An Eastern Synod congregation of Newmarket, Ont. has stepped up to take on two areas of the ELCIC Reformation Challenge. The church – located just an hour’s drive north up the 404 from Toronto – has an average weekly attendance of approximately 50 and has already committed to plant over 1000 trees and sponsor at least one scholarship.
For Cherilyn Spraakman, a member of Holy Cross and the Chairperson of the Global Justice Team, the support from her congregation has been “utterly remarkable”.
“We had originally planned to raise funds for one scholarship throughout the congregation, but one day I received an email from a member who was willing to contribute one full scholarship,” Spraakman said. “I was just kind of blown away by the generosity. But because we have other people who will also be contributing towards a scholarship, we are sure that we will have more than one, going above and beyond our original commitment.”
The decision on which areas of the Reformation Challenge to cover came from a congregational questionnaire back in October. With a ‘majority rules’ system, the decision was made to donate one scholarship and plant 1000 trees.
“After initially reading about the Reformation Challenge in the Canada Lutheran, we on the Global Justice Team started talking about potential options for each of the four different areas,” Spraakman said. “None of us were really able to make a decision, so we decided to ask the congregation of what they wanted to support. The questionnaire was just a one pager – nothing fancy, ‘here is the Reformation Challenge and please indicate what you would like to support anonymously’. It worked really well for us!”
Holy Cross had previously been supporting the Augusta Victoria Hospital, while also digging deeper into the Palestinian schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). So the decision to sponsor a scholarship for the ELCJHL was one that sat very well within the church.
“I have really been influenced by the generosity and commitments of our congregation,” Spraakman said. “We intend on planting one tree in a nearby park, while a lot of our members have also suggested planting trees on their property. Many people in the church have already given gifts for planting in Ethiopia as well.”
Although the funds have already been raised, Holy Cross is still in the beginning stages of sorting out details with the Parks and Recreation Department in town as to how and when the church will be able to plant their special tree.
“The congregation has really been excited about the tree planting feature – maybe even more excited than the scholarships,” Spraakman said. “The scholarships for the Palestinian students will really go a long way, but also the help of Canadian Lutheran World Relief in our tree planting commitment is to be noted. There are a few rules in town as to what kind of tree can be planted, but we hope that that will be sorted out soon, and we can maybe even have a special planting ceremony!”