Churches galvanize in the aftermath of mass shooting in Toronto - The Halo Effect

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By Anson Liski

With files from Susan Ponting

“They came in the quietness, and they just started crying. They needed a place to come hug each other, cry, and to be prayed for, and pray with each other.” – Pastor Daniel Winter, Calvary Church – Pape and Danforth

“The Halo Project, is trying to quantify all the social good that religious congregations provide to their communities,” – Daniel Proussalidis, Communications Director, Cardus

 

A terrifying mass shooting shook a close-knit Toronto neighbourhood known as the Danforth and also as Greektown to its core when gunman Faisal Hussain, 29, opened fire on innocent people enjoying a Sunday summer evening.

Hussain died from a gun shot bullet to the head during a confrontation with police.

And tragically, Hussain murdered, Julianna Kozis, 10, and Reese Fallon, 18. The community is now left scarred forever.

In the aftermath, people are reeling, and feeling overwhelmed, scared, and anxious.

That’s when Pastor Daniel Winter and the Calvary Church at Danforth and Pape stepped in.

On Monday evening, and all throughout the week, as they’ve always done – they are opening their doors for vigils, services, and anything the community – or people who come to their church – are in need of.

At Monday’s vigil – the first one immediately following the tragedy, Calvary was packed with over 700 people standing, praying, and consoling each other.

In an interview with Context, Pastor Winter said, “To be honest, it actually feels like it’s what we are here for. To be a lighthouse and a place of refuge. They came in the quietness, and they just started crying. They needed a place to come hug each other, cry, and to be prayed for and pray with each other.”

Winter says part of their work has been keeping people away from the pressure of the world wide media gathered at the scene, “We aren’t allowing cameras in the church – Media are allowed in if they want to pray, but not if they want to take pictures. We need a safe spot.”

Calvary church is continuing to counsel hundreds of people in the community, Winter adds, “This is safe space, many feel they have lost something, there is a sense that the community has lost its innocence.”

The City of Toronto and police are also concerned about safety. Toronto City Council voted to invest $44 million in an effort to end gun violence. A much needed investment as Toronto has seen a trend that is resembling 2005’s “Year of the Gun,” when 52 people in one year were killed by guns. This year alone, there have been already 30 gun related homicides.

The Halo Effect

Although the multi-million dollar investment is seen by many to have the potential to quell an insurmountable problem facing Toronto, Calvary church has shown the social value religious institutions bring to their communities in the aftermath of tragedy.

This is called the Hallo Effect.

Daniel Proussalidis, Communications Director with Cardus defines the Halo Effect as, “A measurement of the social contribution that religious congregations provide to where they are located.” This contribution creates a circumference (a hallo) of positive social effects within the reach of the congregation – and the community it serves.

The Halo Project, “Is trying to quantify all the social good that religious congregations provide to their communities,” adds Proussalidis. Mike Wood Daly with the University of Toronto conducted the Halo Project research that was published by Cardus in 2016.

The Halo Project research looked at 10 different congregations in Toronto and analyzed every dollar they spent toward the community to determine the value added. They found that if the government had to replace the services that these congregations provided, they would have to spend $4.77 for every $1 the church/synagogue/temple/mosque/etc. had in their budget.

In relation to the work Calvary has done in the Danforth community, Proussalidis says, “Though it is difficult to make a specific connection to particular benefits, we can say with certainty that religious congregations make an outsized contribution to their communities – one that we don’t often realize or appreciate.”

Pastor Winter agrees, “For the services we provide, not one dollar comes from the government. We do this out of love, and the people who receive it and believe it.”

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