Day Happenings at the Prayer Vigil
While travelling to
Toronto for the first day of the Interfaith Prayer Vigil,
the voice of Rev. Susan Eagle came over CBC stating clearly
that this Interfaith Prayer Vigil will remember the many in
our province who do not have enough to eat nor a safe and
affordable place to live. Susan also remembered the
difficult role of the Members of the Provincial Parliament
as they make decisions about the provincial budget in the
midst of this recession.
Mid-morning Christians, Jews, Muslims and Unitarians
gathered under the open tent in front of Queen's Park.
ISARC chairperson Susan Eagle welcomed everyone, we
introduced ourselves, the prayer candle was lit. Anglican
Bishop Colin Johnson reminded everyone of our deep concern
for the poorest in our province and led the group in prayer
for those who must suffer in the cold as well as for the
Members of the Provincial Parliament who will make budget
A number of people who read The Star or heard CBC joined the
group at noon. The noon vigil contained prayers,
scriptures, readings, and comments by Fr Paul Hansen, Rev.
Brice Balmer, and Rabbi Aaron Levy. Several others shared
their concerns. One fourth of the Members of the Provincial
Parliament (MPPs) were named in prayer at the opening and
noon prayer as well as other prayers throughout the day.
Each day one fourth of the MPPs will be remembered in
Several MPPs stopped by the tent to talk with participants.
One was Hon. Deb Matthews, who chairs the cabinet committee
to reduce poverty in Ontario.
It was a cold day to begin; chill factor was -15 degrees C.
Many thought of Ontarians who are "out in the cold"
because of poverty. But the atmosphere of compassion and
justice was warm and generous.
Watch for further coverage in newspapers, on radio and
television, and in faith media.
Imam Habib Alli of the Canadian Council
of Imams led us in noon time prayer. He recited verses
from the Quran. And reminded us that we all need to
look after one another. Giving to charity and to the
less fortunate is called zakah and is a requirement of
Islam. Other faith members also shared their prayers
Rev. Jeff Brown,
Unitarian Church of Mississauga led us in a noon time
reflection that reminded us that we are part of a larger
community despite our colour, religion, culture, or
citizenship. That we are more alike, than unalike.
This includes the poor and marginalized in Ontario.
He shared the words of Unitarian minister Theodore Parker,
when in a 1853 sermon on "Justice and the Conscience," he
declared: "I do not pretend to understand the moral
universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little
ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure
by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience.
And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
Jeff Brown also led us in prayers for our provincial
politicians asking that they open to their hearts to justice
The day began with
Andrea Budgey, Chaplain at Trinity College, leading us in a
series of prayers, reflection, and singing. We shared our understanding of poverty and how our faith compels us to
At noon, Anglican Bishop Colin Johnson (Diocese of Toronto),
Archdeacon Michael Patterson (Diocese of Niagara), and The
Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls, Bishop of Trent-Durham Area & Suffragan
Bishop (Diocese of Toronto) led noon time prayers for a
large contingent. MMPs that we were praying for that
day were named and remembered, Bishop Johnson led in prayer, a meditation on the Blind
the gospel of Mark, and invited response and reflection.
People shared why their faith inspires them to treat people
with dignity and respect they deserve as human beings and
also compelled them to call on government to do the same.
One of the highlights of the day was later in the afternoon,
when a class from the Coppard Glen Public School in Markham,
who had been visiting the Legislature, came with their
teacher to the Prayer Vigil Tent to learn more about what
ISARC was doing there. Paul Hansen and Bruce Voogd
explained to the students why we were praying for the poor
and our MPPs. The students asked lots of questions and
before they left their teacher asked all the students to
silently offer their own prayers.
Diocese of Toronto Anglican Church of
Father Paul Hansen led
noon prayers for the participants from the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul and other individuals that came to pray for
the day. Father Hansen remembered the MPPs we were praying
for today and reminded us of the struggle we have as people
of faith to be in the world, but not part of it. And, to be
a witness in the world where justice and compassion often
lose out to consumerism, greed, and power. He also
challenged us to not just talk the talk of justice, but to
walk it, to live it, no matter how challenging that may be.
Participants shared from their own experience how they try
to live as a witness to God's call for inclusion and love
and offered each other support and solidarity.
Despite the blustery
weather people showed up to keep vigil and prayer in the
Later the Kingston
Vigil Keepers arrived by bus to join the ISARC Multifaith
Prayer Vigil. The Kingston group has been standing for
social justice for 13 years -- on Fridays they are a
lunchtime feature at Kingston City Hall. In the biting
winter wind, one of their signs showed a palm tree, a bright
sun and a beach. “Poverty never takes a holiday.” Today they
brought their weekly vigil to Queen's Park.
At noon, an opening
prayer was offered by Helene Hannah, readings were done by
Michael Stephenson, Bert Horwood and Una Byrne, S.P., and
Sandra Shannon, S.P. led us in song. Selected inter-faith
wise saying were red by Tara Kainer, Lynda Dowdle, and
Matthew Gventer. A reflection was offered by Sr. Pauline
Lally, General Superior, Sisters of Providence of St.
Vincent de Paul.
Sr. Pauline Lally
shared that one of the greatest learnings for her is that
poverty is political, not necessarily the result of
individual moral failure or poor life choices entirely.
"Poverty is also the result of governments and corporations
that idolize the market and put profits before not only
people but indeed before all creation. And poverty is a
nightmare! So we have to be political! Be attentive and know
what’s going on. Be intelligent and make connections. Be a
critical thinker and ask why. Be responsible and get
involved. Learn to be a voice for the voiceless."
She reminded us of
what Mahatma Gandhi said, “No matter what you do will seem
insignificant; but you must do it and be the change you wish
to see in the world.” She challenged us that it all begins
with awareness and religious social teaching has long been
animated by religious values that transcend charity and
means ensuring human dignity, fairness, solidarity, equity,
participation and respect for human rights and the need to
assume our responsibilities".
Jean Gower ended in
closing payers and together everyone recited:
We long for a world
that respects all of humanity and all the earth, and so we
stand in silent, non-violent solidarity with those affected
by government and corporations, that put profits before
human kind and indeed before all Creation.
Together in this
vigil we bring before us injustices affecting our world.
In gentle awareness
we present these concerns to the Divine Light which
permeates the universe.
Thus we stand in
Let us leave this
place of prayers sharing with one another a gesture of hope
and solidarity. Let us go in peace.
On a crisp, sometimes snowy, but mostly sunny day, noon
prayers were lead by Pagan Chaplain Brian Walsh and
University of Toronto Pagan Society.
Rebecca Brooker began with a prayer to the Divine Source
calling for us to work together to honour the Spirit of the
Divine in each of us, recognize the Spirit that is burning
in each of our hearts, so that we might share the Spirit in
all the acts we do to create of world of peace and justice
and plenty for all.
than shared from "The Audacht
Morainn" and explored some of how it relates to good
government and what a good leader should be.
He challenged us that an important side to religion is to
stand outside the status quo – and call for a better way of
being, and better way of doing, a way rooted in awareness of
our connectedness and interdependence. "In all times and
places, there have been people of faith willing to call out
from that awareness – people compelled to say we are all
This is a vigil for economic justice in our society, for our
citizenry. And I believe that its measure of health is
determined by its most fragile members; the poor, the
disenfranchised, the dispossessed."
Prayers were offered to those MPPs on the vigil prayer list
that day asking them to "Let him/her raise justice, it will
A closing prayer by Rebecca ask us to envision in our mind
the kind of world you would like to live in and that there
be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and
humility, mirth and reverence within each of us as we join
together to create a better world for us all.
of Toronto Pagan Society stayed at the Vigil for the rest of
the afternoon, where more lively discussion, sharing, and
occasional cups of coffee helped keep us warm against the
sunny morning, hinting of Spring, began with members of
the London Conference of the United Church of Canada, led by
Rev. Susan Eagle, praying together. Various other
individuals arrived over the next hour and we were than led
in prayer by Tim Hegedus and Oscar Cole-Arnal from Waterloo
Lutheran Seminary. Just before twelve, we were joined by
the Interfaith Group from Newmarket, Aurora and Northern
At noon, Rev.
Dr. Carol Gierak, President, Toronto Conference of the
United Church of Canada, Rev. Susan Eagle, and Rev. Robin Wardlaw
of Trinity United Church, Newmarket, led us in prayer,
scripture reading, and reflection. MPPs on the prayer list
for the day were remembered and named. Petitions for them to
not forget the poor and to treat them with justice and
dignity (when the provincial budget comes down on March 26)
were offered. Prayers for those living on the margins in
Ontario, going hungry, without shelter, or working hard but
underpaid were also offered. Cheri DiNovo, MPP for Parkdale-High
Park (Toronto), joined us for noon prayers, talked about the
scandal of poverty in Ontario, and thanked the participants
for being there.
the rest of the afternoon, prayers for the poor and our MPPs,
scripture reading, reflection, and sharing happened hourly.
the day, ISARC Secretary Brice Balmer and Chair Susan Eagle
were interviewed by Bridget Antwi of Crossroads TV about
ISARC's Vigil and anti-poverty efforts.
March 16 in North Bay, ON in solidarity with the ISARC
Prayer Vigil at Queen's Park
Gracious God, Creator of all beings, we exist
because of Your immeasurable Love. We turn to you this day.
You created a world of ‘enough’: enough food for all, enough
water for all, enough land for all, enough freedom for all -
yet we humans have transformed it into a world of hunger,
thirst, poverty and oppression. Our compassion, and our
legislation, fall short of the dream you have for your
creation: “That all may be one...”
We live in a society that experiences an
ever-widening gap between those who have what they need for
life and those who struggle to survive. We live in a society
that blames the poor for being poor, without recognizing
such poverty can only exist if our attitudes, behaviour and
laws allow it to exist. Today, we pray in union with ISARC
and with all who support its initiative: to pray for all who
are ‘impacted by our worsening economy’ and for the
‘integrity, courage and spiritual sustenance of our
Gracious God, Compassionate God, hear the
prayers of believers of all faiths who join in prayer. We
know you by many names. We know you through many faith
traditions. And we know that in every faith tradition
represented in ISARC, there is a sure faith that what we do
to our brothers and sisters whom we can see, we do to you
whom we cannot see. We know too that you hear the cry of the
poor whom you love.
Hear our prayer today. Help us, and our
government to respond, to the needs of those who are
suffering in these times of economic crisis. Help the MPPs
who are being prayed for this day. And help us all to
transform our world into one in which all are feed, all are
clothed and all are treated with full respect for their
On a warmer and sunny morning members of the Congregation
Darchei Noam arrived to offer prayers for the poor and our
MPPs. Rabbi Shalom Schacter led morning participants through
readings, reflections, and song.
At noon Rabbi Tina Grimberg of the Congregation Darchei Noam
led participants through a series of readings and
reflections that focused on the call to care for others in
ways that extended beyond charitable acts to acts of
justice. She reminded us that the root word we often use to
mean justice - tzedakah - is tzedek. Tzedek connotes justice
Quoting from Mordecai Kaplan, she reminded us that, "A
theology which is not a plan of social action is merely a
way of preaching and praying. It is a menu without dinner".
From Rabbi William B. Silverman, she challenged us that,
"Every act of kindness is a prayer - a prayer that walks,
breathes and lives."
After remembering the MPPs on today's prayer list by name,
together participants prayed:
We cannot merely pray to God to end starvation;
For we already have the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If only we could use them wisely.
Therefore we pray instead
For strength, determination, and will power,
To do instead of merely to pray.
To become instead of merely to wish;
That our world may be safe,
And that our lives may be blessed.
Today the ISARC Multi-faith Prayer Vigil participants were
joined by the Put Food in the Budget – Healthy Food
Suppliment Campaign, who brought along soup as a lunch time
meal for the hundreds of participants that came out.
The noon prayer time began with Rev. Susan Eagle, Chair of
ISARC introducing the Prayer Vigil Campaign, inviting all
participants to join in prayer, and then blessing the soup.
Prayers were than offered by religious leaders involved with
The Multifaith Alliance to End Homelessness. They included:
Pundit Eshwar Maharj-Doobay, Hindu Faith; Dharm Jain, Jain
Faith; Rev. Karen Harrison, Buddhist Faith; Michael Creal,
Anglican; Rev. G.A. Wenh-In Ng, United Church; and, Rev.
Glen Eagle, United Church. Prayers were offered for the poor
to have enough food and safe places to eat. Prayers were
also offered for the courage, integrity and spiritual
strength of the Members of the Provincial Parliament.
When noon prayers were finished, people enjoyed their lunch
together and listened to short speeches by Dr. David McKeown,
Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, the Stop Community Food
Centre, Foodshare, the Social Planning Network of Ontario,
and the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, all
partners in the 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction. Calls
were made for a Healthy Food Supplement for all adults on
social assistance of $100.00 per month per adult on Ontario
Works (OW) or on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Members of The Multifaith Alliance to End Homelessness
stayed for the afternoon to offer prayers once an hour.
The Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls, Bishop of Trent-Durham Area &
Suffragan Bishop (Diocese of Toronto) led our noon time
together with prayers, readings, reflections, and dialogue.
Bishop Nicholls reminded participants that our well being is
tied to the well being of others. The health of a society is
judged by how its poorest and most marginalized are doing.
This is a call that is not unique to the Christian faith,
but shared by many other faiths.
MPPs on the prayer list for the day were than read aloud and
prayers were offered for their well being, wisdom, and
Stories of hope were shared by those in attendance and we
closed in a communal prayer.
On another crisp and sunny Spring day, members of Catholic
Charities and various other individuals gathered from 9
until noon, on the hour, to pray for the poor and the MPPs
on the day's prayer list.
During the morning Bruce Voogd, Prayer Vigil Coordinator,
was interviewed by John McGrath, CBC Radio's reporter at
Queens Park about the Vigil, its purpose, goals, and
At noon, we were led by the Mennonite Central Committee
Ontario Leadership Team in song, scripture, reflection,
prayers for the poor and our MPPs, and a communal prayer of
Prayers of forgiveness were asked for the times we have
judged to quickly and been hardhearted towards people living
in poverty. For all to have enough to afford
nutritious food, a decent home, and resources to live as
full members of our community. For those who skills
are not recognized and cannot find employment. For those
that end up in jobs that pay to little, whose rights in the
workplace are not respected. For our legislators to
implement and properly enforce employment standards to
protect those in precarious work.
Prayers were offered for those injured on the job, those
with physical disabilities or whose mental health puts them
at risk of living in poverty. For those who have lost their
jobs and risk falling into poverty. For inclusive
communities where access to public transit, affordable
housing, child care and schools, where race, ethnic
background, and lack of private resources are not barriers
to full participation. And for our MPPs to have courage,
strength, and compassion to do justice by providing the
resources and implementing policies to prevent people from
falling into poverty and to raise people out of poverty.
In the afternoon a time of prayer, reflection, and dialogue
was shared hourly by members of the Hamilton Conference of
The United Church of Canada and others.
On a sunny and windy morning, members of The First Narayever
Congregation of Toronto, various individuals, and many
associated with The Presbyterian Church in Canada gathered
to pray. As the morning progressed, we were joined by Rev.
William C. MacLellan, Moderator of the Presbytery of East
Toronto and Rev. Cheol Soon Park, Moderator of the 134th General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Christine Elliott, MPP for Whitby-Oshawa, visited the Vigil
tent, chatted with participants, and thanked us for our
presence at Queen's Park.
At noon, Rabbi Ed Elkin of The
First Narayever Congregation led us in meditation and
reflection on calls from his tradition to treat the poor
with justice. He explained to us the notion of the Year of
Jubilee (Lev.25:8ff), when every 50 years the community was
obligated to return land to its original owners so that no
one became too poor. He shared from the Babylonian Talmud
Shabbat 63a where it is written, "He who lends money is
greater than he who performs charity, and he who throws
money into a common purse is greater than all." And, he
presented the first two of Maimonides' Eight Levels of
Tzedakah: 1. The highest degree of all is one who supports
another reduced to poverty by providing a loan, or entering
into a partnership, or finding work for him; so that the
poor person can become self-sufficient; 2. Below this is
giving to another so that the donor does not know the
recipient, and the recipient does not know the donor. Rabbi
Elkin ended by naming the MPPs on the prayer list for the
day and called on them to make budget decisions based on
doing justice to the most vulnerable living in Ontario.
Participants than had a chance to respond and offer their
Throughout a blustery afternoon, the 905-Area Faith
Community Leaders - Peel held vigil and prayer for the poor
and our MPPs.
The day began with the Unitarian Universalists of Southern
Ontario and other individuals gathering to share readings,
reflection, and naming the MPPS on the day's prayer list.
During the morning Charles Sousa, MPP for Mississauga South,
dropped by the Vigil tent to give his best wishes and
At noon, prayers and readings were led by Rev. Bruce Ervin,
Pastor of Knox United Church in Scarborough and Rev. Dr.
Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of The Canadian Council of
Churches offered a short meditation. We prayed for the MPPs
of the day, asking that in integrity they ensure that the
poor in Ontario are met with justice when the budget is
released tomorrow. The noontime together was also filled
with energetic singing.
During the afternoon, Bruce Voogd, Vigil Coordinator, was
interviewed by Mike Wise, CBC television
Queen's Park correspondent, about ISARC's prayer action
and its effect.
In the afternoon, on the hour until 4 p.m., the Agincourt
Interfaith Affordable Housing Committee, led by Rev. Bruce
Ervin, and New Downtown Jewish Community at the Kiever
Synagogue led by Rabbi Aaron Levy engaged in prayers, the
reading of sacred texts, and lively discussion.
The final day of the Vigil began with members of
the Toronto, Hamilton/Niagara, and Kitchener/Waterloo
Conferences of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Canada and various other individuals praying for
the poor and the MPPs on the day's prayer list. During our
morning sessions, Dr. Oz Cole-Arnal, Kitchener-Waterloo
Conference of the Eastern Synod, Rev Sonja Free, Toronto
Conference of the Eastern Synod, and Rev Fred Schmidt,
Hamilton-Niagara Conference of the Eastern Synod led
participants in reflections, readings, and song. Prayers
from the Buddhist and Muslim communities were also part of
the morning sessions.
At noon, The Rev
Michael Pryse, Bishop, The Eastern Synod of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, led participants. The
poor were remembered, our MPPs were asked to do justice, and
songs were sung. Bishop Pryse reminded us of the call to
deal justly in our relationships with our fellow humans
beings regardless of the race, creed, or economic
circumstances. Charitable acts to the poor are not
sufficient. God demands that each of us our treated with
dignity so that they can live to their full potential. The
noon session was ended in prayer by Imam Habeeb Alli.
During our noon prayers
we were joined by Khalil Ramal, MPP for London-Fanshawe and Kuldip
Kular, MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton. They thanked
participants for their presence and ISARC for its month-long
During the afternoon,
Toronto Mayor David Miller, on his way into the Legislative
Building, stopped by the vigil tent and offered his support
for our efforts. After the budget was released, Cheri DiNovo,
MPP for Parkdale-High Park, and Charles Sousa, MPP for
Mississauga South, dropped by the Vigil tent to thanks us
for doing the vigil and give their comments on the budget.
The Vigil closing ceremonies at the end of the day were led
by Rev. Susan Eagle, ISARC Chair.
It began with Brice Balmer, ISARC Secretary, giving his
analysis of the provincial budget after returning from the
budget lock-up. Brice reported that the budget did address
affordable housing and Ontario Child Benefits in ways that
will help the poor. However, the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) will
not be $42 for every child; social assistance recipients
will receive different amounts of the OCB depending on their
Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
status. Some will receive as low as $2 per child per month.
At the end of this year, child care subsidies will decrease
because of the lack of federal funding; no provincial
funding is available in the budget. A two percent social
assistance hike falls far short of what’s needed and the
call for the Healthy Food Supplement of $100 a month to help
adults on welfare was ignored. Finally, the budget only went
halfway on its commitment to hiring new employment standards
officers to ensure more workers will have their wages and
basic rights protected through this downturn.
Affordable housing advocates and developers were glad that
the province recognized both non-profit housing in need of
repairs as well as the development of new housing units.
Secure, safe, and affordable housing can provide the
foundation for individuals and families to break the cycle
ISARC along with other coalitions called for a substantial
down payment on Ontario's Child Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Though coalition members deeply appreciate the work of Hon.
Deb Matthews, other ministers and MPPs, this budget did not
deliver this down payment. The government has promised a
provincial social assistance review and an affordable
housing strategy to begin this Spring. Those two measures
could go far to break the cycle of poverty for Ontarians
with low incomes. Child care is also critical for future
workers as well as people in re-training.
He added that the increase in the Ontario Child Benefit
moves toward the goal of reducing child and family poverty
and matching federal infrastructure dollars to build more
affordable housing and repair existing social housing units
will be a benefit. But a two percent social assistance hike
falls far short of what’s needed and the call for the
Healthy Food Supplement of $100 a month to help adults on
welfare was ignored. As well, there was no new funding for
early learning and child care.
Finally, the budget only went halfway on its commitment to
hiring new employment standards officers to ensure more
workers will have their wages and basic rights protected
through this downturn.
Prayers for justice for the poor were
then offered by: Rev.
David Giuliano, Moderator for the United Church of
Canada; Rabbi Aaron Levy; Rev. Andrea Budgey, Anglican
Chaplain at Trinity College; Unitarian-Universalist
Rev. Jeffrey Brown; Murat Ortanca for the Muslim
community; The Venerable Bhante Saranapala, Deputy
Abbot, West End Buddhist Centre; and, Lee McKenna duCharme.
The closing included the lighting a candle for the 107 MPPs
which will eventually be sent to them to remind them of
their responsibility to the poor in Ontario and ISARC's
prayer vigil and presence. Candles were also lit and given
to participants to take back to their community as a symbol
for the need to continue the call and work for justice for
The many organizations, communities, and
individuals that attended the Vigil during the month of
March were warmly thanked for their participation.