June 22, 2009

Gee, I only wanted to peel potatoes.

example of a volunteer application form

If you look at the scanned document closer you will find among the qualifications: "have a lifestyle free of sexual sin" and "be a member in good standing and active participant of a protestant evangelical church."

In 2005, I was a youth starting out in university and interested in a provincial government program that gave students tuition money for so many hours of volunteer work. I was interested in doing this as I had wanted to volunteer but was always too busy working at a minimum wage job that I didn't enjoy.

I thought I'd try out the soup kitchens in Winnipeg.

Well, there were many to choose from: Winnipeg Harvest which was the major foodbank, Siloam mission which had just moved into a recently closed down garment factory (which moved production overseas), and Union Gospel Mission, which had fortress like buildings in skid row areas of the city. On a whim I decided to hit the Union gospel one first. A man greeted me and buzzed me in. And I was told to wait. Another man showed up and called me into his office and showed me the forms now posted on this screen. He explained that in order to volunteer I had to be all of the things on the qualifications sheet (1st image) Well I looked at the form and thought "this is why we separate church and state".

I had two choices: either I lied through my teeth to accomplish my goal of getting a volunteer posistion, or I just say I am anything but the things on that form.

The Qualifications Form and me: (follow with the first scanned image)

1. I'm not born again.
2. I consider myself Catholic and hardly in any congregation.
3. Well, okay I guess I can agree with this one.
4. I enjoy a good drink now and then. And I still smoked back then.
5. I'm gay nothing wrong with that. Except in the eyes of Union Gospel, I'm Damned.
6. Who knows, but I'm guessing a big NO on this one.

I questioned to myself the legality of this set of forms. It's a church, albeit a right-wing church by the sounds of it so I did not push the matter. "Oh well" I thought. I had school to worry about first, and bills to pay, before I find out more on that. And finding out more through a government office in Doer's Manitoba is like pulling teeth. Sort of like filing for EI. "Meh". I just say I am not all of the things the form says I should be for volunteering.

So, that said and done he was kind enough to suggest Winnipeg Harvest. But I figured volunteering at that point was more hard to get a position than an actual paying job. So next time I feel like working at a soup kitchen, I'll find the local food not bombs.

After this episode I was interested in the history of such missions and found some books interesting among them how the other half lives (a classic, but full of outdated terms) and articles such as one explaining the term rice Christian. Are these missions simply doing good work or exploiting a person down on their luck? Given these new hard times I'm sure missions will be out for an audience much like any political group or union.

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