Church Agency Collective
by Katie Pearn
A grassroots community of courage is working to help bring an end to sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in Calgary. The Church Agency Collective Against Sexual Exploitation is a gathering of representatives from churches and agencies, as well as concerned citizens who want to discover ways they can work together to raise awareness and engagement about this issue.
“It started three years ago with a few church pastors and myself (representing the agency side of things) getting together for a lunch to explore how we could collectively address the issue of sexual exploitation in the city of Calgary,” says Cliff Wiebe, community development specialist at the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre and co-founder of The Collective. “We decided that we needed to start by learning about the issue of sexual exploitation, so we invited everyone we knew and it grew from there.”
Wiebe and Pastor Brad Friesen from Centre Street Church, were the first co-chairs of the Collective. Last spring/summer, they decided it was time to pass the co-chair positions on, and Beth McLean Wiest, Executive Director of Harmony through Harmony, and Jutta Wittmeier, executive director of the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre stepped up to fill the positions.
A typical meeting begins with a time of networking over coffee, tea and baked goods, followed by prayer. Then they set aside a “what’s new” time where participants to go around and make introductions and do some information sharing about what is happening with their church or agency to help build awareness about the various initiatives and events that are taking place.
After the time of sharing, there is a featured speaker who teaches on a topic relating to sexual exploitation. For example, they are currently learning about trauma and have also learned about how sometimes the streets can be a safer place than some homes.
“Our goal is to increase the conversation around this and find ways to mobilize greater action,” says Mclean Wiest. “We focus on a Christian response, but also try to be a seeker-sensitive space for agency members who may not have that same belief.”
Currently, The Collective’s network is made up of more than 175 people and a typical gathering is between 30-40 people. Sessions are also created in such a way that if you missed any previous session, you won’t be out of the loop.
The Collective’s Morning Learning Sessions are held in the Fellowship Hall of Centre Street Church’s West Campus from 9-11 am on the second Thursday of every other month. The next sessions are scheduled for April 11 and June 13, and all are welcome to attend; however, the main focus is on churches and agencies working (or exploring about how they can work) on this issue.
To contact the collective, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the mailing list.