I was in Seattle listening to Leonard Sweet talk at Soularize.  He was saying before others that 9/11 would change everything and he was right in many ways but I think people will look back at the credit meltdown in 2008 and the response of world governments in 2009 as a big or bigger world changing event.  9/11 may have defined the Bush presidency but the meltdown of the American banking system will be felt for decades.  The world spent trillions of dollars it didn’t have to minimize the impact of the banks implosion and we are going to be struggling with the consequences for years to come.  According to the OECD, the world’s deficits are approaching 4% of the global GDP (meanwhile the U.S. deficit is around 11%).

Canada is already looking at five years of leaner government spending to help pay for the massive deficit we rang up in 2009.

“The government’s approach will be clear. We won’t be raising taxes, but we will be constraining growth, making sure that growth is very much contained in the future, and that the tax base of the country can gradually recover,” Mr. Harper said in a year-end interview for CTV’s A Conversation with the Prime Minister , taped for a Boxing Day broadcast.

“And within four to five years, if we follow that path, we should be back to a balanced budget.”

Mr. Harper’s view that his government will be able to chip away at deficits by squeezing the growth of public spending has been questioned by economists and by former officials with the Finance Department.

Former deputy ministers Scott Clark and David Dodge have already stepped forward to challenge the government’s plans for eliminating the deficit, which is projected to reach $56-billion this fiscal year. Mr. Clark has said that Ottawa will have to raise the GST, which Mr. Harper cut in 2006.

“I don’t think it’s very likely that they can balance the budget without some very severe spending restraint,” said Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Douglas Porter.

2016 is to be the year that we are out of the woods but I won’t hold my breath.  I foresee a higher GST and higher interest rates before this is all said and done.  While Michael Ignatieff has a different approach to fighting the deficit, which he doesn’t want to share, but he seems more comfortable spending instead of cutting.

“If I’m prime minister, I’m going to be looking at the unemployment numbers first and deficit second,” Mr. Ignatieff said during the interview at Stornoway, the official Opposition leader’s residence. “We’re going to have a jobless recovery or we’re going to have a recovery where there’s still a lot of people looking for jobs.”

According to MSNBC, the impact of the United States deficit and stimulus package could be felt for decades.  It isn’t just a national issue, it’s trickled down to the states and provinces. The State of California is looking more and more like it is going to default on it’s loan.  It’s debt is already a kind of trend setter in that it has been the first state debt to be reduced to junk status.

In addition to debt problems in California and North America, Morgan Stanley fears that the U.K. is headed towards a sovereign debt crisis in 2010Actually Moody’s is predicting that more than the U.K. is going to have problems in the years ahead

Moody’s warned on Tuesday that sovereign debt could be sold off sharply next year, which could lead to a wider downturn in financial markets, if central banks don’t implement what they term ‘perfect exit strategies,’ from the support they’ve been giving financial markets.

“In an extreme situation a fiscal crisis could lead to some domestic capital flight, severe pound weakness and a sell-off in UK government bonds. The Bank of England may feel forced to hike rates to shore up confidence in monetary policy and stabilize the currency, threatening the fragile economic recovery,” they said.

Morgan Stanley said that such a chain of events could drive up yields on 10-year UK gilts by 150 basis points. This would raise borrowing costs to well over 5pc – the sort of level now confronting Greece, and far higher than costs for Italy, Mexico, or Brazil.

High-grade debt from companies such as BP, GSK, or Tesco might command a lower risk premium than UK sovereign debt, once an unthinkable state of affairs.

The Financial Times points out that the U.K., Dubai, Greece, and California is in good company.  Japan has some sovereign debt problems of their own.

Yet Japan’s fiscal problems are even more pressing. A debt trap appears when the rate of interest paid on government debt is higher than the economy’s growth rate and the public revenues are insufficient to cover its financing charges. When this happens the fiscal position becomes unstable and the debt spirals upwards. This has been the case in Japan for several years. A bad situation has been made even worse by the global financial crisis.

Japan’s national debt is fast approaching 200 per cent of GDP. The debt mountain is the result of prolonged economic weakness and successive fiscal deficits since the bubble economy collapsed in 1990. These problems are compounded by the fact that Japan’s population is now shrinking. The economy’s trend growth rate has fallen and tax receipts are shrinking, while welfare payments for pensioners are rising. Japan’s debt trap, it seems, is structural rather than cyclical.

If you believe the stories out of Copenhagen, it has even lead to a reshuffling of the world order.  As China owns more and more United States debt, it is increasingly calling the shots.

Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao There were 192 countries and 120 heads of government in the room at Copenhagen, but in the end there were only two at the table, the United States and China. Welcome to the new world order.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there has been one superpower, the U.S. Now there are two, as became abundantly clear in the chaotic closing day of the climate- change conference.

At that, Barack Obama was snubbed by the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao. And then the U.S. was snookered by the Chinese.

As the New York Times reported Sunday in a riveting piece from the back corridor of the conference: "Twice during the day, Mr. Wen sent an underling to represent him at the meetings with Mr. Obama. To make things worse, each time it was a lower level official."

The first time, Wen sent his deputy foreign minister to a meeting of major heads of government, including most G8 countries (though not, apparently, Canada). Later on, the Times reported, "after a constructive one-on-one" between Obama and Wen, the Chinese premier sent his climate-change negotiator to another heads-of-government meeting that included the U.S. president.

There’s more. The White House set up an evening meeting with the presidents of South Africa and Brazil, as well as the Indian prime minister and the Chinese premier, and when senior staff arrived, as the Times recounted it, they "were startled to find the Chinese premier already meeting with the leaders of the other three countries" – without the president of the United States, the guy who called the meeting in the first place. According to the Times, Obama rushed to the meeting and called out from the doorway: "Mr. Premier are you ready to see me? Are you ready?"

You don’t see that in the newspaper every day, about the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth going cap in hand to his own meeting. It wouldn’t have happened on Ronald Reagan’s watch. His dignity, let alone his sense of the American president’s role on the world stage, wouldn’t have permitted it.

Welcome to the New New World Order.

Stay Out! (but you can come back Sunday at 11)

Last year while I was running an errand, I drove by a church on 20th Street and noticed that it was surrounded by chain link fence in all directions.  The outside of the church was a mess and I assumed that they were renovating as the outside of the building needed repair.  Weeks later I was by again.  The fence was still up.  Months later the fence was still there.  After the church moved locations down by the Tim Horton’s I purchase my morning medication at, the fence was still up.  Finally it clicked in that the fence wasn’t to protect the community from a crumbling facade, it was to protect the church building from the community.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  While at college Wendy and I heard the founder him give a talk running down the idea of helping out the poor at Christmas (because they will waste it was the reasoning).

Years ago some friends of mine were at WillowCreek at their Art’s Conference.  Leonard Sweet was speaking and everyone came back and paraphrased his quote,  “You need to love the community you are trying to reach.”  It stuck with several of them and I have thought about it for months now and the idea of turning your church lot into a compound sends the opposite message.  It isn’t just compounds.

The church next door to me put on a great Halloween party for kids.  I thought it was a great idea until I heard the pastor the next day badmouthing my neighborhood on the radio complaining about the kids and the mischief kids get into on Halloween and how the church needed to send out patrols to protect the neighborhood.  His goal in having the party was to stop trick or treating in Saskatoon.  His comments didn’t really bother me that much as I ignored them but our neighbors were upset over the criticism of our home turf and they thought he was exaggerating the problem. In a decade of living there, the only problems we have had in Mayfair are my Jack-O-Lantern gets kicked off the steps occasionally.  As a response to that, he came across as being angry and resentful of where he was.

I am sure that church that has a big 8 foot fence all around it’s compound has it’s reasons.  Stuff stolen, girls working off the front steps, needles, and domestic violence.  It’s a tough neighborhood and at 6’4” tall, it isn’t always safe for me to walk home from work.  But is a giant fence around your church building the answer?  By setting up a massive fence around it’s building, it sending the clear message that you aren’t welcome here.  It also tells me that instead of trying to change the community or make it better, you are just resigned to it and are afraid.  Not all people can handle the prostitutes, those that are violent, and the theft but as I read the New Testament, those are who Jesus spent a lot of his time with.  It wasn’t just the children who he called over to him but everyone. 

This church took it further than most but most churches do it.  Wendy has to work most Sunday mornings and Saturday nights.  Where does she go to church now that many churches don’t have a Sunday night worship service?  She doesn’t have a scheduled night off which makes it hard to do things like a small group.  One commenter a couple of years ago pointed out that those that the church says are the most needing of salvation are by the hours they work, the least likely to come to church.

I’ve often thought of the assumption that those who don’t fit in with the regular programming don’t deserve it. Thinking particularly (in my area) of the strippers, casino workers, prostitutes, and restaurant employees who work late in the same neighborhoods, working with the same clients.

How about a 3am service. That’s when a lot of folks are finishing up work.

We think that once they find Jesus and change their life, and get a new job, and fit into our lifestyles that then they’ll fit into church.

That’s crap.

The church as Third Space I have often wondered why churches don’t open themselves up and make themselves third spaces.  I have linked to Steve Collins (blog) stuff on church and third spaces before and many of us (by your response in comments) has agreed with it and yet too many churches still look like fortresses instead of open spaces.  You have probably heard your own excuses for why it can’t happen, I know I have heard mine (locks would have to be rekeyed, worried about internet porn on the computers, lack of supervision) or people look at what the Freeway has done in Hamilton and think it has to look like that when it really doesn’t.  At work we host one out of our chapel and dining room.  My favorite third space in Saskatoon is the deck of City Perk in the spring and summer.  It is a gathering spot for everyone in City Park.  With free wifi, the deck is a great place to read, work, or meet up with friends.   A couple thousand dollars could open up your church to the entire neighborhood but you have to want to be open up to the entire neighborhood.  Contextually it looks really different.  A third space in your hood may be reopening and running a neighborhood hockey rink and warm up shack.  It may be an unused place of your church made into a place to work, study, write, and chill out like Paragraph is in New York.   It may be investing heavily in the kids of your neighborhood, changing the culture, helping kids stay in school.  I was watching an interview with Indianapolis Colt’s coach Tony Dungy tonight and he mentioned that in Indianapolis, 19% of kids graduate from public schools.  When 4/5 kids are dropping out of school at time when education is more important, there has to be opportunities.

When I hear church planters talk about church planting in Saskatoon, they talk about the creative class off Broadway Avenue.  A place full of better then average coffee shops, art galleries and pubs.  Who wouldn’t want to live and pastor a church in that area?  I think of my friend Karen Ward who speaks passionately of the neighborhood she planted Church of the Apostles in and how they waited until they could find a place in the neighborhood until they planted.

As I was reading Jane Jacobs over the holidays, I was drawn to her idea that if we want to create safer neighborhoods, we may be better off creating neighborhoods that people care about.  Neighborhoods with art, open spaces, and places where people like to congregate.  Whether that is on church property, on the front yard or down the street.  Investing on making the places better in the end will pay off and create places that are safer, more secure, and community focused.  Does that take longer than tossing up big fences or complaining to the press about hookers on your front step (a church on 20th years ago complained about how inappropriate it was for prostitutes to be hanging out on their property—a church is the last place a prostitute should be according to their complaint)?  Of course it does but by retreating behind your wall, you are neutering your ministry and making it worse for your neighbors and in the end yourself.

It makes sense but if you want to be somewhere else and you are just in a certain part of town because of convenience or cheap rent, it is going to show in everything you do.  Especially when you are saving rent but resenting your neighbors.  A little money in the bank may be nice but I wonder if it is worth the cost to the Kingdom.