From left: Police Chief Gord Cobey, Anishnabeg Outreach CEO Stephen Jackson, Mayor Cam Guthrie and minister John Benham in the gymnasium of Trinity United in Guelph, Ont., in July. (Photo: Joy Struthers/Metroland)

Topics: January/February 2024, UCC in Focus | Indigenous

Indigenous healing centre inside United Church could help people struggling with work and finances

The healing centre will offer employment, training, tutoring and care package services


An Indigenous healing centre inside an Ontario United church is one step closer to becoming fully operational and could serve as a model for how cities tackle economic inequities, organizers say.

Anishnabeg Outreach is a non-profit agency based in Kitchener, Ont., focused on healing and empowering First Nations, Inuit and Métis people to find economic independence. It partnered with Trinity United in Guelph, Ont., to run several programs out of the church at no cost to the Indigenous-run non-profit. In early September, Anishnabeg Outreach moved in after renovating the building’s third floor.


“What we’re doing in Guelph and Trinity is creating a system that supports a mid-size city. We can do that anywhere. That’s the value of what we’ve created,” says Stephen Jackson, CEO of Anishnabeg Outreach.

The healing centre will offer employment, training and tutoring services through its third-floor office at Trinity, as well as its Spirit Bundle program using the church’s stage in the gymnasium. Spirit bundles are custom care packages for families and single people that contain food, toiletries, household goods and clothes, as well as seasonal items like Halloween costumes. The centre will also use the church’s kitchen to process food locally in Guelph to cut down on shipping costs from Kitchener.

Success at Trinity could serve as a blueprint to expand programs to other places of worship willing to partner with the non-profit, says Jackson. The result would be a scalable model cities could adopt to help disenfranchised people out of a cycle of trauma and give them a chance to reclaim their lives through work.

More on Broadview:

For Trinity’s Rev. John Benham, healing was front of mind when he met with Jackson back in 2021.

“We are giving them space, and they’re improving the space. They’re making it look beautiful. I tend to say we’re on a journey of a relationship of healing,” Benham says.

Such improvements include moving silhouettes of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, a set of Anishinaabe guiding principles, from Anishnabeg Outreach Kitchener into Trinity’s hallways so they’re visible to users as soon as they enter the church.

Want to read more from Broadview? Consider subscribing to one of our newsletters.

“One of the lessons we can learn here at Trinity is what it means to be truly hospitable to people who have really had a lot of pain through the church,” says Benham on the United Church of Canada’s role in the residential school system.

Giving Anishnabeg Outreach the freedom to use and modify the space was a vital part of the partnership and only possible through establishing trust, Jackson says. “The only way it’s going to go forward is through a partnership.”

Benham or Trinity “isn’t leading what we’re doing,” he continues. “They’re supporting what we’re doing, and we’re supporting what they’re doing because it’s a partnership. Without trust, you’ll never do anything.”


Brian Vinh Tien Trinh is a writer in Toronto and a former assistant digital editor at Broadview.

This story first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2024 issue.

We hope you found this Broadview article engaging. 

Our team is working hard to bring you more independent, award-winning journalism. But Broadview is a nonprofit and these are tough times for magazines. Please consider supporting our work. There are a number of ways to do so:

  • Subscribe to our magazine and you’ll receive intelligent, timely stories and perspectives delivered to your home 8 times a year. 
  • Donate to our Friends Fund.
  • Give the gift of Broadview to someone special in your life and make a difference!

Thank you for being such wonderful readers.

Jocelyn Bell



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.