The Issue

How does your faith community address end-of-life issues?

The Compassionate Cities Charter identified churches, synagogues, temples, and other faith-based groups as key influencers in the development of a broader compassionate community.

While the role of religious institutions in our communities has changed over the years, they remain important social hubs for the care of the sick and the support of people who are experiencing anxiety, loss, and grief. They typically have resources trained in providing such support. However, such efforts vary considerably in their effectiveness, depending on the experience and training of the members, the ability to recruit volunteers, and their priority within the overall ministry.

Religious institutions have an established tradition of outreach ministries, addressing needs beyond those of their own membership. This outreach is continuing to evolve, and many faith communities fill an essential role in providing social support to diverse groups in our community as a whole.

Our Action

Activities to build capacity for discussing end-of-life issues within faith communities and their networks.

Our program plan includes activities aimed at building capacity for discussing end-of-life issues within these communities. For example, we are partnering with the Ottawa Pastoral Care Training Program to develop modules for advance care planning (ACP), and grief and bereavement. We are also working with Ottawa School of Theology and Spirituality to develop a course on Ministering to Older Adults.

In addition to planning program delivery, our volunteer Faith Communities Team provides a network for sharing perspectives and practices, and exchanging information, between faith communities.

Finally, the Healthy End of Life (HELP) action research project has chosen two communities of faith as study sites, where they have done extensive interviewing to identify the most critical needs. These include asset mapping to understand existing support networks, addressing gaps in the community’s resources, and undertaking new pilot initiatives to fill those gaps.

Our Impact

Connecting expertise and the unique relationships faith communities have to build a compassionate city.

Our workshops have confirmed that faith communities have a genuine interest and need to talk about issues surrounding death and dying. Participants expressed a willingness to engage in advance care planning. Follow-up interviews tell us that this is happening.

Apart from the two communities of faith recruited to be study sites for HELP and some highly committed individuals within the Faith Communities Team, we recognize that we need to mature more long-term partnerships in this area. We will continue to reach out to diverse faith communities to connect their expertise, and the unique relationships they have with their members and beneficiaries, to our overall vision of a compassionate city.


At a faith community meeting, one of the members of the pastoral care team said: “I am a nurse in a hospital and I deal with many patients who are dying and who have not had any conversations about their end-of-life wishes”

Get involved

Contact us to learn how your faith community can get involved in creating a compassionate Ottawa.

For more information

You can download a PDF with more information from Compassionate Ottawa about faith communities in our resources section.

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