Michael Blair had recently lost his position as a congregational minister for coming out as a gay man when he arrived at CRC. He saw what they were doing in Regent Park. “I started to get excited. They were intentionally empowering people affected by circumstances. They weren’t doing stuff for people, but with people, making sure the people in the community were engaged.”
Plus, he realized, here was a congregation that believed in faith-based social justice work. “From faith we understand something of the innate value of the individual person,” he says. “I was able to keep nurturing that.”
Blair also set out to raise “the excitement level” by reconnecting the CRC with the United Church family and with the congregation at Rosedale United Church, where CRC had its genesis. He called on other area churches, and then other agencies, to work together on the issues of the revitalization. He made sure the CRC and the other faith-based area agencies were at the table for the redevelopment not only as social service providers but as voices of the faith community.
He was involved in the Social Development Plan “for three long years” and reacted to the trauma about the changes he saw among residents who were being relocated by hiring a chaplain to help those in crisis. “It’s the highlight of my time here,” he says but in 2007 he left the CRC for a position in the general offices of the United Church. “That was hard,” he admits. “It was after eight months when I was returning from Brazil that I realized I was finally able to breathe.”