Seeking to Reduce Harm, a United Church series on the idea of drug decriminalization, May 12, May 19, & May 26, 2021, 4 pm PST. (5:00 pm Mountain Daylight/ Central standard).
This program is sponsored by the Church in Mission Unit (United Church of Canada – General Council), Shining Waters Regional Council, Living Skies Regional Council, Antler River Watersheld Regional Council, Northern Spirit Regional Council, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council and Horseshoe Falls Regional Council.
“People are dying from substance use disorder in record numbers in Canada, and we as a society, and as a church, desperately need better ways to address their needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even worse, since many of the social services these people have used to reduce the harm to themselves have been closed or limited by pandemic restrictions. Medical authorities also report increasing number of toxic drugs on the streets of our cities, which are more deadly than the street drugs that were available even a few years ago.
As a church, how shall we respond to this social crisis? How shall we live our call to support the most marginalized in our communities? What might it mean to frame this as a medical issue, rather than an opportunity for moral judgment? How shall we respond to Jesus’ call to be agents of healing?
In 2018, the General Council Executive considered a proposal from then BC Conference regarding the decriminalization of illicit substances for personal use. In this series of webinars we’ll consider that proposal, and the hopes that gave rise to it. We’ll provide an opportunity for a national conversation among church leaders on the need for harm reduction and safe supply engagement with illicit substances. And we’ll consider some practical ways that your community of faith can help make your city or town a safer place.”
May 12th – Harm Reduction and UCC Engagement
We will discuss how the United Church of Canada is engaged in harm reduction across the country. We will be introduced to ways in which communities of faith live out their mission by working towards building a relationship with people who live with substance use disorder.
May 19th – Decriminalization of Illicit Substances for Personal Use
We will discuss the topic of decriminalization of illicit substances for personal use and how this connects with the various social service organizations throughout Canada. We will also hear about the ways in which social services are seeking to reduce harm through creative ways, including: technologically, creatively and immediate. We will learn about the ‘Good Samaritan Act’, its strengths and its limitations.
May26th – The Theology of Harm Reduction
We will examine how harm reduction is lived out through our faithful witness within the message of our scriptures. We will hear from theologians who work in rural and urban contexts and how the toxic drug crisis has influenced their understanding of faith.
Rev. Karen Orlandi (she/her) is in ministry at Silver Spire United Church in St. Catharines. She is actively engaged in harm reduction throughout the St. Catharines area.
Rev. Evan Smith (he/she) is the minister to Toronto Urban Native Ministry. Evan is passionate about serving people who live on the margins and this compels their work on the front lines doing pastoral care and harm reduction with sex workers, LGBTQ2A youth, families, people who are incarcerated and street-involved folks. Evan describes themself as a Traditional Person following Jesus’s teachings. Evan is a Parent, a Grandparent, an Auntie, a Pipe Carrier, a carrier of Birth Teachings, and uses their healing work to encourage people’s spiritual health through the practice of both Traditional Spirituality and Christianity.
Sackville United Church, is called to proclaim and live the call of Jesus in our midst. As people at Sackville United Church, we are committed to being a safe, nurturing environment, affirming and including all – those oppressed, those excluded and those marginalized (e.g. by economic status, dietary limitations, race, culture, language, age, ability, mental health, marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation).
Amber Jensen, is the founder of Sweetgrass Youth Alliance (2016) after loosing her foster son to Fentanyl. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Lethbridge and works within the classroom at the Lethbridge Youth Treatment Centre. She was the editor of I am the Opioid Crisis: Tales from Southern Alberta.
Barry Morris, is a United Church of Canada urban minister of several decades, an independan scholar, social justice and New Green Deal activist; member of the AAR, Merton and Niebuhr societies; and author/coauthor of The Word on the Street (1991); Hopeful Realism in Urban Ministry (2016); and, via these, engaging urban ministry and theology for both MTh (1999) and MPhil (2017) degrees.
Image: UCC Regional Council facebook page