Police and clergy walkabout in north Etobicoke
Every Thursday evening, a group of pastors heads out with some police for a community walk. It’s mostly to get to know people in the community, to show support for the police, and to build some goodwill. I went for the first time tonight.
We went to a park in the Dixon Road corridor, a high-density area with a huge Somali population. I’ve been at Richview eight years, and I’ve never been in this park once before, even though it’s only two kilometers away. It was packed with people, including a lot of fairly small kids but not many parents. The centerpiece is a basketball court donated by Vince Carter when he was still a Raptor. You rarely see so many people out in a community park on a hot summer night in Toronto.
We were a bit of a sight – a couple of police in uniform, and pastors with clergy collars so we’d be recognizable. It’s safe to say that the police guns and handcuffs got more attention than the pastors and their collars.
I was amazed by a number of things. The police we had with us were amazing. It’s different for them to show up to play basketball with kids and to hang out, rather than just showing up to respond to a call.
It was also amazing to see how many kids the other pastors knew. It’s easy to talk about community ministry, but some have been doing it for years, and it shows. I heard stories tonight. I realized how out of touch I am with a lot of stuff that’s been happening. The only way to find out is to be out there.
Ministry sometimes involves just walking around and hanging out. That can lead to all kinds of other things, but that’s where it starts.
Someone on the Resonate list said the other day that the best thing you can do is to just go out and talk to a homeless person. The same thing is true here. I learned more tonight about Dixon Road just walking and chatting than I’d learn in hours anywhere else. And I think I’ll go back.