I (Keltie) often think how each season at Capital City Mission has a different feeling. Some years I’ve noticed that December has a collective feeling of depression in our community, as some struggle to cope with the season of Christmas. Or we all breathe a collective sigh of relief when a spring rain melts the last of the snow, marking a new season.
At the beginning of March, I sat down to write about a season of celebration, as March 6th marked the 20th anniversary of Capital City Mission. Our daily context rapidly changed mid-March, and I quickly realized that our “season of celebration” would perhaps need to be held off for another season.
March 16th marked our pivot, as we transformed our indoor drop-in into an outdoor canteen, so that we could continue to meet the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of our community safely. We are daily serving coffee and a light meal to 80-100 of our neighbours from our kitchen window. We help fight against food insecurity in our city, and we continue to provide emotional support and a place of belonging through our presence in Lowertown. To learn more about how our community has been impacted and how the canteen is working out, I would encourage you to visit our website (capitalcitymission.com/media) and watch our newest video along with an interview we did with the CBC in late March.
We also suspended all volunteering, March 16th, to limit the risk of exposure and some on our staffing team also took time off to support family, or because we knew they could be at risk of exposure due to other life contexts. Matthew was off for over two months and was personally affected by COVID-19, and many of you held him and his family in prayer during this time. Thank you. While we missed Matthew very much, we are grateful that he was off work well before contracting the virus, and thus we never had to close down the drop-in.
As I continued to run the canteen in these early weeks of the pandemic, I wondered what this season would be marked by and how our community would be impacted. Two words have come to mind: creativity and humility. I saw a need to be creative in showing love as I was no longer able to show care by simply sitting down beside a friend at one of our tables. How could I serve a long line-up of people while acknowledging each person and showing them I was happy to see them? The need for humility was also great. I had to listen carefully to public health, I had to admit my own anxiety about the health of myself and my community, I also had to apologize when I was short with people because I was feeling stressed.
I am learning that the humility required of our society to get through the ongoing pandemic is also required as we reflect on racial injustice. As Canadians, we need the humility to acknowledge that this is not just an American issue. Racial injustice can be seen in the work we do downtown Ottawa, it can also be seen across all of our neighbourhoods, and in our own hearts. I think in this season we are called to humbly listen, learn, and transform. I will not pretend to have a particular voice to add to the many voices speaking out right now. We are all responding differently. I have been reading and having lots of conversations with our staff team. If you are interested in some of the things I’ve been reading, check out our latest blog post.
While this season has called for creativity and humility, there are still opportunities for the celebration that I thought would have to be put on hold. We celebrate being able to stay open and connected with our community, and the patience of our community as we have made ongoing changes. We can celebrate that there have been relatively few cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa’s shelters to date and that they have been contained quickly. We can also celebrate the generosity of our donors, many of whom have offered extra support during the pandemic. This has helped us prepare and give out more food onsite than ever before. Thank you so much to those who have provided support to our neighbours through your ongoing generosity.