-an article for the August 2003 Deep Cove Crier
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Who can forget Sidney Poitier in his ground-breaking role in the inter-racial movie ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Born in Miami during a mainland visit by his parents, Poitier grew up in poverty in the Bahamas as the son of a dirt farmer. He had little formal education and at the age of 15 was sent to Miami to live with his brother. Overcoming enormous obstacles, Poitier became Hollywood's first black superstar and the first black performer to win an Oscar as Best Actor ("Lilies of the Field" 1963)
At one time, Poitier was recognized as the #1 box-office star in North America. Paying tribute to Sidney Poitier in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "He is a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom. Here is a man who, in the words we so often hear now, is a soul brother."
Watching Sidney Poitier in the 1967 ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?’ movie convinced me as a (then) twelve-year-old Montrealer that racism is a sin that must be actively opposed. I used to assume that racism was an American problem. Over the years, I have discovered that Canadian racism is just as real, but often more subtle. Racism between francophones and anglophones. Thank God that the walls are coming down between Quebec and the rest of Canada Error! Bookmark not defined. But there are so many walls of racism that still need to come down, racism experienced by Chinese Canadians, First Nations, and others.
In ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’, Poitier reminded us that the ultimate symbol of community is eating together at dinner. There is no one that we really love and accept who we would not wish to eat with. Eating is intimacy, eating is caring, eating is sharing.
This September, our arms are being opened wide. Not only are all 27,000 Deep Cove/Seymour residents being invited to dinner. Not only are all 170,000 people on the North Shore being offered a delicious meal. This September, all thirty-three million Canadians ‘from sea to shining sea’, from Victoria to Halifax, will have an opportunity to have a complimentary dinner at an Alpha course. Churches from across all denominations, across all racial and linguistic barriers, are joining together to do the impossible: to feed an entire nation!
In fall 2003, thousands of introductory Alpha dinners will be held in churches, community halls, ice rinks, office boardrooms, restaurants and homes all across Canada. The dinners will be upbeat, relaxed and fun. Already 350,000 Canadians and six million worldwide have taken the Alpha course http://www.alphacanada.org/
Alpha is a low-key, non-threatening opportunity to explore the meaning of life in the context of a delicious meal. Each week for 11 sessions, participants watch a humorous video by the well-known English speaker Nicky Gumbel, and then break into small groups to chat. In these small groups, all questions and comments are welcome. Alpha gives a safe place where everyone is free to explore the deeper questions of life without being criticized or embarrassed.
To get an idea of what Alpha is about, you are invited to preview a short segment of the first night's Introductory Video. Most Canadians live within easy access of an Alpha course. The easiest way to find an Alpha Course near you is to click on http://www.alphacanada.org/courses/search.html. For North Vancouver in particular, just click on http://www.alphacanada.org/wconnect/wc.dll?alpha~search . There are dozens of churches on the North Shore offering an Alpha course this fall. You have probably already seen the bill boards, banners, bus-stop posters, lawn signs and newspaper ads inviting you to Alpha. Now is the time to take the step, to make that phone call, to take the opportunity to explore the meaning of life. Guess who’s coming to dinner? It might be you. See you there.
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church
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St. Simon's Anglican Church
North Vancouver, B.C.