OttawaWatch: Somebody’s place in Ottawa

Canadian Parliament Buildings Ottawa

From my perch, here in Ottawa, one can catch a glimpse of something new emerging in the field of faith-political interfacing. Its working name is “My Place-Chez Moi.”

It may well be Ottawa’s best-kept secret and not because its encouragers are trying to keep it under wraps. Rather, it is because those giving leadership to the idea are trying to lay their groundwork carefully, so that it can emerge into usefulness sometime between now and Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017

Perhaps the best way to introduce the idea to OttawaWatch readers is to link you to Have a look at it. I am certain some readers will say: “This is an idea whose time has come!” Others will scratch their heads.

The catalyst for My Place-Chez Moi is Wes McLeod, who has served quietly over the past two decades as parliamentary assistant to several MPs. Among them were the first ever Reform MP Deb Grey and former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl. After they both departed the political scene, he directed the Manning Centre for Building Democracy’s Navigating the Faith-Political Interface initiative. Under those auspices, he set up several successful events, across Canada that, among them, brought together hundreds of people to explore that complex issue.

Out of that and several other networking activities that brought together an eclectic range of mostly Christian believers, My Place-Chez Moi began to germinate.

Much of the work done so far has been in the form of brainstorming. Pretty soon, I would guess, some structure will start to form up.

Even without formal structure, MP-CM recently pulled together a series of breakfasts near The Hill, dedicated to providing training in governance and vision for leaders of small faith-based ministries and groups. The commonality of these groups is that they need to interact from time to time with the body politic, in order to do good things to meet human need.

What they do grows out of their Christian commitment. The challenge, on one hand, is to identify how what they have can best be adapted to meet those needs and, on the other, how they can form partnerships with others to bring the necessary resources to bear.

McLeod, in planning the breakfasts, as well as looking ahead to what MP-CM might become, works with a list of over 100 Christian ministries and groups whose leaders have one reason or another to be in touch with Ottawa politicians and bureaucrats. (Full disclosure: This list originated about six years ago, from rudimentary research done by your humble scribe. At that time, there were just over 30 names in the line-up including such familiar organizations as Mennonite Central Committee, Salvation Army, World Vision and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.)

From this perspective, the genius of MP-CM will be to bring together from across Canada, across denominational structures and across generations, informed and well-prepared people. The need to develop such partnerships and leaderships rests in the fact that the human needs they can meet are, as it stands, much greater than they have capacity to provide.

Sometimes, around this place, I have heard the expression that Christians become “so heavenly minded they are of little earthly good.” Over against this is the emergence of what is sometimes call “social enterprise”. That expression defines the task of meeting needs from the motivation and actions of community, corporate and faith-based enterprises. It creates an opportunity for Christians to enhance the “earthly good” side of the equation.

I would encourage readers to keep an eye on My Place-Chez Moi, and will do what I can from time to time to highlight its progress.