Victoria community conference organizers hope to inspire action

Multi-day event at Christ Church Cathedral delves into social issues, volunteerism

Members of the faith community hope to hear from some new voices this week in the fight to improve the lot in life of Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable citizens.

The topics of poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and addictions/mental health, and ideas for taking positive action to help those affected by them, will be discussed during the Nurturing Healthy Communities conference at Christ Church Cathedral.

The objectives for the three-day event, which opens Thursday (Jan. 24), are to “cultivate informed empathy, assert the importance of all individuals in community and create strategies for action,” said conference co-chair, Rev. Nancy Ford, the cathedral’s newly installed deacon to the city.

“What we’re hoping is that we can continue to build on the work that’s already being done,” she said.

Ford acknowledged that local churches are often a default provider of certain social services. But people outside the faith community are beginning to look at things differently, she said, and seeing that their actions can have a positive impact.

“We hope to engage new community members, not only to come and have a nice time, or to learn stuff or make new friends, but to come together in a sense of interest and awareness and commitment to action.”

Following up on a keynote speech Thursday by Rev. Alisdair Smith, Deacon and Business Chaplain of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, entitled “Compassion in the 21st Century,” Friday’s agenda includes a series of workshops.

Well-known leaders in social work, community service, medicine, agriculture, housing, social inclusion and First Nations spirituality will offer insights into the challenges and opportunities encountered by social service providers.

A free public forum to broaden discussion of the conference’s four topics happens Friday evening at 7 p.m. The panel of speakers includes area politicians as well as Dr. Anthony Dancer, Archdeacon and Social Justice Commissioner for the Anglican Church in New Zealand.

The final plenary session on Saturday morning is entitled “From Knowing and Understanding to Action.” It will be facilitated by Rupert Downing, executive director of the Community Social Planning Council of Victoria.

Organizers look forward to an action plan flowing from the event, one that creates new relationships in the community.

“I think it’s all about partnerships,” Ford said. “Partnerships are the key to this in so many ways.”

People may attend one or all of the events. Cost is $80 for the entire conference, $50 for the Friday and Saturday workshops. For more information or to register, visit christchurchcathedral.bc.ca and click on the conference link under Coming Up, or call 250-383-2714.

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