By: Rachel Atsma | November 13, 2023
Redeemer first moved to its current campus 37 years ago, and has called Ancaster home ever since. Meadowlands, the neighbourhood surrounding it, started being developed just a couple years later. Just as Redeemer has expanded as an institution, in population, and in architecture, so Meadowlands has grown and developed alongside it.
This article, however, is not about the history of Redeemer, or Meadowlands. Instead, I am interested in the residents of our surrounding community. It is not often that a regular student would have any reason to converse to a Meadowlandian, and vice versa.
Therefore, the question on my mind was what the people of Meadowlands think of Redeemer. Is it a cherished piece of their town? Is it merely an institution? Or is it that random place where once upon a time a dome inflated, deflated, and reflated again?
Seeking to answer this question, I made plans to go around and ask the residents of Meadowlands questions about Redeemer. I’m not sure what scared me more, the Halloween decorations or the prospect of interacting with strangers, but nevertheless I ventured out into the hostile, foreboding lands of suburban Ancaster to search for the answers. Doors were slammed in my face (they politely declined to talk), I was rudely insulted (a dog barked at me), and I nearly died of frostbite (it was a little bit chilly). Still, I pushed on, my quest for the truth ultimately trumping my will to turn back.
My search brought me to many people, including one Chris Dorsman. About ten years ago, Dorsman decided to purchase an investment property close to Redeemer. Since then, he has rented said house exclusively to Redeemerites. In this position he has interacted with dozens of students over the years.
Renting to college students might be a scary feat for some landlords. However, Dorsman said that his encounters have been overwhelmingly positive, and indicative of Redeemer as an institution more generally.
“Those who choose to attend Redeemer do so out of a love for learning within a Christian environment,” he noted. “With that you get a degree of Christian ‘responsibility’ to good Christian values and respect.”
Now, Dorsman knew of Redeemer before, and his own sister attended years ago, but certainly not all of the residents I talked to had as much experience with the university as him.
For example, one woman I talked to has only lived in the Meadowlands neighborhood for just over a year. When asked what came to mind when thinking about Redeemer, she simply said, “Christian University.” A rather succinct, though true, statement. The conversation did not last much longer. It was clear that Redeemer was largely unknown to her. She had more questions than answers about Redeemer and what it stood for. Though she did note that the few interactions she had had with Redeemer students were all positive, she did not feel like they were of significance.
These brief encounters were just two of the individuals I met on my great cross-neighbourhood journey. As I see it, they represent two different sides: one more knowledgeable of Redeemer as an institution, with semi-regular encounters with its students; the other, a relative stranger to Redeemer and what it represents.
Of course, there are many others with accounts across this spectrum. Thankfully, I did not come across actual slammings-of-doors or negative speech, though if I had continued my trek for long enough I’m sure they might’ve come eventually. However, it does go to show that just because one may live a few hundred meters away from a certain place, it might as well be miles away for how little they know about it. Redeemer culture might as well be the practices of another country.
So how does this fit in with us as students? What does it matter what anyone thinks of us or our school? I offer up another quote from Chris Dorsman to help answer this question. He says that in all his interactions he feels that Redeemer and its students have “a positive influence on the community around it.” Those who know Redeemer and what it stands for feel that just having the institution there makes the surrounding areas better for it.
However, those who do not understand the importance of having an institution grounded in God may not recognize this. Therefore, it is important to keep the light shining from within Redeemer, so that it reaches out into the community.
Community is central to Redeemer’s mission, but it comes in different forms. As students, we have most likely seen it most in dorm life or classes. The Redeemer bubble is lovely, but it’s just that—a bubble. Sometimes it is important to think about our wider community and how we can reach them as well.
There are many different ways to do this, and not all of them have to include awkward door knocking. Redeemer already does a great job by running their annual food drive. It not only gets first years acquainted with the physical area of the Meadowlands, but reminds the community of who we are and what we do, all while helping those less fortunate. Last year I led a group of first year students, and we ended up chatting with a sweet lady and singing her happy birthday—you really never know what could happen.
However, not everything has to be on such a large scale. It could be as simple as smiling at someone as you pass them on a walk, asking how their day’s going or if you can pet their dog. Small interactions might not seem meaningful, but can often spark something deeper. While “Christian University” at least speaks to the heart of Redeemer as an institution, there are so many more layers that can be found just under the surface. Sometimes even just being a friendly face can be radical. When we read in Luke of being a good neighbour, it is often applied on a large scale, helping those in need. However, it is also important not to forget the faces right in front of us.