TrueCity — Developing supporting ligaments

by Dave Witt

Last March, over 350 people from more than 40 churches came together for the TrueCity Festival to celebrate what God is doing in Hamilton, Ontario.

TrueCity is a network of churches that for more than 12 years has explored how to be churches together for the good of our city.

True City 2
TrueCity Conference — Every year hundreds of TrueCity participants come together for a weekend of sharing stories of how God is working in their city! Photo: TrueCity

Twenty-five churches, from a variety of denominational backgrounds, have committed to live out a set of core values, including being congregationally-based, neighbourhood-focused, actively cooperating, humbly orthodox and to have those on the margins at the centre of our concern. We call each other to these values and are committed to both recognizing how God is at work among us and where we need to grow.

This network grew out of a shared conviction and dream—a conviction that churches have something unique to offer to their communities and city, and a dream of churches connecting in ways that allow them to learn from each other and collaborate —so they each grow stronger as local congregations as they bless their neighbourhoods and city.

“A network of churches that for more than 12 years have explored how to be churches together for the good of our city”

Our churches are committed to finding ways for congregations to join God in his mission in tangible ways. Working from the assumption that everyone has a role to play and the Kingdom comes most clearly into focus when we work together, these churches have had the privilege of joining God in a number of city shaping initiatives.

Over the past 12 years churches have come together …

  • to collaboratively pack thousands of Christmas hampers and backpacks for local schools;
    for the annual CrossCulture event where our youth groups spend the day integrating practices of worship and service;
  • to learn from each other as we have helped hundreds of refugees settle in our city;
  • to practical experiences and reflections around congregational activities from neighbourhood involvement to discipleship to responding to mental health realities; and
  • to integrate a diversity of prayer practices with a commitment to seek justice with the support and example of GOHOP.

Occasionally something bigger and more dramatic happens, like the current partnership between Hughson Street Baptist and Indwell to build 43 units of affordable housing; or the initiative that Eucharist Church pioneered a few years ago to see bike lanes added to Cannon Street—a major city thoroughfare.

Ride For Refuge, Micah House, HOG, Meeting House, East Hamilton, bicycle
Ride for Refuge — Every year many TrueCity churches participate in the Ride for Refuge to raise funds for charities that provide refuge and hope for displaced, vulnerable and exploited people. Photo: TrueCity

More often than not, the changes are more incremental and not easily recognized. TrueCity has resulted in a deepened relational trust among leaders of churches which created good conditions for both formal and informal collaboration. One leader described this as “the thickening of the spiritual-social fabric in Hamilton.”

TrueCity is unapologetically a “bottom-up” network. It flows from the grassroots experience of local congregations in Hamilton in search of practical input. Integration is crucial. One result is that congregations that are part of looser ecclesial structures have found it easier to connect and participate in the network.

This has made it more challenging for Anglican churches to get good initial traction, though that is now changing as churches like St. John the Evangelist explore deeper involvement.

TrueCity has been inspired by and drawn strength from scriptures such as Ephesians 4:16: “From him the whole body, joined together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Leaders involved have come to understand TrueCity as a web of deep relational trust connecting one part of the body to another, so that the body “builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” By practicing good “supporting ligament” disciplines with each other we live out God’s desire for his Church and, by extension, this city.

Dave Witt works for International Teams as a Missional Network Developer specifically tasked with facilitating the TrueCity network in Hamilton.