TrueCity is a network of congregations working together for the good of Hamilton. We share a calling to authentic involvement in our neighbourhoods and across the city, and cultivate cooperation and collaboration between churches on specific projects to be a blessing to Hamilton.
TrueCity aims to share tangible congregation-based models of involvement in neighbourhoods and the city as a whole. We facilitate shared learning and collaborative projects so that our churches participate more fully and effectively in God’s mission together.
For the past ten years the TrueCity network has pursued a vision of “churches together for the good of our city.” This movement grew out of a shared conviction and a shared dream that churches have a unique role to play in enabling transformation in their neighbourhoods and city. The dream included churches connecting in ways that allowed them to learn from each other and collaborate in order to grow stronger as local congregations while they bless their neighbourhoods and city.
Detailed Implementation Plan
Over the past six months the focus has been on continuing to strengthen the TrueCity identity and network relationships between congregations across Hamilton.
This year’s TrueCity Conference was reimagined as a Festival as a way to celebrate together what God is doing in the city of Hamilton. In the past the feedback on conferences has highlighted the importance of storytelling, worshipping together, and connecting with people. The Festival created a space to do all this in the format of a joyous celebration and a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Highlights from those surveyed were worshipping together, networking, connecting, and having children join in the celebration. Various “hubs” were curated around the topics of storytelling, mental health, environmental stewardship, refugee engagement, spiritual formation, fostering and adoption, youth, neighbourhoods, housing, cycling, church planting, and music which only begins to touch on the many areas that TrueCity members are impacting and influencing their environments across Hamilton.
Refugee Engagement Project
After a year and a half, The Refugee Engagement Project wrapped up in June 2017. The vision of the project was to see the lives of refugees and churches in Hamilton transformed through the experience of shared life journeys focusing on educating, mobilizing, and equipping Hamilton churches for collaborative engagement with refugees. Together we saw:
- Over 18 Canadian families connected to new Syrian families through the New Neighbours initiative; these relationships are transformational for everyone involved!
- 4 Refugee Roundtable discussions where 26 churches came together for a time of sharing stories and learning from one another
- 15 churches coached in discerning their involvement with refugees
- A Matching Grant Fund to encourage churches to pursue refugee sponsorship
- The facilitation of a hub at the TrueCity Festival where newcomers and Canadians shared their stories about what it means to belong
In 2017 Alison and Katie, the project staff, hosted two events for those involved in New Neighbours, where 50 people including Syrian families and Canadian families came together for a time of community building.
The Connection Project continues to strengthen the relational bridges between TrueCity congregations by recruiting and equipping “connectors” from within each of the churches that make up the network. By learning from each other, praying for each other, working with each other, and celebrating each other, we continue to see the ties between churches strengthened and our churches engaging in key transformational initiatives. There are now 16 churches with Connectors. A survey was conducted in May in order to get feedback from the Connectors and discern direction for next year. One Connector shared “Having someone whose job it is to track the story and share that with a larger group has been really helpful. I think it helps to foster better connections between congregations simply because there’s a person who knows about other churches and who is getting to know people from those churches and so it’s on the radar more.”
We continue to pursue our goal to equip, train, and coach each other in effective discipleship within the context of missional engagement. A team of church leaders have begun to identify discipleship best practices that are bearing good fruit in our various congregations. This year was the third year that Andrew Zantingh has met weekly with leaders from 8 different churches to learn how to live as disciples of Jesus on mission in our communities. As one participant shared, “Learning about missional discipleship has challenged and stretched in ways I never expected. It is not always easy to take a hard look at one’s current patterns of leadership and acknowledge their downside. Yet I have been encouraged and re-energized to see hope for a new way of discipleship that aligns with the way of Jesus.”
Neighbourhood Listening Project
One of the core values of the TrueCity network is to be Neighbourhood Focused. This year a group engaged in a Neighbourhood Listening Project to understand better how churches are engaging with their neighbourhood and collaborating with each other in the process. This pilot project has focused initially on the neighbourhoods that make up the Sherman Hub and the churches committed to those neighbourhoods. The facilitators shared their initial learnings in one of the hubs offered at the Festival. Through interviews, focus groups, and conversations these churches were able to take time to explore how God is at work in their neighbourhoods.
Over the past few months an impact evaluation was completed of TrueCity looking at network assessment and the impact of TrueCity on the city. Network assessment and evaluation is a relatively new field, and TrueCity has 13 years of networking experience, of strategy around collaboration and partnership between faith communities which has the potential to influence other networks.
TrueCity is transitioning in a way to strengthen its network function and capacities. A task force of three leaders has come together to look at the nature of partnership and the TrueCity covenanting process in order to define and outline how churches become part of TrueCity and what expectations are connected to involvement.
The Connectors have developed a Task Force who are meeting together to organize a church storying telling and visiting exchange. Their idea is to continue to strengthen relationships between connectors and churches by visiting each other’s churches and sharing stories of what God is doing in our midst through churches working together.
Since wrapping up the pilot project in early 2017, more TrueCity churches have expressed interest in learning about the process of Neighbourhood Listening. This appears to be a strong frontier moving forward for churches to understand their neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood involvement is key to TrueCity’s values and through Asset Based Community Development language, churches are continuing the conversation around how churches can engage in their communities.
Discipleship huddles are continuing in the fall and work is also beginning on planning for next year’s festival. Annual Collaborative Events such as Backpacks, Ride for Refuge, and Christmas Hampers will also continue this fall.
Stories of Transformation
Through an impact assessment of TrueCity Hamilton when churches were asked about the value added to churches of being involved in the network, they shared that their churches:
- Are able to join in the greater story of what God is doing across their city
- Feel a stronger sense of unity with other believers and a deeper love for the city
- Have learned from other congregations (different worship styles, prayer and ways of “doing church”)
- Have been given many tools in areas of discipleship and missional engagement
- Always ask the question “how can we do this TOGETHER?”
|Total Income January-June 2017||$55,518|
|Total Expenses January-June 2017||$69,802|
|Overall 2017 Budget||$139,966|