“Bursting through the walls” was one of the first statements shared by Reverend Kelly Osgood, minister at Robert McClure United Church, as she welcomed participants to a community round table.
The church had recently been working on a vision statement, and “bursting through the walls” was a phrase with stickiness.
It seemed almost prophetic, as the conversation about how Robert McClure could “love their neighbourhood” better, unfolded with the neighbours around the table:
Frances Simms — Aspen, Heart of the Northeast
Rev. Helen Smith — Centennial Presbyterian Church
Greg Weir — Lester B. Pearson High School
Anne Hill — Calgary Public Library
Arlene Adamson — Silvera for Seniors
It was apparent that the church is already bursting through the walls. The green space around the church hosts a community garden used by church and community members as well as Parent Link.
The church has a food security program with Spinz Around that provides fresh produce, bread and other items rescued from local merchants and farmer’s markets. Church space is used for ESL classes.
A fascinating story unfolded. Apparently the area surrounding the Village Square Leisure Centre was designed to be a kind of hub. A number of high use centres are adjacent to each other; the leisure centre and library, Lester B. Pearson High School, a strip mall with a Co-op and Tim Hortons, another church — Centennial Presbyterian, as well as Silvera, a low-income seniors housing project. The physical design has the potential to be a bumping space for places where people come together to meet, share ideas or local knowledge, relate to one another, get comfort, feel connected and have the potential to co-create a vibrant world.
What became apparent through the conversation was although that may have been the intention of the physical design in the mid-70s when it was built, the social infrastructure necessary to support such an intention has not been nurtured and maintained.
There was a distant collective memory of the Village Fair at Village Square . . . (Music in the library, bike exchange) and meetings which sounded as though they primarily focused on the challenges of human density; traffic, young people pushing the limits rather than exploring how the space and design could strengthen the community.
And that was where the conversation hurried. There was noticeable energy and interest in discovering possible synergies and collaborations . . . seeing the need for more communication between organizations and the possibility of collaborating on projects like resurrecting the Village Fair.
Kelly Osgood shares that she was delighted by the enthusiasm and possibilities that surfaced. She sees the next steps involving coming together to further articulate the possibilities and identifying the needed supports (perhaps some dedicated staff time) to help this shared geographic space become a true community hub.
In two hours around a table, “bursting through the walls” has gathered steam as Robert McClure United Church reached out to neighbours becoming friends to co-create a stronger, richer community.