Faithful Presence: The Act Five Story

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver’s poem, Summer Day, lingers in the Blake St home each year, practicing together the attention she lived and of which she wrote. Act Five invites students to practice paying attention, being more and more present in the places and moments of their lives. This encouragement is essential to how we understand the work of Christian discipleship in a world that has monetized and sabotaged our attention. If we can be present, attentive, to our internal and external worlds, we may notice God in our midst.  The God of scripture and history, made manifest in the incarnate Christ. And so, we in turn learn rhythms of grace—how to dwell wholly where we are.

Considering the many forces in the world that compete for our attention and the lie that whatever is happening in the stories on our screens is more appealing than the seemingly mundane moments of our own daily lives, this work of practicing presence and leading our students to do the same is countercultural. In a world of YouTube influencers, 24/7 news cycles, and a worldview that preaches limitlessness as the highest ideal, life at Act Five is different.

Living in community, cherishing daily routines, spending time in the wilderness, enjoying quiet spaces in prayer and choosing restriction in the digital world – these practices and the vision of flourishing that lies behind them all work to open the eyes of a generation that has been overfed on a diet of hyper individualism, limitation as evil, and numbing levels of mindless entertainment. In a world of overconsumption, Act Five is teaching and learning to remember what it means to share daily bread, to trust in enough for each day.  

In everyone who has come to live at Blake St, we have witnessed this growing ability to be present where they are, to notice what is happening around and within, and to see how God’s Spirit is moving in their midst. I see our current students growing and bearing fruits of the Spirit, and I continue to watch as our alumni grow as lifelong disciples in this way of following Jesus in their new places, communities and pursuits.

In the beginning, we set out to develop a discipleship program that prepared young adults for a life of faithfulness, with an enriched imagination for God’s Kingdom. And as we did this, we too as a staff team have reflected on two core revelations.

First, we have noticed that to disciple young adults in the way of Jesus is to invite participation in God’s mission in the world—through a faithful presence in our neighbourhood and city, through conversations among the marginalized, through practicing hospitality and through a commitment to rhythms of Sabbath and prayer.

Second, we have noticed that to prepare young adults for whatever comes next, we must encourage a wholehearted life in the present. To discern God’s will for our lives is to walk faithfully in our current moments, trusting that He is here with us wanting to be known.

In the same way our students wrestle with what’s next, so too do we. We are only in year three, and yet we sense the Spirit is just beginning His work among and through us. While Act Five began as a discipling gap year program that engaged its students missionally in its place, I wonder if perhaps Act Five is now better understood as a missional community within which gap year students participate, grow and serve.

Today, Act Five is expanding its presence in our neighbourhood, in Hamilton and among local churches and organizations. We have been encouraged that both neighbours and partners in the city regularly communicate to us that our reputation as change agents is growing. Faithful presence matters. Participation in God’s mission makes a difference—to the community and to the students living it. 

We would love it if you can support us in continuing to live out our ever-growing mission—both in discipling young adults and in growing our faithful presence on Blake St and in Hamilton.  Here is how you might support us:

  1. Will you commit to praying for us daily through this Advent season? Pray that God will continue His work among our current 11 students, that He will give both students and staff rest as we head separate ways over Christmas break, and that God will guide the next steps for Act Five as it moves out of its pilot phase of operation.
  2. Will you consider donating to support Act Five? Did you know that Act Five tuition & program expenses only support around half of what it takes to operate our program in this place? We rely on the support of others who believe in what we are doing, how we are doing it and what God might have in store for us in years to come.  To give, whether a one-time gift or monthly:
    1. Go to
    2. Select “Redeemer Mission Fund” as the place to give. Click “Donate Now”.
    3. Include “Act Five” in the section for “Donation Notes”.
  3. Will you help us spread the word? Whether for possible future students, for those who might be interested in supporting our work, or for other young adults who might appreciate living among this community in future summers or academic years, we want the story to spread!

It is a gift to be part of what God is doing through Act Five.

With gratitude,

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Jon Berends

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