the New Monasticism (Christian); Locating our Lives in the Abandoned Places of the Empire

Everything in our society teaches us to move away from suffering, to move out of neighbourhoods where there is high crime, to move away from people who don’t look like us.

But the gospel calls us to something altogether different.  We are to laugh at fear, to lean into suffering, to open ourselves to the stranger.  Advent is the season when we remember how Jesus put on flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.  God getting born in a barn reminds us that God shows up in the most forsaken corners of the earth.

Movements throughout church history have gone to the desert, to the slums, to the most difficult places on earth to follow Jesus.  For some of us that means remaining in difficult neighbourhoods that we were born into even though folks may think we are crazy for not moving out.  For others it means returning to a difficult neighbourhood after heading off to college or job training to acquire skills – choosing to bring those skills back to where we came from to help restore the broken streets.  And for others it may mean relocating our lives from places of so-called privilege to an abandoned place to offer our gifts for God’s kingdom.

Wherever we come from, Jesus teaches us that good can happen where we are, even if real-estate agents and politicians aren’t interested in our neighbourhoods.  Jesus comes from Nazareth, a town from which folks said nothing good could come.  He knew suffering from the moment he entered the world as a baby refugee born in in the middle of a genocide.  Jesus knew poverty and pain until he was tortured and executed on a Roman cross.  The is the Jesus we are called to follow.  With his coming we learn that the most dangerous place for Christians to be is in comfort and safety, detached from the sufferings of others.  Places that are physically safe can be spiritually deadly.

One of the best stories of community in the United States comes from the backwoods of Georgia.  In the 1940s, long before the civil rights movement had begun to question the racial divisions in the South, white folks and black folks came together to start Koinonia Farm – a “demonstration plot”for the kingdom of God, as they called it.  Koinonia survived attacks from the Ku Klux Klan in the ’50s and ’60s, tilling the soil and sowing seeds for God’s movement in the least likely of places.

koinonia farm


From Common Prayer, a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, and OKoro
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Edmonton considering a 16% Affordable Housing Target in every neighbourhood

On Monday afternoon, August 13, 2018, city staff will be presenting an affordable housing framework to City Council Executive.  The need for such a framework is driven by the reality of a steep rise in housing cost in many Canadian cities since the turn of the millenium, and numbers from Statistics Canada that tell us almost 50,000 renter households In Edmonton face difficulty finding housing they can afford.

City staff are proposing a city-wide affordable housing framework (laid out in City Policy C601) to guide the planning and development of City-funded affordable housing projects. There are two important changes that this policy recommends:

  1. That to meet the current needs of Edmontonians, the City encourages affordable housing city-wide, and aspires to 16% affordable housing in all neighbourhoods and wards.
  2. That all new affordable housing projects are evaluated against the same five criteria to ensure consistency and transparency.

Recognizing that the geographic location of a development is only one of multiple factors to consider, the framework lays out five criteria to evaluate affordable housing project proposals

  • The degree of affordability (level of rent payments charged in the project)
  • Whether the proposed development has funding from other orders of government
  • The proximity of the development to amenities and supports
  • The overall project design
  • The broader geographic context of the development’s location

This framework aims to provide a consistent way to assess affordable housing funding proposals from community organizations and the private sector. This means that every affordable housing proposal will be evaluated using the same five criteria, and the existing neighbourhood context and services will be taken into consideration when the City looks at funding affordable housing.

Is 16% too much? 

CRIHI has been grappling with the larger question for some time. and has formulated our answer as follows:

A 16% guideline for distribution of affordable housing across Edmonton is not high, and in itself poses no threat to neighbourhood vitality.

Supporting observations:

  1. The research shows little correlation between rates of non-market housing and neighbourhood distress here in Edmonton.
  2. The 16% suggested target is not high when one considers the practice of other jurisdictions with social safety nets comparable to Canada.  For example: the floating city of Ijburg in the Netherlands is intentionally designed with 30% Social housing, 30% home ownership, and 40% market rental on each block.  The Netherlands has been intentionally designing communities with a steady integration of non-market and mixed-income housing developments since the second world war.

To see our answer in the context of the larger question, please see our Housing FAQ:

How much is too much? and supporting research.


Interested to come see and hear the report on August 13?
Come join us!

CRIHI will be there to hear and respond to this report, and is inviting faith community folks to come out in a show of support for meaningful housing solutions.  We anticipate a great deal of interest from other groups as well, so there is likely to be a fairly strong lineup of people to speak to this report.  CRIHI’s voice will be one of them.

This meeting is designated time specific to begin at 1:30 on Monday, August 13 at City Hall, in the River Valley Room.

To access the formal policy proposal, please go to the following link:
http://sirepub.edmonton.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=1964&doctype=AGENDA
Framework and supporting documents are available with the June 18 agenda, under item 6.16