Parish builds dream for needy

Published September 1, 2004

If I Had a Hammer was the theme song for about 40 members of St. Clement’s Anglican church, Toronto , on a hot, sunny July Saturday, as they joined a 150-member crew on a Habitat for Humanity home construction project.

“We have church members here from age 16 to 86 and St. Clement’s today provided the lunch for everyone here,” said Bryan Beauchamp, a parishioner who led St. Clement’s involvement in the project. One of the 40 townhouses being built at the site in Toronto has been dubbed “St. Clement’s House,” he noted, due to the church’s sponsorship.

Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1976 in the United States and now active around the world, seeks volunteers and donations of land and materials to build simple, affordable housing for families in need. It is not a “give-away program,” according to Habitat’s Web site. “In addition to a down payment and mortgage payments, each homeowner invests hundreds of hours of their own labour into the building of their house and the houses of others,” it said. Habitat funds the no-interest mortgages.

Habitat describes itself as a “nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry seeking to eliminate poverty housing worldwide.” Mr. Beauchamp noted that “when Christians act out their faith, it is rooted in Scripture. I think of Matthew 25:35 — ‘I was a stranger and you gave me shelter.'”

Organizations may sponsor a house through a $60,000 contribution. A St. Clement’s parishioner, who wishes to remain anonymous, made the contribution, said Mr. Beauchamp. Many members of various denominations volunteer for Habitat projects, said Adrienne Finlay, faith relations co-ordinator, in an interview. “In September, we will have 100 faith leaders — rabbis, bishops, etc. — on a ‘faith leaders build,'” she said.

St. Clement’s was the sponsor for the day’s build and the rector, Canon Cheryl Palmer, began the day with devotions. Mr. Beauchamp has become so enthused about Habitat that he jokes he has caught “Habititus,” a malady that afflicts those inspired to volunteer again and again on Habitat projects. He also noted that in Toronto , the recently retired archbishop, Terence Finlay, has been outspoken about the need for affordable housing.

One St. Clement’s parishioner, Andrew Uys, 25, was volunteering at the build along with his parents, who immigrated to Canada from South Africa 16 years ago. “It’s a lot of fun. I think if you want a community to be the way you want it to be, it’s up to you to participate toward that goal,” he said on a break from installing fireproofing material in walls. Other parishioners hammered nails, installed drywall and carried lumber.

Mr. Uys, who also claims to have caught “Habititus,” will soon travel to New Zealand to participate in a Habitat build. The Toronto site also was enlivened by several volunteers from Texas , who wore cowboy hats that were actually made of hard, safety-grade plastic.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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