One way that Peace Church on 52nd in Vancouver serves its local community is by hosting community dinners that are free and open to all.
Over the time it has been offering the dinners, the church, which is part of Mennonite Church B.C., has seen an increase in the number of people who come for food.
“Our attendance has been noticeably growing due to a number of factors, one being the rising cost of food and the growing number of cases of families facing food security issues,” said Sonja Everson, who directs the church’s community engagement work.
The church also hosts a weekly Food Hub—and participation is growing there, too.
“When we first opened our doors we were serving 18 families, and now we’re capped at over 40, with many left on a waitlist,” she said, adding that some of those families are now attending community dinners.
The growing numbers are putting a strain on the church’s finances. “We don’t want to turn these opportunities for ministry away, and yet our resources as a church are dwindling as well,” said Everson.
To assist with meeting the growing need, the church received a Spirit of MDS Fund grant of $5,000 from Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada. Funds from the grant were used by the church this year to buy ingredients needed to continue the dinners, all of which are run by volunteers from the church.
“Our community dinners are well received and have become a rewarding space for not only nourishment but an opportunity for fellowship and ministry,” Everson said. “We always try to make extra for the families that could use leftovers for another meal.”
The grant to Peace on 52nd was just one of 26 grants totalling just over $137,000, given to churches and organizations across Canada by MDS Canada in 2022–23. For 2023–24, the organization is once again inviting Canadian congregations and organizations that need assistance in serving their communities to consider applying for funding.
The Spirit of MDS Fund was created during the pandemic, when MDS Canada was unable to do any projects but wanted to assist congregations responding to needs arising from that challenging time in their communities. When the pandemic abated, it was retained as an ongoing program of the organization. Grants from the fund can be used for things like construction or renovation projects of homes for people in need; for food or other needed resources for those in crisis; for ministry and service projects that involve volunteers serving the neighbourhood; or other creative ideas that are a fit with MDS Canada’s two Core Values: faith in action and caring relationships.
Grants of up to $5,000 are available. For more, see mds.org/spirit-of-mds-fund/.