Faces of Grace - Samuel and Vathsala Thomas
Thanks to Rev. Canon Peter and Francesca for giving us this opportunity to give our testimony and how Grace Church matters to us.
I am Vathsala Thomas and my husband is Samuel Thomas. We have agreed that I would talk for both of us. Me and my husband came to Canada from India in 1980 with our beautiful daughter Alice and our charming son John.
Now, I am a retired teacher. I taught senior level Mathematics, for the Toronto District School Board. I have studied Master of Theology in Tyndale University half way. But I am sure one day I will finish it but don’t know when. My husband Sam is a retired quality control engineer for Magna International, Toronto.
I am a president of a nonprofit charity organization called Thanjavur Christians in Canada Association. Haggai 1:7-8 says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. So, our association’s first goal is to partner with poor people to build their ruined churches in India. So far by the grace of God we have partnered and built five churches now we are planning to go to the sixth one.
God ranks the care of orphans among the highest expression of our faith. Since 2002 we are helping a Lutheran church orphanage in Thanjavur, India. Where more than 100 ladies of different ages challenged physically and or mentally live under the care of 6 devoted sisters with some workers. We are also doing some charity works in Toronto.
We both are Christians by birth. The time when we came to Canada we went to Advent Lutheran Church which was closer to our apartment. At the same time, we also helped to establish a Tamil Christian church in Toronto. After a while we moved from there and looked for a church which is closer to our home. We found Agincourt Pentecostal Church.
Our daughter Alice’s family moved to [the Forest Hill neighbourhood] and they found Grace Church-on the-Hill, which is closer to their home. Our grandson William likes music. He found interest with the choir. So, they started to come here and they are very happy here. In 2014, my husband Sam got sick very seriously and we believed only because of our and our well-wishers’ prayers he got out of it. All the glory to the Almighty. By that time, we heard that Grace Church also prayed for Sam’s recovery. Thank you all for your prayers. Our son John and his wife Harpreet asked us to stay with them until Sam is fully recovered so we stayed with our son’s family which is closer to Grace Church. So, we started to come here.
The first time when we walked into the church our Rev. Canon Peter welcomed us very warmly and all the members of the church recognized us as if they had known us earlier. We didn’t feel that we walked into a place of strangers. That encouraged us very much.
Thanks to our Rev. Canon Peter’s devoted service and his friendly nature is a real attraction.
Thanks to Rev. Irina Dubinski’s teaching, and all of Irina’s Spirituality and support between Sundays are amazing and inspiring.
Thanks to Rev. Canon Judy for her teaching.
Second, our Choir leaders, Stephen and Sarah. We both couldn’t get the chance to sing in a choir. We have immigrated to Canada from India, because of the transition time we couldn’t help our children’s music area. In our family, our son in law, Alex Tessier, is very good in music and instruments. We thank God that we have one musically talented person in our family. At the same time, I continued to pray that all our grandchildren should participate in the choir and sing for God’s glory by their music and instruments, which has been started to accomplish by our grandsons William and Lucas. Soon, God willing, with the help of Sarah and Stephen all our grandchildren will be singing in the choir. Thanks to Stephen and Sarah for your devoted service and encouragement to all.
Third, Francesca’s children ministry which attracts our grandchildren Jacques, Sara and Kaylin very much. That’s why we can concentrate the service without worry. Every Saturday before they go to bed the girls remind us that next day is the church day - they don’t want to say Sunday - and get up very early in the morning. We are happy that they are encouraged to participate in church activities. Francesca’s talent of coordinating many events very diligently and successfully is great. Thanks Francesca and all the volunteers for their sincere works.
The bible study is one of our favorite events. Again, the [Aboriginal] HIPPY program, Tai Chi, outreach projects, and all other events are wonderful. The bible says that each one is blessed with different talents. In a church our individual talents would be used to edify the faith of others. We always believe that church is the community of believers who confess the true and living God, Jesus Christ.
Grace Church has all the aspects that we can expect in a church. There are so many opportunities and open gates to get involved in this parish and the life of the community. Now we are in our home which is almost 40 kms. away from the church. So, we couldn’t attend all the activities that the church is offering. Though we couldn’t participate as we want, our prayers are always with all the events and with all the community works of Grace Church. Because Grace matters to us.
Thanks be to God. Thank you all.
Faces of Grace - Maria Ling
My name is Maria Ling and I’m from Singapore.
I’m a Singaporean Methodist. Later, I joined the United Methodist Church when we moved to the US. In every place we’ve lived, we’ve always gone to a Methodist or United Methodist church. When we arrived in Toronto in June 2012, I could not find a Methodist church.
Anyway, let me tell you something about myself. I’m a pastor by calling, gifting and training. All other times I’m the only child of my parents, the only wife of one husband and the only (biological) mother of David, Evan and Zoe.
My husband, Swee Hong Lim, and I are missionaries and because of that, we’ve lived and worked in many cross-cultural situations. We’re here in Toronto because he came here to teach at Emmanuel College. Prior to this, we were in Waco, Texas because he was teaching at Baylor University. Before that, I was back in Singapore for 2 years while he had been back to teach at Trinity Theological College for four years. In the noughties, I was pastoring a United Methodist church for 7 years in Quakertown, NJ, as well as completing the MDiv at Drew Theological School. In the ‘90s, we were doing graduate studies at Perkins School of Theology in Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. During that time, my husband served as Music Director of a UMC in Arlington, TX. We were also both on staff at Wesley Methodist Church, Singapore from the ‘80s to the ‘90s. So, you can tell we’re pretty much devotees of John and Charles Wesley.
Well, I’m a 4th generation Methodist and very proud of that so it’s taken me a while to call myself an Anglican even though I’ve been worshipping in an Anglican church since arriving in Toronto. But let me assure you, despite my heritage, background and my present association, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
When we arrived in Toronto in mid-2012, I was invited by a friend to go to St Barnabas Anglican Church. Even though it was in the general area where we were living at that time, I still wanted to look for a church within walking distance. I went to two churches. I am sure they are wonderful churches but for some reason, I did not find a welcome at either of them. At one of them, there was no greeter. I sat alone and no one spoke to me during the Sharing of the Peace. After the service ended, there were some refreshments at the back of the church but yet again I was left by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person who waits to be approached. In fact, I’m the kind of person who will try to make eye contact and who would be willing to speak first. On another Sunday, I visited another church. During the whole time I was there in worship with them, only the lady I sat next to shook my hand and smiled at me during the Sharing of the Peace. When the service ended, I wanted to speak to the pastor (they had 2 there). I couldn’t tell who the pastors were. So I hung around at the end and when a lady went to the door, I tried to make eye contact with her. I went to her and asked her, “Are you the pastor?” She replied in the affirmative and I introduced myself. Nothing. Soon, I had to move on as the people started to leave and wanted to exit. Till today, both churches have not contacted me even though I signed their guest books. We lived in the area for 4 years and no one from either of those churches ever tried to reach out to us. So, I went to St Barnabas Anglican Church on the Danforth.
You may wonder what brought me to Grace Church on-the-Hill. In June 2016, we moved to this area and because I’m committed to being part of a faith community where I’m located, I started to look for a nearby church. I had been told about Grace Church but I did not come here initially. It was closer to walk to another church. I went regularly for three months but there was not one service of Holy Communion. I filled in the offering envelope every week but no one from the church called me or emailed me even though I indicated that I wanted to make contact. I did meet the Associate Pastor but when he found out who my husband was, he was more interested to contact him.
In September 2015, I started working as the parish administrator at St Barnabas Anglican Church. I would chat regularly with the Honorary Assistant, Fr David Hoopes OHC. In 2016, I told him we were moving and he strongly encouraged me to visit Grace Church. He also told me that Peter Walker would be a good person to talk to about my hopes to seek ordination in the Anglican Church.
So, in September 2016, I came to Grace Church and almost from the start told Pastor Peter that the pastor here (meaning me) needed pastoring (by the Canon) and secondly, that I believe in being in ministry in the neighbourhood I live in – I can’t help being a missionary!
Right from the first Sunday I walked in, there was a warm welcome and a smile. Francesca learned my name and later sent me an email, Don came to welcome me and after the service, well, who can avoid the Canon? Not only that, when I walked out of the church that first Sunday to go to Loblaws to get some groceries, I met a woman walking home. We started conversing because we had been handed flyers about resisting the building of a taller building in the Village. Helen Bradfield and I continued to meet each other outside church and always on the TTC! And because I live and worship in this area, I’ve also bumped into Margaret and Scott around our means of transportation! But there are many more I’ve gotten to know and connect with, too many to mention all the names now. What’s different about Grace is unless I choose to avoid people, there’ll always be someone who will stop and chat or even wave from the other side of the church. Then it’s a matter of spending time to get to know each other better on our spiritual sojourn here on earth.
God’s presence is palpable here and we cannot help but share this reality within and without the walls of this building. The spirit of gracious hospitality is strong here. Are we ready to welcome more people into our fold? I think the answer is obvious because you’ve welcomed me.
Faces of Grace - Lena Blackburn
Good morning everyone, my name is Lena Blackburn. Before I give my testimony, I would like to say I may have a serious face, but looks are deceiving. I am very friendly, and I also have an accent! I am retired and I keep myself busy by working part-time.
My entire family immigrated from Grenada "AKA Island of Spice" which is situated in the Windward Islands. There are three island states; Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and of course our beautiful white sandy beaches. Please note Grenada is pronounced "Grena[ay]da". (not Grana[ah]da).
We have been living in Toronto for over 42 years. I have two adult children. Some of you may have met my daughter Ashley; who is now living and working in Beijing, China teaching English.
I also, have one sister and two brothers. Some of you may have noticed my Mom and sister at church with me. I convinced my Mom and sister how great the choir sings and the hymns are just like when we were back in Grenada. Finally, they attended and were amazed! They love the choir.
When I first came to Grace Church, I could not find the entrance. Every door I pulled was locked and I approached a lady with a little girl as they were running down Lonsdale Road and I asked, "Are you familiar with this church?" She replied, "Yes!" I said, "Can you show me the entrance to the church?" and she said, "Follow me". It was 10:05 am and there was no greeter at the entrance. If I had not met this lady I was about to go back home.
I have been attending Grace Church for just over 17 months and I felt very welcomed here from the very first day I arrived! I met Don Cranston who shared the peace with me that day and at the end of the service Don said to me, "Are you new? Are you looking for a Church?" I said "Yes." Don said, "Come and meet Reverend Peter Walker." As I was introduced, Peter said to me, "Welcome to Grace Church! We would love to have you! Are you going to return?" I was so nervous but I smiled and said, "Most likely". Peter then said, "What you see is what you get. If you don't see it is because we don't have it". Peter called out to Delcina, "Please take Lena for coffee." I left with her but I was still nervous!
I visited another church but realized it was not the right fit for me. My inner voice said to me, "I sent you to Grace Church this is where you belong."
I came back to Grace Church the third Sunday after my first visit and Peter said to me, "You are back! Thanks for coming!" I smiled and said, "I am here for good!"
If my Dad was alive today he would have said to me, "Forward march to Grace Church and don't look back".
I had been a long-standing member at another Church in Toronto since we immigrated to Canada. My Dad was a Warden. In the latter part of my time there I was involved in the Outreach Program i.e. preparing meals for the Out of the Cold program on most Sundays. I enjoyed preparing and cooking meals for this program because I was giving back to the people in the community that could not afford a meal. This also meant that I was not able to attend church on these Sundays. I was also a lesson reader and did the Prayers of the People.
As the saying goes when one door closes, God always opens either a window or a door. I thank God every day for directing me to Grace Church it is a blessing for me to be here.
I contribute my baking skills to Café Grace and help with cleaning up whenever I can. I also help at some of the social events, such as brunches and I have supported the Café Grace a few times.
I speak about the love I have for Grace Church to my family and friends, what this Church has brought to me, "Happiness and Peace of Mind".
My Anglican faith has always been important to me. I was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican Church in Grenada. As a child, I went to church every Sunday twice a day. My grandparents were the post of the church. We attended service in the morning and Sunday school in the afternoon...such wonderful times.
So, what does Grace Church mean to me? For me, it's about the beautiful music from the choir, the sermon and of course the people; the clergy Peter and Irina; they are a blessing to Grace Church. It really takes me back to my childhood memories of going to church.
Thank you and blessings to all.
Faces of Grace - Izabella
Good morning and a happy Mother's Day to all those loving and caring moms out there! It's great to see everyone here today! Allow me to start my testimony by introducing myself. I am Izabella, and I have been a chorister in the Grace Church Children's Choir for quite some time now. I first joined the choir in September of 2015 making this the near end of second year being a part of this choir.I have never really said this too much, but being a part of this community means a whole lot to me. Many components make up what we have here at Grace; coming here every Tuesday for weekly rehearsals, singing songs of praise during Sunday service and being a part of something huge, like our Jonah musical. It was a wonderful opportunity to have dancing, acting and singing all in one. Every one of those combined make something that I may never experience anywhere else; which makes me so proud that I was given this opportunity. Currently, my brother Denzel and I are now in the choir. He joined just last September, and I am sure he is glad that he did. My mom is a volunteer here as well. She's a small part of that big team of helpers that clean up after us every time we eat. It's typical of her, as she does the same thing for us two at home!
Anyways, that just shows even more how important Grace is to us. Grace Church is like another home to us; and though it is a far home away from home, we still feel welcomed by all the warm-hearted parishioners. And it brings a great joy to my heart that I get to share my talent with the community. This is why we must support Grace Church because there are blessings in knowing God's word, blessings in hearing inspiration from music, blessing in the ministry for children, youth, adults, and seniors; and most of all, the blessing in the fellowship for one another. At Grace, we can rest from our weekly activity and just spend time for spiritual upliftment and in fellowship with one another. It has been a great privilege to come here at Grace Church, because through my mentors Stephen, Sarah and the choir family, they helped me develop my talent to use for God's service and to the wider community as well. This is my testimony.
Thank you very much.
Faces of Grace - Shirley
I’m Shirley and I’ve been singing in the choir for over 4 years now. I first knew about Grace because my sister, Carina, came to the daycare next door. This is where a big part of my life started.
Before coming to Grace, I wasn’t familiar with Christianity and my family didn’t have that background. On my first day of church, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know to how to read the music, much less the psalms. But very quickly, I began to fit in. I learned how to create beautiful music with the help of my friends, and our talented conductors, Sarah and Stephen. I discovered a passion for singing. Just thinking about coming to rehearsals every Tuesday and services every Sunday makes me smile so hard that my cheeks hurt.
I love everything about Grace. I love coming to the lock-ins on Friday nights, playing the role of Angel Gabriel in the Christmas pageant and coming to choir camp in the summer.
Choir tours are one of my favourite parts of being in the choir. I travel a lot, but going on tours with Grace has opened my senses to more parts of the world; to Quebec, Ottawa and the UK. Those were all really amazing experiences.
I wanted to spread my love for Grace Church to my friends and family. When my sister was little, she’s come to special events at Grace with me. She got a feel of what being in the choir was like, and as soon as she was old enough to join the Junior Choir, she did.
Some of you may still remember Emma, my exchange partner from France. Her first day here was at choir camp, even before school started. She loved it! I think we should congratulate ourselves for giving her a great impression on how amazing Canada is. And it’s not just Emma. At Grace, we’ve introduced many new people to not only our community, but also our country.
Grace marks so many new beginnings. Grace introduced me to singing, to friendships that are really special, and to a community that is welcoming, and loving, just like one big family, with a crazy number of mums and dads. At Grace, my sister has grown from a tiny little baby to a Junior Chorister. For me, Grace has been there to support me on my journey from a little girl to a young adult. Grace has shaped who I am today and I’m very thankful for that. So thank you. I’m looking forward for more years to come.
Faces of Grace - Erin Iles and Maya
My name is Erin Iles and my name is Maya Bhattacharjee.
MAYA: I first came to Grace when I was a little baby and I have been coming ever since.
I went through the Toddler’s Morning Out program for 2 years, coming here two mornings a week, which I loved and this is where I met Francesca.
I went to Sunday School where Laura, Julia and Brenda taught me. I liked making the crafts and learning the bible stories.
I love being in the Christmas pageant every year with the great costumes – even if sometimes I have to play the role of a boy!
My favourite service of the whole year is the Family Christmas Eve service, where we do a short version of the pageant for the little kids. I love all the happy families, lighting the lights, and getting into the true spirit of Christmas.
This is my first year singing in the choir and I am really enjoying it. Sarah and Stephen are great teachers and I have learned so much already. I went on the Choir Trip to Dublin and Oxford and I was so excited to sing in new places. It was a lot of fun to travel and hang out with all my friends in the choir.
I have helped out with the brunches, preparing the food and serving it. I also love coming to and helping with the pancake supper.
Grace Church is important to me because I have been part of this community for my whole life and I enjoy coming every Sunday.
ERIN: As Maya has said, we first came to Grace about 9 years ago.
Like my mom before me, I had been a lifetime member of St. Timothy’s in Scarborough where our current Bishop Patrick Yu was the minister for a long period. He married my husband and me -- and before this big event -- we had to complete a pretty intense one-on-one marriage course for 6 weeks. (For some reason, there weren’t any other couples getting married at the time!) Thankfully, my husband, a Hindu (mind you) saved us! He is a pretty intellectual guy so he and Patrick would sit and talk about philosophy for most of the time. I’m not sure that we learned much about marriage – but thankfully, we seem to have figured it out!
My Anglican faith has always been important to me. As a child, I loved the ritual and comfort of going to church and the intellectual challenge of understanding the Bible and tenets of the Christian faith. As I did my various university degrees I always seemed to gravitate toward Anglican communities, Trinity at U of T and King’s College in Halifax.
And now I am, happily, a member at Grace. As many have said before me, I have felt welcomed here from the beginning. Grace satisfies so many of the things that I desire from a church: a thoughtful and thought-provoking approach to our faith, meaningful and sustaining worship experiences, a modern outlook, superb music, and a thriving community.
In return, I am grateful to contribute and help out. I often help at many of the social events, such as brunches and pancake dinners. I am a greeter and I will be a chaperone on the choir trip this summer (As possibly the world’s worst singer, I’m happy that they agreed to take me along!)
I also schedule all of the readers for the BAS services. If you would like to read at 10 a.m. on Sundays, please let me know. I’d be happy to add you to the list of wonderful readers that we have!
To conclude, even though we are a multi-faith family, Grace Church is a very important part of our life and Maya and I are so thankful to be here.
Faces of Grace - Kimathi
Reporting on the Dublin & Oxford choir tour, 2016
Hello, my name is Kimathi and I have been attending Grace Church for just over a year. When I first joined the choir, I was quite nervous to sing in front of so many people on Sundays but with the help of my amazing choir directors, Steven and Sarah, I overcame that fear. This summer for two weeks, our lovely choir directors took us on a tour of Europe. First we flew into Dublin, Ireland for one week. Dublin was definitely my favourite stop on the tour. We got to stay in very nice serviced apartments. During the day we sang at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The architecture in the cathedral is just absolutely stunning. Unlike most churches and cathedrals, the organ at St. Patrick's was 40 feet high. When Steven or Sarah were about to start a piece, Tom our amazing organist, had to watch very closely on a video camera. When we weren’t singing in Dublin, we were usually out and about going on tours. The most memorable tour for me was when we went on the Viking Splash tour. This was a giant bus that took us around the city. Then, the bus drove into the water to give us a tour of the lake. I liked this a lot because it was very quiet and peaceful with no traffic. I shared my apartment with William and Jaydon which I enjoyed very much. We all did our own thing but every night we would gather in the living room to watch a show called “Totally Spies” before bed.
Our second and final stop on our tour was in Oxford, England. When we got there, all the children in the choir stayed in the Christ Church Cathedral Choir School. The rooms were much smaller than in Dublin but they were still nice. Since there was nowhere to store food, we ate out every day which I enjoyed very much. We got to try a lot of new and unique foods. During the day, we sang at Christ Church Cathedral which was amazing. The college campus was astonishing. The architecture was very old but still very beautiful and intact. One of my favourite things about the campus architecture was the Japanese coy fish fountain right in the centre. It sported fully grown, live coy as well as numerous lily pads and other forms of wildlife. The cathedral we sang in, definitely wasn’t as big a St. Patrick's, but it still was very nice to sing in. The building was quite small making the acoustics better. When we weren't singing or eating out, we were on tours. A tour I really enjoyed was the Harry Potter walking tour. We were shown a few or the places that some of the movies were filmed such as the dining hall. Although we were only there for two weeks, it felt like one month. As much as I enjoyed my time, I also missed Toronto. But overall my time in Europe was amazing. Thank you.
Faces of Grace - Luella Schmidt
My name is Luella Schmidt. My friend Janice Latimer and I have attended Grace Church for just over 7 years. How well I remember the morning we walked in through these doors! It was Easter Sunday and the church was packed. We could hardly find a place to sit.
The music was glorious, filling our souls to the bursting point with the joy of Easter and the reality that we have a living Lord and Saviour!
We had come “home” and we wanted to stay. In June 2011—only 5 short years ago—we were confirmed here at Grace Church-on-the-Hill.
You might expect when you hear my last name is “SCHMIDT” that my roots are not English nor are they Anglican, and you are right. I was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan to Mennonite, German parents. How providential that it was Carol Friesen, also with a Mennonite background and who served as an intern here at the time, who introduced us to the Anglican catechism in preparation for our confirmation.
While the liturgical format of Anglican worship was new to me, my faith in the God of “Grace” began when I was a child. In fact, I always seemed to have known that I was a Christian, not because of my parents’ faith [God has many children, but no grandchildren]. I also seemed to have always known—even as a child—that Jesus Christ died and came alive again so I could have my sins forgiven and be born into God’s family.
When exactly was I born into God’s family? I cannot remember when I first placed my faith in Christ. My mother told me that I was about 3 years old. There were times, I admit, when I doubted my faith. I thought, If I can’t remember when I became a Christian, am I really a believer?
It was at these times of doubt that I turned to the promises Jesus made in the Bible. If Jesus said it, I could believe it.
Professionally, I am a teacher. I launched my “career path” early—long before I entered Teachers College. I have one sister—3 years younger than I am, so of course, as children we played “school.” As the “pretend” teacher, I often subjected her to whatever I had been taught in school earlier in the day. When I was 12 years old, I begged my father (who was the Sunday school superintendent in the little country church we attended) to let me teach the preschoolers. No other teacher could be found, so I got the job. In God’s economy—nothing is ever wasted. I didn’t know then that one day I would be teaching English as a second language, which is what I do now. Experience for what I do now began at that time. In my class I had several children who didn’t understand much English, so while I taught mostly in English, I also spoke some Low German, so they would understand.
After attending Teachers College, I taught elementary school in Saskatchewan. After teaching in several rural schools, I came to Ontario for a summer job—teaching the Bible in interdenominational outdoor clubs for children. These children had not had the opportunities I had had to learn about Jesus. Many didn’t know anything about the Bible, but they did have many questions. And they exhibited surprising intuitive faith. About the same time I learned that two of the students I had taught in elementary school had died in two separate car accidents. Suddenly I was faced with a sobering question. Was there any thing I could do that would better prepare children for life after death than to teach them academic subjects? My career path took a sharp turn at that point, as I accepted what I believe was God’s call to an outreach job in Ontario. The focus of my ministry was to organize and equip volunteers to teach children.
I feel extremely “at home” at Grace because children are not only accepted here, but they have opportunities to serve here. Not only are they ministered to, but they are able to minister to us—whether by carrying the cross, by taking the offering, by singing in a choir or participating in a pageant. Receiving one such little one in Christ’s name truly paves the way for a fulfilling life now as well as hope for the future.
I’ve been blessed all my life to be a great beneficiary of grace (lower case ‘g’). [More is ‘‘caught” than “taught”] My parents knew God’s grace in life and in death. In life, being physically disabled, my father knew what it was to work longer hours than most to accomplish difficult physical farming tasks. My mother also worked hard physically to look after a huge garden and the livestock we had. Yet, they knew that it was God’s grace that kept them from going under. One time I remember so well—our family standing, in silence, at the window watching as hail totally demolished the garden. I know we were all praying, “Please Lord, save the wheat fields.” And, by God’s grace, the wheat was spared. . . .God’s grace in daily life. I was privileged to be present when my father died. He died the way he had lived, relying on God’s grace. My father’s last prayer was simply, “Give us the grace to walk with Thee.”
What does it mean for us to walk with God in the here and now?
here at Grace Church? For Janice and me, it means being involved in the Sanctuary Guild. For Janice it also means being a server, assisting with preparation of the Eucharist during the service. We enjoy serving within this supportive community here at Grace Church and draw strength from their friendship, encouragement and care. And for the most part, it means exactly what is said at the conclusion of each of our Sunday morning services: “The worship is over. The service begins.”
God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness and we are equipped to serve as we go out into our world of obligations and opportunities.
Faces of Grace - Sandy Stewart
Good morning everyone, my name is Sandy Stewart.
I was christened, confirmed and married in Christ Church, Deer Park. Over the years however I often attended Grace Church for those same events among my friends, and with the more recent addition of funerals. As I reflect, I was always comfortable when I visited Grace Church.
After having successfully raised and launched two children, I kick-started my own career again.
While living abroad, and with many years under my belt as a "road warrior," I had very little time to attend a church on a regular basis. However, I found that in order to ease the accumulated stress and challenges that crept into my life, I would simply wander into a church, any church, especially in the off-hours, in order to become re-centered and to leave behind the sack of rocks that we all seem to gather. I found my peace in some wonderful places of worship around the world, and I feel now that was in and of itself a very special journey.
Eventually, family needs encouraged me to return to Toronto and do my job as a caregiver and all that is entailed. At the time, and as a widow, I was sure that Toronto was only temporary, and I would head back stateside – to New York.
It was not easy returning to Toronto after so long away. It is easy to be fooled into thinking that one just picks up where one left off, which for me was not to be the case at all. I had matured and moved in different directions, and had experiences different than those who were in my previous Toronto world. They too had naturally gone in other directions.
I had happily lived and worked in Switzerland, London (England) and the US, and many other regions. But, I discovered that Toronto had in the meantime become very youth-centric, and since I was over 40 there were no jobs for me. I went from having value to having no value overnight.
But, gradually, and by starting to attend church on Christmas Eve, and Easter I felt the special arms that Grace Church on-the-Hill had managed to wrap around me. I remember the especially warm welcome that I received from Peter Walker one sunny Sunday four years ago, and how he so enthusiastically and graciously introduced me to all those around him. With coffee in hand, and at that overwhelming moment, I believed that I had found my new spiritual home.
And home it has remained! I have found new friends and interests – among them the Book & Film Club, former member of The Stewardship Committee, Out of the Cold, the Churches on-the-Hill Food Bank, and the Meditation and Healing groups, Sunday Brunches, and fund-raising sales – some of the ways to give back for all that has been so generously given to me, and for which I feel enormous gratitude.
Recognizing that Grace Church means so much to me, and in such "wondrous ways," I encourage everyone to do their share in supporting Grace Church for now, and for the generations to come. The Grace of God is within, but we have to keep the lights on!
Faces of Grace - Ian Brown
My name is Ian Brown and Grace Church-on-the-Hill has once again become my spiritual home and comfort. I have been a member, off and on, of Grace Church all my life, save my baptism at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver. My mother, Katherine Blackstock Brown, had long been a parishioner of Grace Church and after marrying my father, Grant Brown, brought both me and my late brother, Kevin, to Grace Church for Sunday school and confirmation. I fondly remember Sunday school classes and the big responsibility in helping Alan Read in the Sunday school office counting the collection each week and printing classroom materials on the Gestetner. I also unsuccessfully tried out for the very competitive choir under Dereck Holman. Instead, I joined Grace Church’s 107th Toronto Cub pack and later the Scout troop, which you may remember used to sell Christmas trees every year.
I was confirmed at Grace Church and joined the server’s guild under Canon Craig and Canon Erb. While I was at UCC, a group of us were asked to form a folk group and we sang at the 9:15 service during the school year – I guess the musical rigour was less important than exuberance. While in residence at Trinity College, I served both there and here, as head server. Another server and I were asked by, the then deacon at Grace Church, Brother Kevin Dunn of the Order of the Holy Cross, to accompany Trinity’s chaplain, Bruce Stavert, to attend a retreat and be acolytes at his ordination at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY.
In 1980, I was married here to Wendy Whittall at a nuptial mass celebrated by the late Rev Jack House. In the early 90s, a good friend invited us to Saint Simon’s and for our children to join theirs at their Sunday school. Over time, I became less attached to the church, attending irregularly, mostly on Church feast days. After my mum died in 2003, her funeral was held here and she was interred in the columbarium. This brought me a little closer to Grace Church again, But my 47 year old brother’s death to cancer in 2005 caused some internal anguish about how God could let this happen to a loving husband and father of two young boys. Lapsing back into occasional attendance at church, it wasn’t until my father’s death and funeral here that I again felt a comfort in being here with them and my bother. Peter Walker was terrific with grief counseling and along with the other clergy made us feel very welcome and part of the parish again.
I decided to rejoin the server’s guild after a 45 year hiatus. I also began attending the 9am Christian education sessions whenever I could and found them to be very welcoming and spiritually insightful. I think the vibrancy and breadth of Christ’s work in the community and the involvement by all the great volunteers and parishioners is something to be celebrated. Thank you all for sustaining a wonderful spiritual home for this life and after.
Faces of Grace - Jim WIlkins, Outreach Chair, Outreach Address December 6, 2015
Good Morning Everyone,
My name is Jim Wilkins and I am the chair of Grace Church’s Outreach Committee. Earlier this year, we re-visioned the Outreach Committee as The Lantern, to represent Grace Church carrying our light out into the world, much as our stained glass windows are illuminated in the evenings, making our church a lantern.
Outreach at Grace Church takes many forms: On a local level, our parishioners volunteer in community activities; we donate items such as diapers and egg cartons.
We work together to prepare meals for Out of the Cold programs, create Santa Sacs for marginalized citizens in our city, and there are countless other ongoing projects.
We are major supporters of the Churches on-the-Hill Food Bank. And it is not just money that we give. Parishioners volunteer in food drives, and our Grace Church community garden supplies vegetables to the Food Bank as well.
On a national level, our parish has engaged in a project to foster relationships with Aboriginal ministries and First Nations communities, led by parishioner Judith Moses.
And on the global front, Grace Church is engaging in a Syrian refugee resettlement program, led by Bruce Thomas.
I want to emphasize that the Outreach Committee merely coordinates these activities and projects, but it is you our parishioners who are making these things happen, through your volunteer efforts and your enthusiasm.
Every year, the Outreach Committee donates money to support charities and activities in areas that the parish is involved in.
This year, we are disbursing $25,000 to support projects and activities that represent Local, National, and Global causes, in areas such as:
• Emergency Response and Refugees
• International Development
• Prison Ministry
• Food Security & Necessities of Life
Where did the money for these donations come from? Well, a large part of it came from you, our parishioners.
A portion of your offertories is directed to Outreach by the wardens in the parish’s annual budget.
The parish also has Trust & Endowment funds that have been left to Grace Church as bequests by parishioners, and are designated for Outreach activities.
And finally, 75% of the proceeds of our annual Attic Sale, organized and run by Diana Watson and her team, were directed to Outreach donations this year.
So, when you support Grace Church, you also support the Outreach work that we do. It is about how we interact with the community around us, and the broader world.
Face of Grace – Matt Root – Nov. 29, 2015
My name is Matt Root. It’s wonderful to be speaking to you all this morning, and particularly this morning, on the first Sunday of Advent, since it was on the first Sunday of Advent two years ago that I first attended Grace Church on-the-Hill.
By way of background, both my grandfather and father were Anglican clergy, so church life was always around me growing up. And, while my own spiritual journey has been winding and complicated, church life continued to be very important to me as an adult as well. Over the past two decades, I have been very active in most aspects of parish life, everything from teaching Sunday School, organizing brunch teams, and being a sidesperson, to helping lead diocesan young adults retreats and being involved in various committee and Synod meetings. Unfortunately, as things happened, I experienced some significant spiritual traumas that caused me to have to step back from my Christian faith for a few years.
So, when I walked up to Grace Church two years ago, it was with a fair bit of trepidation. It had been several years since I’d been able to approach a church building without feeling anxious and short of breath. But, that morning, when I entered Grace Church, in place of these anxious feelings, I felt instead the beginning of something of a sense of peace. So, I came back. Before too long, I was attending regularly.
For quite a while, my involvement was limited to simply being here, while God’s -- and my -- long and slow work of knitting my soul back together continued. So, when people ask me ‘Why Grace Matters’, for me, at least, the first thing that comes to mind is that Grace matters because Grace is a place of healing, a spacious place just to be.
In time, however, Peter and Rachel asked me to be involved in the Christian education ministries, and since that time I have had the great honour of helping to plan and occasionally lead the Christian education sessions here, both at the 9AM education hour, and at the biannual evening series. These are wonderful opportunities to come together and learn and grow and be exposed to the wonderful depth and breadth of the Christian tradition. Even just looking at the few sessions I have been able to lead, I am astounded by the wide-ranging topics and characters we have discussed, from monks in quiet monasteries on Aegean mountainsides to protesters in the indignant streets of Ferguson, Missouri, from passionate Hebrew prophets to witty and pompous Victorian Englishmen. These are wonderful and blessed times, and I heartily encourage everyone who can to drop by the Reception Room, which is behind the far end of the Parish Hall, at 9AM on Sundays. We just this morning started a little mini-series on the Minor Prophets. Next week we will be talking about the Prophet Malachi and, after a one week break for the Christmas Pageant, the series will conclude on December 20th with a discussion of the Prophet Micah. If 9AM doesn’t work for you, please keep your eyes open for the next evening series, which will be coming up in Lent – which this year starts sooner than you think!
As we enter this Advent season, which is so pregnant with hope and expectation for what is coming, I can’t help but reflect on the past two years, both personally, and here in this community. So much has changed, and as I look around I see so many faces that are new since even I first darkened the doors here. It is a wonder what God can do and is doing here in our midst, and I'm so excited to see what God has in store for all of us in the coming year. Grace matters, now as much as ever.
Faces of Grace Commitment Sunday Address - Andrew Duncanson
Because it is commitment Sunday I thought I would share with you why my wife Gayle and I joyfully give to Grace Church. / And I mean Joyfully give. Giving to Grace Church is Joyful/ -it is not an onerous task for us / we are honored to give as a celebration of our faith and our ongoing commitment to why Grace Matters to us.
Why does Grace Matter to Us?
The sanctuary/Building has tremendous importance to me because I grew up here/ when Grace was under the direction of Canon Craig. I went to Sunday school here; / I attended cubs here;/ and David Craig and I terrorized the rectory. This beautiful space / also has the ability to put both Gayle and me at ease and at peace when we are here. In addition, / my parents rest here in the Columbarium and I regularly fill them in on the comings and goings of our busy lives.
Grace Matters to us because of the clergy/ -We both have concluded that we are extraordinarily fortunate to have Peter as our leader / and that he is committed to Parish Ministry. / We also think that he has assembled a marvelous team to help/ -with Chris, Irina, Don and now Judy. It is a pleasure for us to come to church.
We also regard that we are pursuing meaningful outreach programs:/ Internationally; The Syrian Refugee project:/ Nationally Kingfisher Kids Initiative: and Locally/ the Food Bank drive.
We also throw a great brunch!! Thanks Fran!
Both Gayle and I understand in pre-authorized giving./ Not only is it a benefit to us, / we don’t have to budget and don’t have to remember to bring money. / But we are happy in the fact that we know we are helping the church on a monthly basis and they can depend on us.
I share all this with you because it is commitment Sunday –You all know the facts;/ you have all seen the narrative budget. Please consider your level of support for our church for 2016, / then make out your pledge of support / and put your pledge card in the box at the back of the church as you leave. Together we can make this place of worship a lantern in our community for years to come.
I would like to remind you that what you are about to give is tax deductible, / cannot be taken with you, / and it is considered in the Bible that the love of this is the root of all evil. / So give generously.
Faces of Grace - Mark!
Hello, my name is Mark and I am 10 years old. My family has been coming to Grace Church since I was 7. We came because my mom was looking for a music program for kids and a good Sunday School. I like it here at Grace Church because of the Children's Choir and all of the activities there are.
I sing in the choir and on brunch Sundays, I help Bryan with the English muffins. I've also been part of activities like the choir cabaret on Nov. 6, Pancake Tuesday, the Attic Sale, the Clothing Sale, and the food bank drive last year. I'm glad I'm included even though I'm a kid. I really like Grace because I have lots of friends here and the adults are nice. I like to get to know people at the brunches, and it's fun to help out. My mom says I eat too much bacon. If you haven't tried Anne's cheese buns, you should.My sister Sarah likes to sing too, and she's in the Youth Group. I can't be in the Youth Group because I'm not old enough yet, but I'm looking forward to it when I'm twelve. My little brother Matthew likes to help Nancy and her mom with the Altar work.
I've learned more about Bible stories here and I have learned more about Christian faith than I knew when I was 7. I thought it was sad when I found out that there weren't many books in Kingfisher Lake. I'm glad Grace is helping those kids to be ready for school. And then they'll teach their kids how to read. I hope that we will be able to sponsor a Syrian family to come to Toronto. Grace is here to show the people in this neighbourhood that there are Christians here and that we care about our community.
Faces of Grace Sarah and Joshua Harris
We visited Grace for the first time on Easter Sunday, 2014, and have attended ever since. Greeted immediately and warmly by Francesca, we found that the clergy and congregation at Grace exemplified a sense of purpose and understanding that proved to be a promising (and much-needed) means for interrupting our reserved, introverted and selfish life routines in Toronto.
Sarah and I have had the privilege of being involved as servers, brunch volunteers and participants in the lively 20s/30s group (among other things). Each of these “roles” has resulted in meeting people whom we would never have met otherwise.
There are many reasons why “Grace matters,” as people here often say, but for us it’s especially this—meeting and befriending people who are more or less not like us—that stands out as important. Friendships are formative. They make us who we are. And, because this is the case, it also follows that the kinds of friendship we enter into provide a uniquely powerful indication of what kind of life we’re actually living.
It’s well-known (thanks to Peter) that Sarah and I enjoy reading academic theology. Sarah works at Tyndale Seminary here in Toronto, and I’m engaged in the useless task of writing a PhD dissertation on the great theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. One of the more powerful insights of Thomas Aquinas is his analysis of caritas or Christian love as “friendship with God” (see John 15:15). One thing about caritas is that it’s an absolutely free gift of grace from God. In other words, we can’t have caritas “on our own” or “naturally.”
We (desperately) need places like Grace Church because they provide us with the conditions necessary for the kinds of friendships that we could never have on our own. In doing so, these places operate as imperfect imitations of God’s perfect extension of grace to his creation. God is reconciling creation to himself through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-19) despite ourselves. Places like Grace allow us, however clumsily and unimpressively, to participate in the process. This may sound dramatic. But we’re just naïve enough to believe that we’re telling the truth when we say that Grace has been precisely this sort of place for us.
Faces of Grace Janice Latimer
A learned man once said, “Every moment of our lives comes with a door”…
My name is Janice Latimer, and I was not born a ‘cradle Anglican.’ In fact, my spiritual journey could be likened to an ecumenical salad….each delicious experience coming together providing a unique nourishment of the soul.
In moments of reflection I feel my journey to Grace began when I did. God, in His wisdom, blessed me with 2 sets of parents: the ones who gave me life, and the ones who took me as their own, and guided me through it. My journey began on a sweltering day. Mum came into Toronto to collect me from Sick Kids. Now, on her own admission, Mum wasn’t fully schooled on the care and feeding of a preemie babe. In fact, she didn’t think to feed me, and I bellowed my 4 lb. opinion on that all the way to my first home in Dresden Ontario. (Guess I learned early how to clear a room). So opened the first door on my winding road to Grace. My Dad was a military chaplain and United Church minister…Mom a teacher…and many life doors opened and closed over the next years as my parents went from one commission to another, both military and civilian.
But, when I was three, one door slammed shut forever. My beloved Da went to Heaven. Some people think that three year olds don’t possess the spiritual maturity to comprehend death. Quite the contrary. Vocabulary may have eluded me, but not the intuition of the soul. “I’ll take care of you Mommy,” I said. The following years weren’t easy. Mum returned to teaching, but we were anything but affluent. For me, struggling to understand life, I often found myself baptized in my greatest fear….that my Mum would be snatched from my life as had my Da. In hindsight though, God was teaching me to trust Him. As most gardeners know, things don’t grow well on high rocky places…rather in fertile valleys…and that’s how it is with the human soul. It’s through trials that we grow…that’s when God builds us. You just have to step out in faith, and that’s what Mum did. We came to Toronto, where she was offered a teaching position here in Forest Hill, at West Prep.
As for me, I attended Loretto Abbey for my elementary and high school years. For me, that was a life door that led to some of the greatest guiding principles of my life. There, the Sisters molded me in mind and spirit. The liturgy of daily Mass and, surprisingly, the steadfastness of the perpetual candles wrapped me in a profound sense of comfort. My trust in God grew. Then graduation came and that door led to my university career where I earned my teaching degree, and studies in Fine Arts and archaeology.
Mum and I attended various United Churches, but never really settled. Mum was awoman of deep faith, but found it painful. She kept seeing my Da in the pulpit…and so I was left to search on my own. I attended Church with friends, who oft-times noted, “You’re the best Protestant-Catholic we’ve ever known.” During those years, my God-parents were of great influence. They were members of Grace Church. Perhaps some of you knew Dick and Ellen Copeland. Ellen belonged to the Sanctuary Guild and shared with me her love of Grace and what it meant to her.
Following a health-related bump in the road, I moved to Saskatoon to complete my graduate studies in Special Education and language pathology. There God opened another door and shoved my friend Luella through it. Ever meet someone and feel you’ve known them all your life? Well, that was us. Lu needed a place while finishing her B.Ed. and I needed a ‘roomie’. God grew our friendship through faith and the growing needs of our parents, and over time our friendship morphed into, well, ‘family’. Perhaps you’ve heard of that crazy movie, ‘Three Men and a Baby?’…well, we’ve sort of become two girls and a high-maintenance cat!!
It was then our walk on the road to Grace Church picked up the pace. Our first experiences here were through music: a mutual friend sings with Pax Christi. We were amazed at the beauty of Grace. For me it was not just the incredible music, but a profound sense of spiritual presence. Our next encounter was when my God-mother passed away. Milton Barry conducted her funeral mass. The following Easter we found ourselves a bit disillusioned with services at the Church we were attending, and decided to come to Grace for Easter Sunday. To put it in more modern terms, we were ‘blown away’. I found myself contemplating our perpetual candles, and was once again that little kid at the Abbey, wrapped in the comfort of God’s presence in the warmth and power of liturgy my soul had not forgotten. So, we began to attend regularly, and I noticed the loveliest thing…no one pushed us about anything…we were simply welcomed & embraced…just this wonderful feeling of quiet, loving acceptance. Now, there was no great epiphany, but I knew (as did Lu), that Grace Church on-the-Hill had become the home of my soul…and so began preparations for confirmation. As I said, to this point, no one had pushed about anything. But, following that lovely day it was clear we weren’t going to be allowed to simply slide in and out of our Sunday pew, or worse, slide under it into obscurity. I recall the day Anne Robson and Barbara Kitchen handed us chubby folders containing the history and tools of the Sanctuary Guild. “We believe in getting people involved,” they said. In doing so, these caring friends offered us, not just duties, but a place of belonging in our church and parish. Soon after, I found myself watching our servers with an odd longing…but was anxious. But God kept nudging, and Frank LoForte proved a caring and patient teacher. Being an altar server is more than just serving my church. For me, it has been, and continues to be, a profound act of spiritual intimacy that I cherish deeply. I also find that a powerful driving force at Grace is that quiet, loving, acceptance of which I spoke earlier. I see it as underlying and upholding all we do as a church family, from our music, Food Band, and Day Care, to our parish outreach: our planned Syrian refugee sponsorship, Kingfisher Kids and prison ministries. That quiet, loving, acceptance…it’s what upholds our faith in God…our faith in each other. Sadly, we live in a world where people have become very ‘absent’…i.e. noses in the smart-phones. We need to be ‘present’…present with our friends, with our food, in our Eucharist...even with our music…with all those things that drive and feed our spirits. And we have that at Grace…just check out brunch mornings. I’ve also noticed that there aren’t any ‘big-wigs’, or little guys….no gift or contribution is considered too small to be worthy and of honour before God. Of late, health matters have butted into my life, yet whatever I can give is welcomed. While still on crutches after hip surgery, dear Bryan (Beauchamp) said to me, “You’re the most durable person I’ve ever met.” It was one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever had. Lately, in trying times, I’ve replayed those words in my heart and felt strengthened…..quiet, loving acceptance. So, I came to Grace because God led me here. Why have I stayed?? Why not, it’s home. And I know, from her place in Heaven, my god-mother will look down, see me growing in joy in the Church she treasured, and she’ll smile.
Faces of Grace - Laura Hendrickson
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Since before I can remember, I have been attending Grace Church on-the-Hill. I am so grateful for the family that is Grace Church, which has helped shape me into the person I am today.
Growing up at Grace Church I went through the Sunday School as a student. I have fond memories of taking part in Christmas pageants, my mom teaching Sunday School, volunteering at Pancake Tuesdays, and catching my brother stuffing his face with Sunday School cookies when everyone else had gone for communion.
Once I was old enough, my mom signed me up for the choir under the remarkable direction of Melva Graham. It was there that I learned how to sing and developed a passion for music. I was a chorister for ten years and Head Girl for the last two. During that time I was fortunate to do two choral tours in the UK.
I am so thankful that Francesca asked me to come teach in the Sunday School. Francesca has provided me with expert guidance and a positive environment in which to thrive. This wonderful Sunday School experience has inspired me to go to Teacher College next year. Five years ago when I started in the Sunday School I had no idea that I would be interested in pursuing teaching. It has been such a pleasure to work with such thoughtful, creative and funny students.
I would like to thank: the Director of Children’s Ministry, Francesca Mallin Parker, the Sunday School Teachers (Brenda Valenteyn and Julia Hendrickson), Brenda Li in the Nursery, the Sunday School Helpers (Rebecca Brum, Jordan Torbay, Margaret Wilkins, and Hilary Osler) the Supply Teachers (Susan Green, Armin Kassam, Hanako Bartlett) and my parents (Susan Green and Peter Hendrickson.)
Thank you to the clergy, wardens, congregation, students and parents for your support in making the Sunday School the wonderful place it is.
Faces of Grace - Peter Coy
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Good morning. My name is Peter Coy and my wife Brooke and I have been members of Grace Church since 1984, when our son John was born and brought here for Baptism.
I had no intention of becoming a member of the Church but Rev. Stephen Booth, the assistant at the time, convinced us that John's baptism would be conditional on our attending an Ashes to Easter program.
In that program I got to know several members of the Congregation, meeting them in their homes and enjoying their kind hospitality. I was impressed by the wit and wisdom of the group and I began to get the feeling that I would enjoy their collective company.
In my career, I am an entrepreneur, a software developer and business systems analyst, I am a very analytical and scientific sort of person, so faith is not an easy concept.
I had been an Anglican Chorister as a boy in England. While I quite enjoyed the music I had negative memories of the dogmatism and conservatism of the English Church at the time. I felt it was completely out-of-touch with society and in the swinging sixties it seemed particularly archaic.
I was not overly keen to get involved again, but the obvious friendliness, curiosity, intelligence and open-mindedness of the Ashes to Easter group impressed me.
I decided to conduct an experiment of relatively regular attendance at Church, to see if a slow epiphany might overtake me. I realized that I was ignorant about the Bible, the beliefs of the Church, and it's valuable contribution to society.
To begin with I expected little and contributed little. As the years passed I found myself given roles and responsibilities in the Parish that provided further enlightenment and opportunities for personal growth. These included:
Chair of the Worship committee, when we were initially considering the Chancel and transept renovations – After consultation with Church architects and the clergy, (Rev Stephen Booth and Rev Gordon Baker), the Worship Committee made a video to explain the various architectural options to the congregation. During the feedback process I learned that the congregation is extremely sensitive to how the pews are arranged!
- Chair of the Outreach Committee – we established the Churches on-the-Hill Food Bank and also initiated the annual repair work weekend at Moorelands Camp.
- I became a server at communion and also a regular reader of the scripture. I developed a keen interest in reading the Bible publicly and discovering the depth of meaning, metaphor and passion in the words.
- I was elected as a member of the search committee that recruited Rev. Milton Barry. I was also an active member of Parish Council.
- I joined the Men's Choir twenty three years ago and despite having very little formal musical training, I have had a wonderful experience singing tenor and more recently baritone with this very close-knit group, exploring and revelling in the glorious music of the last five hundred or so years.
I can attest that when choral music is performed well, your hair stands on end!
I was appointed Chair of the Choir Guild for three years between 2009 and 2012 and that was a very demanding and active volunteer job. My ambition now is to see a big growth in the Children's Choral program so we can see a rebirth of the separate Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs. It would be great to achieve again that wonderful unique sound of men and boys singing together.
- I have organized directed and acted in many of the Easter dramatic readings, including an opportunity to direct Albert Shultz as Jesus. I have also appeared twice in the dramatic readings of the play “Conspiracy” that Leeman Kessler has organized and also once performed a play that I wrote.
It has been a wonderful experience, a real eye-opener and a big opportunity for personal growth over the years. I have got to know the wonderful congregation members who have embraced my family and made us feel a valued part of this great community. I have fulfilled a number of personal ambitions and grown a great deal of confidence in my public speaking skills, which certainly helped a lot in 2006 when I ran federally for Parliament.
I can say categorically that Grace Church has changed and improved my life and also been a safe harbour when things got difficult. It is a warm and contemplative refuge from the vicissitudes of life. My slow epiphany, my slow road to Damascus is still in progress, but I treasure the steps along the way and the wonderful company, friendship and assistance of my fellow travellers.
I urge you to find your passion here, to help out with those initiatives that will make a positive difference in the world and to revel in the opportunities to contribute and grow as a person.
Faces of Grace - Margaret Pereira
Good morning. My name is Margaret Pereira. I was born in British Guiana, at that time the only British colony on the mainland of South America. At the age of 19, I emigrated to the United Kingdom where I resided until my retirement, after which I became a landed immigrant of Canada. My reason for jumping ship and leaving the UK for Canada was to be close to my son and his family. Despite missing my friends, it was a very wise decision I made.
I moved to St Clair Ave West in November 2012. On Sunday the 8th of September 2013, I nervously opened the door of Grace Church and was greeted by a gentleman who was walking across the Narthex. He stopped, extended his hands and warmly introduced himself: “Hello, my name is Peter.” If I may reiterate the words spoken by so many others, Peter is surely God's blessing to us. Peter introduced me to the Reverend Marlene and to a few other parishioners, and to the very popular 'coffee area.’ After the service, I was also introduced to Francesca who immediately made me feel that I was already part of the family. I went home, phoned my sister and said, “I'm home.” Truly that was the joy I felt. Talk about coincidence... over the past year, every Sunday I have entered the building, and on no other occasion have I seen Peter walking through the Narthex. I'm convinced that it was 'Divine Intervention' that happened on Sunday 8th September.
From the tender age of 4 years, I have attended an Anglican church, and was confirmed at the age of 13. I have been a member of Anglican Churches in British Guiana, the UK and also attended one in downtown Toronto. Yet I don't recall such a warm and genuine welcome extended to me by so many as I have found at Grace Church.
I support joyful giving because I believe in Grace Church. I enjoy giving my time and talents and have also signed up for pre-authorised giving. I am extremely grateful and honoured to be a member of Grace Church's family, and to be involved in the activities of the Church from which I derive great pleasure. I sometimes wonder if I drive Francesca crazy by my over-eagerness to be involved!
In conclusion, my sincere thanks to all who have and are contributing to the enrichment of my spiritual and emotional life here at Grace Church. I look forward to many more years of worship and Christian community at Grace Church on-the-Hill.
Faces of Grace - Caroline Cakebread
My name is Caroline Cakebread and I was baptized at Grace Church over 40 years ago - as was my mother. For my grandparents, Tom and Anne Sears, Grace Church was very much part of their lives; they lived nearby for many years and considered Canon Jim Craig and his wife Elaine among their closest friends. Mrs. Craig was in many ways a mentor to me, as an entrepreneur and a strong woman with an eternally positive outlook on life.
I didn’t grow up going to church, but when I in my early 20s I felt the need to reconnect with my own faith. I was living in Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK and I would hear the gorgeous sound of the bells of Holy Trinity Church on my morning walks. So one Sunday, I decided to go in.
I continued to attend church when I moved back to Toronto. James and I came to Grace in 2009 when our daughter Juliet was born. I’ve been involved with the church ever since.
I was drawn here by the people - and probably the most important factor that has strengthened my bond with the church was the people here who gave me an opportunity to be of service. I began serving at the altar - under Frank’s good tutelage - and in January I was asked if I would be willing to be a warden - a huge honour and a huge responsibility.
So what does Grace mean to me? For me, it’s about the people - from that early influence of Mrs. Craig to the people today who greeted us when we first came through the doors - and those who’ve encouraged me to be involved ever since. It’s the people we connect with here that can have an important influence on our lives - and our faith.
For me, that’s what makes Grace a strong community - that ability to truly see individuals and help them uncover their special gift of service. That’s certainly been true for me - and I hope it carries through to my son and daughter.
Faces of Grace - Betty Calvin
My name is Betty Calvin, and I have been a member of Grace Church for my whole life. My earliest memory is of my baptism in the newly built chapel when I was 3 years old. I knew it was something very important, and I wondered if it was OK to wipe off the water trickling down my nose.
I guess I went to Sunday School, but I don't really remember it much. What I do remember well was the group I attended as a high school student at BSS. It was called Youth Forum; most of the others in the group were university students, we sat around the table in the kitchen and we talked about God, faith, prayer and things that seemed really important to me.
My father was warden in the 50s when the Christian education wing was built and Bob and I were married here in 1958. All 3 of our children were baptized here (in private services on a Sunday afternoon!) and our daughter, Isobel was married and her 2 children baptized here.
Bob was a sidesman, wearing his mourning coat with all the other men in those early years. I taught Sunday School one year in the early 60s, (I'm sure I learned more than the Grade 6 girls in my class) and for a while I was Co-ordinator of Church Schools, one on Sundays and one on Thursday afternoons, for families who were away week-ends. Both of our sons, Denys and John, sang in the choir under Derek Holman, and Isobel, was part of the very active youth group as a teen.
I was one of the founding members of the Cariboo Group, which has been an important part of my life here at Grace. We went from meeting monthly and trying various fund-raising ventures, some of which I chaired, to our present format of shared leadership and meeting 4 times a year. The women in this group are my dearest friends, whom I know I can always count on for support and help, and for whom I hope I can always do the same.
There were periods of time when I was away from Toronto, 6 years in the late 40s when I lived in Montreal, 4 in the mid 50s, when I was away at university, and 2 in the early 70s when we lived in NY. In those years I worshipped in different churches, which I think broadened my perspective, but coming back to Grace always felt like coming home.
There were also times when I wasn't very happy about what was happening here; I wanted change and it didn't happen fast enough! I thought about leaving and going to another church, but I knew that nowhere would be perfect, and churches, like people, go through dry spells. So I realized I would just have to wait, because this is where I belong. And it always got better after those times.
After we came back from NY in the 70s I started taking courses in the MDiv program at Trinity at UofT, with no goal in mind, definitely not ordination. I served as People's Warden for a couple of years – stressful, and an eye opening time, but very important in figuring out what I wanted to do next. I took a pastoral visitors' training course from Rev Betty Kilbourn with a group of about 10 of us here at Grace, and that was when the light bulb flashed on for me! I volunteered as a Pastoral Visitor at Mt Sinai Hospital, completed my degree, and did my clinical training at Sick Kids, and applied for a newly created part time position as Protestant Chaplain at Mt Sinai. I had finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up, many thanks to the encouragement and support provided by this community.
Grace Church was my foundation and source of strength and understanding in the 16 years I spent at Sinai. I continued to volunteer as Chair of the Parish Council for a year, a member of the pastoral care committee, a reader, chalice bearer and leader of the Prayers of the People, which I continue to do still. I chaired the Education Committee for a while and, for several years shared the leadership of many bereavement groups with Milton Barry. This was the most rewarding volunteer activity I've ever had. More recently, I have been a member of the Parish Selection Committee that brought Peter to us, and a member and chair of the Parish Nursing Committee.
Bob has been a member of the group who help to count the collection on Mondays, and for both of us, as well as the time we give, our financial contributions to Grace are very important. Worshipping here every Sunday for so many years, and being involved in so many different ways, has deepened my understanding of how God is always present in my life. For all the gifts which have been given to us as members of this community, it matters a lot to us that Grace Church be here in the future to guide and support those who follow, whatever that looks like. And we'll still be here with you, over there in the columbarium!
Faces of Grace - John and Gerry Anthony
My name is John Anthony and my wife is Gerry Anthony. We have agreed that I would speak for both of us this morning – as I talk to you about why Grace Matters to us.
Gerry and I were married in St. Clement's Anglican Church in 1960. Gerry had been a life-long Anglican, coming from a family that believed in participating in the church community – which she had done for many years. I was born a Presbyterian – but my parents relented when I was a young boy – and decided that United Church values more matched their philosophy of life – and moved to the United Church – and so I attended with them.
After our marriage, Gerry and I lived at Russell Hill Road and St. Clair, and we visited three or four local churches for Sunday Services in search of a Church home.
The Rector here at Grace Church at that time was Canon Jim Craig, and upon receiving the card which we left one Sunday morning expressing our interest – he came to visit us. After that visit, we decided that Grace Church would fulfill our Christian needs.
For all the years since that time, Grace Church has been our spiritual home. As our family grew to three children, our boys sang in the choir under the direction of Derek Holman, and our daughter came along to Church – attending Sunday School and later sitting in the pew with Gerry and me.
About this time, we moved to the Kingsway – in west Toronto – as my office was out that way. We all survived the regularity of the Sunday Church commitment – choir and all – in spite of the half-hour drive from home to church. Many Sundays we made that trip twice as the boys had to sing at two services. These were busy years for all five of us – but we made many good friends and enjoyed both the worship and the music each week.
On reflection, we realized the reverence and peace here, and the search for 'something beyond what we could feel or touch' had become our anchor and comfort during those years. We experienced grief, uncertainty, celebration, joy and thankfulness – as all families do – but always felt Grace Church was there for us.
Eventually, we moved back - closer to the Church - and participating in activities here became much easier. Gerry and I have volunteered in many different ways – a few examples are Chair of Sidespersons, delegate to Synod, member of the Parish Council, Chair of the Meritorious Service Awards Committee, Sanctuary Guild, and Working in the Church Office.
During our years here, we have always felt that each Rector we have had provided support, Christian guidance and ongoing learning for us in the Christian faith. How lucky we are for this.
Finally, we give thanks for the wonderful music ministry at Grace Church. It has enriched our lives for so many years. We have been blessed to learn about and enjoy choral music in the Anglican tradition – a beautiful experience we enjoy each week.
Gerry and I often remark to each other (and others!!!) what a good choice we made fifty-four years ago in choosing our Spiritual Home at Grace Church. Grace certainly does matter to us.
Faces of Grace - Diana Watson
I've been here a long time. I'm a cradle Anglican - Grace Church even has a video of my christening. My grandparents were members here in 1918. I remember Sunday School here in the 1950's. As a member of the first Girls' Choir in 1962, I sang my first solo here. I was a member of first the Girls' Choir, and then the Women's Choir. Then followed a hiatus of 25 years from Grace Church when I worked full time and had two children. However, my younger daughter, Fiona's father noticed that she loved singing in the shower, and she became a member, and soloist, of the Girls' Choir. I became an involved choir parent, a member of the Women's Choir, and the head of the Choir Guild in 2001. I currently volunteer at the Food Bank, sing in the choir, take photos at Grace Once More, [and coordinate the annual Attic Sale].
But what sticks in my mind is the long history of service that my family has had with Grace Church. My father can remember making sandwiches during the Depression for the Downtown Churchworkers Association. My uncle was a warden and my aunt served on various committees around the church. My father worked with Sophie Boyd in her work with prisoners. My children now serve on the welcoming committee and run the veggie garden, proceeds of which go to the Food Bank. Yesterday [Saturday, May 3], my children worked at the Attic Sale and my grandchildren, ages 6 and 9, swept the floors and broke down boxes afterwards.
The Attic Sale yesterday brought together over 60 volunteers from all over the Grace Church community, and from outside our community. All ages participated; our youngest volunteers were 6, and our oldest was 94. The proceeds from the Sale will now go to Outreach, a decision which was greeted with cheers and claps by the workers. But we share other things at the Attic Sale. Laughter. A huge sense of accomplishment.
God is alive and kicking - whether in a conversation between two people, during a service, or at a big activity like the Attic Sale. God is here in the church, or talking to the cashier at the grocery store, giving a loonie to a street musician, smiling at someone in an elevator, or giving communally to a disaster relief fund online.
For me, prayer is when we focus our thoughts, when we can ask others for what we need. Grace gives us a chance to come together and share - to give what we have, to take what we need. Grace gives us a chance to come together as a group and there is strength in numbers.
Here are some of my favourite parts of the things we say here:
"Where two or more are gathered together in my name...." Light a little candle, .... "You in your small corner, and I in mine." Remember that children's hymn? "Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation........."
Thank you all for the hard work, support and laughter [at the Attic Sale on May 3]. It was a great effort. Grace matters!
Faces of Grace - Jennifer Burford
Hello, my name is Jennifer Burford. I first came to Grace Church in 2011. I was raised going to Sunday school every week at our local Anglican parish, but somewhere along the way homework and the ever-increasing need for sleep that teenagers develop took the place of the Sunday morning church attendance. While attending the University of Toronto, I found a few parishes that were close to the campus, but I mostly attended only with my family on Christmas and Easter, truth be told. When I moved into the Forest Hill neighbourhood in 2011, I was 28 years old, had just finished what seemed like endless years of schooling and was ready to embark on the next phase of my life. I had entered the work force in my chosen profession, had found a great place to live, had a wonderful family and list of supportive friends, however, I had this unsettling feeling that there was an emptiness in my life. I came to Grace for the first time alone, knowing nothing about the parish other than it was Anglican and I had played a concert there a few years before and remembered it being a truly beautiful building. I had no idea that when I entered that day I would be moved by what I heard. Catherine Hamilton was giving the Homily that day, and she spoke about a particularly challenging reading for me about the role of the wife, and women by extension, from the Old Testament. It was such an intelligent and thoughtful homily, and I really loved hearing a female perspective on the reading. The following week I returned, and I sat in the same middle pew, where I thought I was inconspicuous, and over came Peter Walker. He immediately introduced me to the people around me, and welcomed me publicly that very morning. At first, I was really shy about being introduced as “Jennifer, the violinist”, but now, I realize that this is completely the norm at Grace Church. All of the clergy and the parishioners go out of their way to make people feel welcomed and comfortable, and it is readily apparent that Grace Church is a community within our greater community. In fact, just the other day, at a rehearsal, Nick, who sings in the choir recognized me and came up and introduced himself. This sense of community is one of the main reasons I continue to attend Grace Church and consider myself very blessed to have happened upon it 4 years ago. I now attend with my mother and aunt, who both live more than 40minutes away, but come to worship here so that we can be involved in this community as a family. Before Grace, I had never made the choice as an adult to be involved in a church community. Now, I have been involved at Grace Church by making sandwiches for the Out of the Cold program and by volunteering my services as a violinist to raise money for Grace Matters. I have been a server for two years, a chalice bearer if need be, and now a reader. When Rachel first approached me to see if I’d like to be a server, I felt honored, but also a bit surprised. I remember thinking to myself, but why me, I’m not really qualified to be a server, am I? Isn’t that for people who are really…religious? Shouldn’t I be more connected to the church to be a server? But, then I realized that I was connected, as much any one of us is and desires to be. By serving the church I have felt connected to the church community and have also discovered and strengthened my adult relationship with God.
My mother, who I am very close with, used to tell me in my mid-twenties that we became closer after we figured out how to have a mother-daughter relationship as adults. It was only by us both questioning and challenging the relationship we had in my youth that we were able to build such a strong connection in my adult years. I feel that Grace Church has helped me make that necessary metamorphosis from the spiritually wandering twenty-something, who used to say things like “yes, I’m spiritual, but I don’t really go to church or anything” into the thirty-two year old woman who has a strong and unwavering desire to give back to the church community and contribute to the good work it does for the less fortunate. I am grateful to Grace Church for helping me develop my relationship with God.
I am grateful for the clergy who have challenged me to ask of myself, what is it that God wants of me? I am grateful to have found a place that has nurtured my spiritual growth and will continue to help me discover how I can give back to the community. In the fall, I will be married at Grace Church. I am very excited about embarking on this next phase of my life, but I know that marriage has a whole new list of challenges and discoveries that I am about to experience. I look forward to Grace Church being the first place that I call my future husband, my husband. I know that the support I have felt from this community will continue to foster me in this next stage of my life.
Faces of Grace - Marley
Good morning. My name is Marley and I'm here today to tell you about Grace Church and why it matters to me.
Grace Church has been part of me from before I was born. My parents were married here and came to worship on Sundays. When I was born, I was brought as an infant and baptized by Canon Barry at five months old. I stayed in the nursery each week with Brenda Li until I was old enough to go with Francesca to Sunday School.
I really like being part of the Sunday School. I get to hear Bible stories and to do fun activities that help me understand what they mean. It is through the Sunday School that I get to be a part of what happens here at Grace. I've been both an actor and the narrator in our annual Christmas Pageant, I've given the Prayers of the People in the service and I've served as an apprentice acolyte, while holding the candle during the reading of the Gospel.
I have a lot good friends in my Sunday School class and my teachers are terrific. Francesca is so creative, she always has us doing interesting things in the Church and is really good at explaining how the Bible stories can make sense in my life, even though I'm just a kid. Brenda Valenteyn is a really great storyteller. When she is reading a story, she always adds in the missing details so that I can picture what's happening more clearly in my mind. She is also very fair and makes sure that we each get a turn at doing the fun stuff in Sunday School. Laura & Julia are great because they're young. They're funny and they're really good at keeping my little brother under control. They are also the ones who hand out the cookies at the end of class - I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't say that the cookies are another reason why I love Sunday School!
Children's focus is another favourite part of church for me. This started when Canon Peter came to Grace and I think it's great. I feel most a part of Grace Church during the Children's Focus. I like that he has us come to the front of the church to join the congregation in the music & singing that is so much a part of what happens here. Peter is a terrific pianist (he doesn't even have music in front of him!) He tells good jokes, is friendly & welcoming and most importantly, really good with kids.
If I had to say why Grace Church matters to me in one phrase, it would be "because I feel I belong here". I'm welcomed here by people who know me, and care about me. I look forward to growing up in Grace and becoming a bigger part of this wonderful community.
Faces of Grace - Lilo Meyn
Good Morninng! I can't believe that I am standing here, because, really, I am not an Anglican - I am a Lutheran. " Oh," says Francesca, "that's ok, you just do it." So, here I am and here is my "Face of Grace." My name is Lilo Meyn. I live on Walmer Road, together with my husband, Hans Meyn, who does not go to church. But, I am blessed: he knows the bible better than I do.
Several years ago we moved from our farm near Bancroft to Toronto. From our balcony, at our new home, we can see "Grace Church on-the-Hill" and one day I found out that there was a piano concert going to be performed, "The Goldberg Variations." So, I convinced my husband to go, but after this concert he said, "Never, ever will I listen to 'The Goldberg Variations' again!" Ok, ok, I get it. Then, one day, I want to go to the Cineplex Theatre to see "Siegfried" with the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and I have a feeling that - after the "Goldberg Variations" - Wagner would be too much for Hans. So I venture out on my own, buy a ticket and I get a seat right in front of this huge screen. So - to my right is a person who reads - that's good. But, to my left, is an empty seat and - since I believe in the "Divine Power" I pray, "Oh Lord, don't let this person next to me eat popcorn!!" And now I wait, expecting "Siegfried" to jump right into my face any minute now. And then comes a young man - no popcorn! No bags at all (the Divine Power) and I have seen him before - "Hi, I am Peter Walker" and who are you?" "I am Lilo Meyn and I am a Lutheran." Well, we hit it off right there - like old friends - and I think then that I'm going to check out this Grace Church on-the-Hill.
The next Sunday I go, get into the door and there stands Peter Walker. "Hi Lilo," he turns around, says, "Listen, meet Lilo - she is a Lutheran," and, to my great surprise, everybody looks at me, says "Hi" and smiles. There was no ice that needed to be broken; everybody greeted me with open arms. I have come to love this church, its programs, bible studies and festivities - and the music is divine. The last concert of Ancient Music was so beautiful; that I think the angels could not have done it better.
I thank you. It was Grace that brought me and Grace will lead me home. God Bless.
Faces of Grace - Rosalind Vanderhoof
I am Rosalind Vanderhoof, and I first came to Grace Church about 15 years ago. I grew up in the United Church, but had been thoroughly steeped in the Anglican liturgy through my years at BSS. Over time, I missed that liturgy and after my marriage, I returned to the Anglican church. When my father died in 1998, my mother, who had attended Grace Church as a child, decided to hold his funeral here, and return as a parishioner. At the time, I had a couple of very young children in tow, and Grace Church provided some very welcome childcare during the service. So I began to bring my children here and joined my mother, bringing her here to attend services for as long as she was able. The Priest who married us advised us to go "wherever we felt a sense of community" and I have certainly found that here at Grace. Slowly, I became more involved, participating in the annual food drive, the "Out of the Cold" program and serving.
Grace Church provides me with a respite from the obligations and challenges of daily life and helps me to focus on what provides depth and joy in our lives. I have particularly appreciated the opportunity to revisit the familiar themes and stories of the Bible with the context and perspectives offered by Peter, Rachel and Catherine.
Despite our prevailing secular culture, I believe that Christianity offers a fullness and grace that cannot be found in science or technology. It poses questions that science and materialism are not equipped to answer and challenges us to think and live in different ways. So as I grapple with these questions, I continue to find inspiration and spiritual growth through what Grace offers, and am grateful to be a part of this community.
Faces of Grace - Adele
Good Morning! My name is Adele and I have been a member of the choir for 3 years. My story of how I came to Grace is quite unusual. I first came to Grace for my Irish dancing lessons in the church basement. Every week, after my class I would hear the choir practicing upstairs; I thought it was such a beautiful sound and it intrigued me. I realized that I was old enough to join the choir myself and a few months later, I was a chorister!
I still remember my first choir practice. I was lost in the music and my voice was so quiet. Now I sight sing quite well, my voice has improved and I am confident in singing solos. Being part of the choir has taught me so much. I have learned so many things about music and singing, responsibility and have realized that music, especially singing is one of my passions! Now I take both piano and voice lessons at Grace Church on-the-hill.
I sing in the service with the choir every Sunday, which has taught me a lot. Before I came to Grace, going to church was not really a part of my weekly routine. I now understand the many parts that make up the service and the seasons of the church year. For example making an advent wreath and lighting it every Sunday in preparation for Christmas has become a tradition for my family.
I have been involved in many events at Grace including: the talent show, the Christmas pageant, the clothes sale and attic sale. You might have also seen me serving pancakes last Tuesday!
So, Grace definitely matters to me. Children at Grace are respected; we are allowed to help out and share our ideas. I have found myself in a community that is always busy, where we can learn all the time, make new friends and help each other.
Faces of Grace - Victoria Barcley
I came to Grace Church at the suggestion of Julian and Mary Fisher. Coming from a United Church background, I was not sure I would fit in to the Anglican tradition, but this has never been an issue. I came for the songs, and I stayed for the stories.
I started as a "choir mom" during Melva's time when rehearsals were Mondays and Thursdays. Each Sunday as I listened to the sacred music I felt inexplicably moved. I felt closer to departed loved ones-my parents, my brother, and my daughter. I learned to pray again, and to put away the disappointments of the previous week and the anxiety about the future week. I listened to the readings and the homilies and I found some real nuggets of wisdom. Or sometimes I just found better questions.
The great literary thinker Northrop Frye said that the whole of western literature owes its life-blood to the Bible, and I have come to believe it. For example, consider this plot line: "The son of a carpenter leaves on an adventure of self-discovery. He rejects sin, dies, and rises again, transformed." Recognize that? It's the plot of Pinocchio.
Something I enjoy is hearing the Bible stories that were part of my childhood and reflecting on them now as an adult. Some stories are "re-runs" like Jacob and Esau but the homily gives them new shades of meaning. Some of them I barely remember at all, like the woman at the well, but now I listen and try to understand. I am deeply thankful to Catherine, Rachel, and Peter for their scholarly yet personal approach to Biblical texts. They place the words in context and suggest interpretations that resonate with modern life.
To me, Grace matters ... for the music... and the stories
Faces of Grace Helen Bradfield
I'm Helen Bradfield, a cradle Anglican. Grace Church has been my spiritual home for the last 45 years, and even more if I add my years as a boarder across the street, but that was long ago. My husband Bob practically grew up at Grace Church and his father was a popular Sunday School teacher here during the war. Our children, David and Angela, were both baptized and confirmed here, and David's wedding took place here in 2002. Also two of our three grandchildren were baptized at Grace Church.
During my time, and for my sins, I have served the church in just about every way. Choir, however, was never my thing, but both our children sang lustily, and David was Head Chorister for the last two years of his five-year stint as a treble. During that time Judy Ridout and I served as choir mothers, a task that demands hard work and patience, both of which were buoyed up by the odd sip of sherry during intense choirboy weekends that prepared the boys for the 1983 choir tour in England. Perhaps I should clarify that confession – the sherry was for us, not the boys!
Before that I found myself on a committee planning the celebrations in 1974 around the church's first 100 years, where several of us got our feet wet with an extensive display of liturgical art that filled the church. That first exhibit was well-received and set us on a path that led to many more exhibitions and finally a book entitled Art of the Spirit, co-authored by Joan Pringle, Judy Ridout and me that was published, and launched right here in November 1992.
From 1997 through 2000, I was honoured to be a Warden. Nothing before this has imbued me with such a profound sense of responsibility, shared by three others, on behalf of almost 700 families that consider themselves members of our church. With a large budget built mostly on faith alone, it is a daunting but most rewarding position.
Over the years at Grace Church on-the-Hill I have found myself a little over-volunteered.
• My current official role is that of Parish Archivist.
• I had two stints as a member of Synod, and have served on several committees that include Property, Christian Education, Sanctuary Guild, and the Advisory Board.
• For years I was co-editor with Joan Pringle of the parish newsletter called Spirit of Grace, and continued to help in more recent years by writing for it and proofreading, until it was terminated in 2012.
• For at least ten years I took over the control of sound at Sunday services, and attracted a team of eight people to share the load at a sound board worthy of a grand theatre. Finding the optimum level for each spoken voice was a challenge, but we did a good job, until we were replaced by a new electronic system that was installed just a couple of years ago.
• I also belong to the Cariboo Group, a women's group in which I cherish the fellowship of other women who share a widespread involvement in the life of the parish and of Toronto at all levels.
• One of my happiest jobs was that of "wedding coordinator". I was one of eight women who shared the pleasant task of overseeing weddings at Grace Church. In 2008 the overseers of wedding coordination changed, but I still volunteer to help out when needed.
• From time to time you may hear me read the lesson or lead the Prayers of the People, and I feel honoured to assist with the Eucharist when my turn comes up.
• In 2005, Marjorie Cooper and I were the fourth and fifth recipients of the Meritorious Service Awards.
Being an extrovert, I thrive on interaction with others. One may have nothing to show for volunteerism, but the rewards are great if one is satisfied that she or he has made a difference by giving or serving. Volunteerism has provided me with the opportunity to learn much about a wide range of subjects. I have benefited enormously from my association with those more experienced and wiser than I, and I have learned what I am best at. Friend-raising is my forte.
Above all I am proud to call Grace Church my home away from home, to participate regularly in the worship, and to share the goodwill that God inspires. Bob is occasionally but not frequently seen by my side in a church pew – he is more often seen on his knees, outside the church, tending to the weeds that invade the lawns. For both of us, however, Grace does indeed matter!
Faces of Grace - Phil Arthur
I first came to Grace Church 37 years ago. My wife, Sue, and I had been looking for a spiritual community for some time. We chose Grace Church when our daughter, Meghan, was born. We knew (and liked) some Grace parishioners and were charmed by the music and liturgy. We were welcomed warmly.
Since then, Grace has been been an important part of our lives. The Grace Church family is our family. It is our spiritual home.
It is the place we have come for the important events in our lives: Meghan's joyful wedding, two funerals (Sue's mother and then five years ago, Sue) and the baptisms of grand daughters, Paige and Brooke.
My daughters, Meghan and Cicely, and their families continue to be part of the Grace Church family. When 3 year old Brooke hears classical music she exclaims: "That is Church music; when can we go to Church?"
On New Years Eve 2012, Mary Wilson and I were married and Mary now finds joy and fulfillment here as well.
An important part of our life at Grace Church has been the opportunity to contribute. I have been Treasurer and a Warden. Sue played a big part in creating this beautiful worship space. Meghan was Head Chorister. Cicely was the biggest star in the pageant since Owen Meany. All of these have helped us grow in love and commitment to Grace.
The clergy of Grace Church have been an important part of my spiritual growth. Like most of us I have questions about my faith. What has been made clear to me is that this is where I come to explore those questions, to learn and to grow spiritually.
Our commitment to Grace Church has been long and rewarding,. We have all tried to support Grace through treasure and talent. I hope you will too.
Faces of Grace - Sandra and Norman Munn
We are the Munns. My name is Norman and this is my wife, Sandra. She will speak on her own behalf later. We have been members of Grace Church since our marriage in 1960. Our three sons were baptized here. They attended church school and were confirmed here. Our oldest son, Andrew, is a faithful member of the 8 o'clock service. He and his wife Kate were married here and their two sons were baptized and confirmed here. Grace Church was a focal point for our young family as the boys were growing up. I enjoyed being leader of the cub pack when my sons were young. It was certainly a learning experience for me.
My major contribution to Grace Church was when I was chairman of the Child Care Centre, back in 1997. At that time, we realized that the Child Care Centre had the potential to become a major source of revenue for Grace Church. There was a strong, growing interest in the advantages of Early Childhood Education. We received great inspiration from Francesca Mallin-Parker, who created Toddler's Morning Out,* which was an enrichment programme for two and three year olds. I have fond memories of my two young grandsons shouting "We go to T.M.O." Bruce Taylor continued on after me. Our son, Andrew, has been a member of the Child care committee for about 13 years.
We are an example of a couple who do many small jobs for Grace Church. If everyone does a little bit, it is amazing how much can be accomplished. I wish to emphasize that there are many others of our vintage who do, and have done, a great deal more than we do. We are best known as sides persons for the 9:15 service. We have done this job for about 35 years and enjoy greeting our friends and welcoming new people to the church. I particularly appreciate the social interaction and camaraderie with all the parishioners. We feel at home here.
I joke that I seem to be baking constantly for all the social receptions in the Parish Hall. We both help out with the popular brunches and the lovely luncheon for Bishop Yu held a few weeks ago.
Since the beginning, almost 20 years ago, both Norm and I have been involved with our annual fundraising event, Grace Once More. Sheila Royce is the capable leader of this committee. This is an outstanding party, held in early June, in a beautiful private home, where many members gather to enjoy each other's company, with delicious food and wine and listen to an excellent musical concert featuring the remarkable Janet Obermeyer, soprano, who has organized each of the musical events....Grace certainly does have talent! A significant amount of money is raised, for the Mission and Ministry of Grace Church. Many people contribute their time, talent and money to ensure the success of this worthwhile endeavour. I encourage you to buy tickets after Easter and join in the fun.
This church has given far more to us than we have given back. We both love the spiritual and personal support that we have received and we treasure the many friends we have made. Grace confirms the lifelong commitment we have made to God and each other. We always feel renewed and uplifted after a service in this very special place. Thank you on behalf of both of us.
* Editor's note: Francesca Mallin Parker was Supervisor of Toddler's Morning Out from 1992 until its closure in 2013. The program itself began as Mother's Morning Out in 1969. The name was changed in 1995.
Faces of Grace - Scott Brubacher
Hello, my name is Scott Brubacher. I first came to Grace Church, just over 3 years ago. It was the first week of Advent, and I was looking for a church home here in Toronto. I had grown up in the evangelical Baptist church, where my grandfather, father, uncles — and now brothers — were all pastors. I am grateful for this Christian heritage and for the strong Biblical knowledge and foundation it gave to me. However, I did not feel the calling to be a Baptist church minister like so many in my family. Instead, I went to university to study music, and it was there during my early 20s that I first came to know and love the Anglican church and its liturgy. I began singing in a weekly Compline service at Huron College at the University of Western Ontario — which opened my spiritual horizons to the beauty of plainchant psalms, Tudor anthems, and the Book of Common Prayer. When I moved to Toronto about 7 years ago to complete a doctorate in music composition, I began singing at Trinity College in the Evensong Choir, where I was exposed to an entirely new body of liturgical texts and music. I took a part-time job at the Anglican Book Centre, where I worked for 5 years to support myself through my studies. My entire world had become infused with the Anglican church and its people and clergy, but I hadn't found an actual church home. I attended a few services at St Thomas's and St Anne's and Christ Church Deer Park, but nothing really stuck. I was deeply impacted by the ministry of the Reverend Andrea Budgey at Trinity College, as I continued to attend Evensong there. Eventually I asked her about formally becoming a member of the Anglican Church. She officiated at a special Reception service for me at Trinity, where I was welcomed into the Anglican Communion. The service was even more special for me because a few of my own compositions were sung as part of the liturgy, including a choral setting of Psalm 91 and a choral Eucharist.
It was right around that point that I came to Grace Church for the first time. I had never before felt so immediately welcomed and embraced by a church community. That Sunday, there had been a brunch between the services, and Francesca and Peter insisted that I stay and enjoy some of the leftovers — they even served me the food themselves. I will never forget that act of service and how much it impressed upon me the generous spirit of this community. I found in Grace Church a place where I could worship and fellowship. I found a community with people of all different ages and backgrounds and places in life who were joined in this common purpose and desire to serve God with their time and talents.
The first way that I became involved at Grace Church was in leading the Prayers of the People at the 11:00 service and in doing occasional readings. I joined the 20s & 30s group potluck dinners at Rachel and Leman Kessler's home. Then about a year and a half ago I was asked by Rachel to chair a new adult Christian Education committee and to lead in planning the Wednesday evening education events that happen a few times through the year. I have found this work to be very rewarding on a number of levels, since it draws on my passion for teaching and the materials I learned during my time at the Anglican Book Centre. Last fall I led one of the sessions in our series "Chartres, Canterbury, and Assisi" — and we are currently busy planning the upcoming Lenten series: "Wisdom from the Wilderness: Exile and Covenant." More than anything, though, being involved in these education events has allowed me to get to know and enjoy a group of people, many of an older generation, who I might not have connected with otherwise at this church. I look forward to these Wednesday nights of learning, discussion, and fellowship, and I hope that some of you will consider joining us in the next month. Most recently, Grace Church has become for me a place where I can share my music compositions as well in a worship setting. Last Holy Week, the choir sang an anthem that I wrote for Palm Sunday, and this past Advent at the Lessons and Carols service, the choir sang a newly commissioned work of mine. I am very grateful to Stephen and Sarah and the choir for choosing to perform my music and for allowing me this additional avenue to share my talents. As you can see from the badge I am wearing today, I have also now become involved as a greeter.
So why does Grace Church matter? For me, it starts with that first moment we engage with a newcomer in a spirit of generosity and openness. From that point forward, Grace Church becomes a spiritual home, a community, a place to worship and fellowship, to grow and serve. Christ taught us that in order to be great in God's kingdom we must first humble ourselves in service towards each other. This service is shown symbolically in the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, but it is carried out everyday in the simple ways like feeding leftover brunch to a newcomer. I hope that each of us can find our place of service in this church community in order to further the work of God's kingdom here in our neighbourhood. Thank you.
Faces of Grace - Janet Obermeyer
My name is Janet Obermeyer. I emigrated to Canada in 1973 after graduating from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. As a child I was baptised and confirmed in the Presbyterian Church, where I enjoyed a solid Sunday school upbringing that definitely grounded me in God's Word. Not surprisingly though, it was music that led me to the Anglican Church. When I was in university I was the soprano soloist at St Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester NY, and it was there that the impact of the liturgy on my spiritual life was profound. I knew I had found my 'true' home and was received into the Anglican communion in 1974, and married at St. John's, Elora in 1975.
Our family joined the Grace Church community in 1983. I have a precious memory of standing at the very back of this sanctuary, experiencing a beautiful first impression of the reredos and crimson sacrament lamps. It is hard to imagine that we have now been worshipping here for more than 30 years! Previously we were parishioners at St. Mary Magdalene high Anglican Church, which has a rich liturgical and musical tradition. However, as our three children grew, we wanted them to experience the English men and boys' tradition of choral singing, and Grace Church had much to offer with its various choirs and the eloquent BCP that we loved. The nurturing years that followed for our children included 3 choir trips to England, the forging of life time friendships and an undeniable shaping of their faith. What a privilege to be worshipping in such inspiring surroundings still, experiencing the inseparable joys of liturgy and music!
Over the years Grace Church has provided many opportunities for me to actively serve and participate in parish life. Singing for countless weddings and funerals was a mini-ministry of music for me that lead to my recording a CD expressly for Grace Church of sacred solos. For the last 10 years I have been Grace Church's representative to our 9 Churches-on-the-Hill for the annual worldwide service, World Day of Prayer. Through this I have met many exceptional Christian women that I am so grateful to have in my life. And lastly, for 18 years I have had the enormous pleasure to work with multi-talented and devoted parishioners in planning and performing for our highly popular annual fundraiser, Grace Once More.
Serving Grace Church has also meant being a chalice bearer, a reader, and now a sidesperson. The vibrancy of worship and fellowship that exists in our parish is ever defining and deepening my walk as a Christian, and in every aspect I have received more than I have given as I endeavor to be the face of grace and the hands and feet of Christ in this place!
Faces of Grace - Judith Moses
My name is Judith Moses and I have been attending Grace Church since my husband Peter Lyman and I moved here in 2005. Our children Matthew, Nathaniel, Sebastian and Melissa are off pursuing busy, secular lives but one hopes that marriage and children will bring them back into the Church.
I must confess to being somewhat skeptical about Grace at first. I tried other parishes in the area. Coming from St. John’s York Mills, St. Bartholomew’s in Ottawa and St. Paul’s Fort Erie, Grace seemed quite imposing. But it was Canon Walker’s warm, enthusiastic and welcoming personality that won me over. I am still in discovery phase about the rich life here at Grace. I recently met the Outreach Committee and the Cariboo Group and hope to be able to contribute in some meaningful way. Like they say, home is what you make it, and Grace is now home to me.
I have been blessed with opportunity to help make a difference. I headed up Agriculture Canada, worked in the Privy Council Office and Ontario Cabinet Office, and with Foreign Affairs in London and the United Nations. I ran for Parliament, tried provincial politics and recently retired from the Institute on Governance where I worked in war torn Iraq shortly after the Americans left, and in Botswana, an amazing jewel of a democracy in Africa.
I am a Delaware Band member, born on the Six Nations Indian Reserve. The Anglicans got to us very early, over 3 centuries ago. The Book of Common Prayer provides me with a very real spiritual link to my heritage, where my ancestors spoke the very same words, every week of their lives.
Peter and Rachel have encouraged me to find ways to build bridges between the aboriginal community and Grace Church. We recently visited Six Nations and Her Majesty’s Mohawk Chapel built in 1785. The aboriginal world is another world, so near and yet so far. The devastation of many communities is so deep that it is hard to know where to start. I have deliberately avoided working professionally in this field for that reason, but I truly admire those who do.
I am now trying to forge a relationship between Grace Church and the Kingfisher Lake Reserve in northern Ontario. It’s a fly-in community of about 500 with a very high school dropout rate. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa from there is heading up the brand new Anglican Diocese of Mishamikweesh (Mish ahm ee kweesh) (which means Big Beaver House). I share with Bishop Lydia a dream where mothers of pre-school children there have rebuilt the parenting skills that were lost during the residential school experience, to better help their children succeed.
I was appointed recently to the Primate’s Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice committee and attended National Synod last month where we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Primate’s Apology. I am very proud of the Church’s progress and the vibrant Indigenous ministry built across the country.
In closing, it is wearing the hat of both parishioner and national Church representative that I look to the future. I would love to see Grace Church model innovative new ways of outreach, building on our history, traditions and experience, including in childcare, especially following on the anniversaries of both Grace and the Aboriginal Apology. If anyone is interested, I would love to chat.
Faces of Grace - Ian Anthony
Good Morning. I’m Ian Anthony. I began attending Grace Church on-the-Hill in January 1995. I came to know our Church when I was new to the general area, riding along Lonsdale with a close friend, going to Forest Hill Village, when I spied a sign that caught my eye – “Grace Church, Anglican”. I made a call to the church office days later, and that next Sunday, took the aisle-seat behind the Warden’s Pew. At that service, I felt a sense of welcome and warmth, and recall thinking, “This is a place for me”.
Originally from the Sarnia area, I’ve been Anglican since birth. My Great-Grandfather on my mother’s side was a priest, as were my Great-Uncles, one of whom was a Bishop. My mother is a priest as well, of the Diocese of Huron and currently in Churchill, Manitoba.
As part of our Church community, I have been a friendly face as the Greeter at the ‘Grace Once More’ summer festivity since 1998; and serving as a Chalice Bearer, a Lesson Reader, a Prayers of the People Reader, and a Sidesperson. Additionally, I have been a Lay-Delegate for Synod since 2009. Our ‘Spirit of Grace’ newsletter published two articles I penned, one about the departure of Reverend Barry, and another welcoming Reverend Walker. I wrote two pieces for The Anglican newspaper about Grace Church, and had the pleasure of researching and writing the upcoming history of our church, titled ‘Abiding in Faith’, while assisting with other Parish Centennial activities.
Previously I lived in an apartment at Mount Pleasant and Eglinton. When my then fiancée and I purchased a house at Donlands and O’Connor, I told Peter about my new home, and a flash of concern crossed his otherwise smiling face for a fleeting moment – about one of his flock straying. I re-assured him that it was only an extra 5 minutes on the drive, and was well-worth it. I then quickly found a good route -- fortunately Davisville Avenue provides a straight-shot from Bayview to Avenue Road.
Grace Church has been and continues to be a key part of my religious experience. I genuinely enjoy it here. It was here where I became married to my wife, Marge. I find Grace provides respite and solace, to collect one’s self from the bustling world, and allow rejuvenation for the week ahead. Grace gives opportunities to learn about what it means to be Christian, and to strengthen bonds with God and Jesus. As well, it is a place of joy and vibrance, with smiling faces and warm countenances, to gather and share with like-minded brothers and sisters.
Grace Church on-the-Hill is a house of God; a structure for all aspects of Anglican worship, that has stood the test of time. Our Grace Church is solid. It conveys pride. It is a beacon, it is a sanctuary. Grace Church is our spiritual home; an all-encompassing temple of praise, music, love, peace, caring, understanding, and support. Here, we join together, as family and friend, for learning, song, service and prayer.
May God bless each and all. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you here next week.
Faces of Grace - Sarah Keeshan
My name is Sarah Keeshan. My connection to Grace is relatively recent, and in many ways, I'm still a newcomer. When I moved to Toronto just over a year ago to start my doctorate in History, I set out in search of a church community. I attended services at a number of wonderful churches, but as I walked home from my first Sunday at Grace I knew that I had found my spiritual home in Toronto. The spirit at Grace is tangible, and it is something that I wanted to be a part of. In the past year, it has been a blessing to serve at the altar, in leading prayer, as a greeter, as a sidesperson in training, and in various outreach programs.
The life of a student is a transitory experience, and Grace matters to me because it has grounded me and has been a home for me away from my home and a still centre throughout transitional uncertainty. When we look for answers in our lives and in this world, the security and stability of this, our spiritual home, gives us the courage to ask difficult questions.
Moreover, today we celebrate hope, and we begin the solemn preparation of Advent, during which we self-consciously re-orient ourselves towards a Christ-centred life. Grace matters because it is a spiritual home that consistently, throughout the year, re-orients us not only towards God, but also towards the world that he loves. Rooted in faith and worship in this place and with each other, Grace reminds us that we are called to outward-looking lives and to carry the spirit of this place in service to the world and in all that we do. This is the spirit of Grace and its call to us.
It's been a blessing over the past few months to hear about some of the links that have forged the community at Grace for generations. I consider myself a lucky inheritor of the legacy of the past century, and of the spirit that as carried Grace through the past 100 years. That spirit, and the people who have embodied it, is an exhortation to us now, and, as we join our voices with those who came before us, will become a joyful exhortation into the next century.
Faces of Grace - John Crean
First, let me tell you who I am - I am a retired Banker who spent some of his early career as a university teacher. And my wonderful wife Wendy was a Head Nurse in the Operating Room at the Toronto Sick Children's Hospital until she retired - or I should better say - shifted her full time career to raising our children.
We both had a very brief membership in Grace Church when we were very small. This was the original parish church of both of our families. Wendy was baptised here. Family moves, however, took us away to other Parishes.
Several years ago, we saw the light and came back to Grace. We were looking for a Parish with a strong sense of community and with high standards of music. We have found both. On our first Sunday, when we came through the door, Chris Caton greeted me with a booming ".. I know you..!" And we have never looked back. Chris married our son in this Church. All our three grandchildren have been baptized here. And when our family was faced with a severe medical problem - our daughter was discovered to have a brain tumour - the parish prayed for her for several months. I am very relieved to be able to say that now, two years after her operation, she is entirely clear of that tumour. Grace matters.
Perhaps the most striking features of our Parish is the growing understanding of the need for change if the Parish is to face the modern world and to flourish. An acceptance of change is not instinctive for many Anglicans. A year ago, Peter's long arm reached out for my participation in helping with this change and since January I have been one of your Deputy Wardens. My main beat is finance, but like other Wardens we are all involved to some extent in the wide range of Parish activities.
I am pleased to be part of this deep effort to bring the Parish together and to build its membership. I saw it all begin with Peter's efforts as soon as he became Rector as he began systematically to introduce parishioners to one another - often people who have seen each other at services for years but have never known each other. The efforts of Francesca in organizing the brunches were initially viewed with scepticism by many, but are proving to be an great success. Two weeks ago, you heard Andy Duncanson's gave us a rousing description of the efforts he and his committee are making on Stewardship. The Welcoming Committee is actively looking for new members of the Parish, particularly younger members. Music is flourishing - thank you Stephen and Sarah and all the Choir members.
So this is why Wendy and I came to Grace. We came for the community, and for the music. And Grace has made a difference to our lives. For which we thank you all.
Faces of Grace - Julian Fisher
Our family has been coming to Grace Church for five years. My wife and I are music teachers, and one reason we come to Grace Church is so that we don't spend all of our time at the Toronto School for Strings, where we both teach.
How did we start going to Grace Church? Driving from our home on Winona Dr. across St. Clair, then along Lonsdale Rd on the way to Deer Park Public School and we would always pass by Grace Church and couldn't help but notice the sign asking for choristers. We decided to give Grace a try and we haven't looked back. I have been involved as a viola player, and also as a violinist (in my less responsible moments). I am also a Server, and try to come to Morning Prayer when my schedule permits.
Recently Grace hosted a celebration of life/funeral for my mother, who passed away at the end of September, and so this place has helped us, most tangibly through one of the great passages of life.
Our school has presented several concerts here, and last June we had an awards ceremony and were able to thank several distinguished musicians for their lifetime achievements.
My daughter Emma has performed on her cello here on several occasions, most noticeably at Grace Once More, as well as on the Variety Show, and she sang for a couple of years in the choir. My wife Mary, also a cellist, has helped in the brunches, and has performed in concerts with choir and orchestra here at the church.
This is our spiritual home!
I look forward to deepening the commitment and being even more involved in the life of our church community.
We consider ourselves to be "committed" church-goers, and it's becau
Faces of Grace - Nancy Robinson
This has been my home church since I was a child, growing up in houses all pretty much within walking distance from here. My family connection with this building goes back further, though: the east window in the south transept was given by my great-grandmother in memory of her husband and son, my great-grandfather and teenaged great-uncle, who died together tragically in 1917 when their car went off a bridge into a river where they drowned. Back to the more recent (but still distant) past, as a teenager, university student, and young woman, I pretty much dropped out of sight as far as the church was concerned, until I got married and had children. My Christian background and beliefs came flooding back then, and I wanted to be sure our children had a Christian upbringing, so all three girls were baptised here just before we moved to Montreal -- where we became Presbyterian for four years. We went for the Regimental March of the Black Watch, and when we picked up the girls from Sunday School they had all been assigned parts in the Christmas pageant, so the Presbyterians had us. Back here in 1981, the girls went to Sunday School, sang in the girls' choir, were prepared for confirmation and were confirmed. I did some Sunday School teaching and sat on a couple of committees, and then when the girls all stopped singing, I joined the Women's Choir. That was 26 years ago. Over the intervening years I've done a few things not related to the choir – reading a lesson, doing sides duty along with my husband Ian, serving as a Warden from 2007 to 2010, and now as Chair of Outreach. But mostly I have found a place to pray, to connect my spirit with God's spirit, and with the spirits of all those here who share a commitment to live as God wants us to live, as Jesus has taught us.
For many of us, this beautiful building inspires us to reach for God and to be with God, during services and on occasions like baptisms, weddings, and funerals. And for me, the music is a huge part of that inspiration. The inspiration can't last, though, unless we support it with ongoing contributions to the expenses of keeping it all running. During my time as a Warden it became abundantly clear to me that difficult decisions often have to be made about how to allocate funds so that the aging edifice will stay warm in winter, won't leak, and won't crumble. We can't take it for granted. We must support it if we want the building to be here, to continue to inspire us and those who follow.
Yes, but inspire us to what? As I said, to live as God wants us to live, as Jesus taught us. Living this way, all the time, every day, is often hard, but it is made easier if you are part of a community of people trying to do the same thing. That community can be found here at Grace Church. We believe that our highest Christian calling is to reach out to those in need, in pain, in all kinds of suffering, with our actions, and we do that in a number of ways in person in our local community. But today, in 2013, we are painfully aware of the suffering of so many we cannot see, all over the city, the country and the world. We are called to help, and we can do that with our resources when we cannot be there in person. As the Chair of Outreach I have learned that here too we must make difficult decisions about which projects, which hopeful recipients, all worthy and deserving, will get a share of the relatively little money we have to give. And I can't help feeling that we could do much more.
We here are blessed. We can feel God's grace all around us. And we can express our gratitude for that grace and share it in our giving. Something to think about on this Commitment Sunday.
Faces of Grace - Katie Bryski
Hi, My name is Katie Bryski.
Originally, I was going to tell the story of how I joined the choir—I had a class Thursday evenings, and this is the only choir in Toronto that rehearses on Tuesdays—but that's just the prologue.
That rainy autumn night in 2009, I didn't actually intend to stay for very long. Maybe a semester, two at the most. But something happened.
I found a community. Complete strangers became my friends, my mentors. Grace became a second home, another family. It's a stable place for me. Most importantly, it's a place where I am OK to be vulnerable.
I've become more involved with the community as a whole, but being in the choir is like having twenty extra aunts—my ladies have been there through some of the best and worst times of my life. I don't do emotion very well, but I wanted you all to know how much it is appreciated and how much I care.
The last time I stood at this microphone was eleven months ago, when I spoke at my father's funeral. Grace, clergy, and parishioners, you were there for me when I needed you. And now I realize: you were there for me when I needed you on that rainy night five years ago. I just didn't know it then.
Of all the texts the choir has sung, my favourite is Ubi Caritas. It runs: Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. - Where there is love, God is there.
I can't think of a better description for Grace.
Faces of Grace - Susannah Ketchum
I was a bit startled, as I began composing this talk, to realize that I have been coming to Grace Church for 60 years. In 1953, there were 3 Sunday services-the 8 and 11 o'clock morning services and, most Sunday afternoons, Evensong. At the 11 o'clock service, the church was often crowded because the boarders of the Bishop Strachan School, dressed in navy blue and accompanied by the redoubtable Miss MacNaughton, filled half of the north side of the nave.
My church attendance over the next 16 years was sporadic, but after our children, Alice and Ken, were born, I realized that I wanted them to know the comfort of Christianity, and I began to make a more serious effort to get to church on Sundays. Then Rev. Malcolm Evans and his wife, Ursula, arrived. Soon, my husband, Peter, and I learned, perforce, how much went on at Grace Church during the rest of the week. We became sidespeople. Malcolm co-opted Peter to work with the various Ladies' groups of the church. I served on the Education Committee, and when the 11 o'clock Sunday School seemed about to disappear, Barb Priscus and I, with much help from other parishioners, kept it going for several years. (At that stage Barb and I were both wrestling with getting 2 small children and ourselves up and dressed and off to school early-5 mornings a week. We longed to take Sunday mornings at a more leisurely pace-not that teaching Sunday School proved to be all that peaceful!) In due course Ken joined the Boys' choir and Alice became a server. Grace Church was truly a family affair.
Then in 1991, Peter and I were moved to Italy. We had three glorious years there. Returning to Toronto was painful. Our house had been rented for those three years and was a disaster. My leave of absence had expired, and I was unsure whether I would be able to find work. The one bright light on the horizon was Grace Church. It was still here, still beautiful, and still providing a sanctuary and a challenge. The sanctuary of friends, beautiful music, and spiritual renewal.
The challenge of trying to contribute to the life of the church. Grace certainly mattered to me then. And it still does. Since 1994, I have been involved in a number of activities at Grace Church, including co-ordinating the most recent Photo Directory, helping to keep the Book and Film Group alive, and helping to run the Library.
Last week Andy Duncanson shamelessly used his entire 'Faces of Grace' speech to highlight the work of the Stewardship Committee. I would like to end my talk by shamelessly promoting the Grace Church on-the-Hill Library. Marjorie Cooper began the Library as we know it today. After Marjorie died, Stella Mullins, Bettie Tullis, and I undertook the challenge of carrying on Marjorie's work in the Library. Over the years a number of parishioners have helped us organize and update our collection. The Wardens, Linda Gaylard in particular, have also provided great support. Our space is small, but truly welcoming. Our collection has grown and our catalogue is now online AND accessible to you-wherever you are-through the Church website. All we need now is browsers and borrowers. Please come and see us. I know, only too well, that it is harder and harder to find time to read, but I truly believe that Grace Church on-the-Hill's Library, with its Grace-centred collection of books, is one of the ways that "Grace Matters." And I believe that we have something to tempt each and every one of you. Why not start now! Your librarians will be looking for you.
My name is Andy Duncanson and I'm the Grace Church Stewardship Chair for 2013-2014.
When Peter and the Wardens asked me to be the Chair I was very humbled because as I look at our congregation I see so many talented, successful people and I asked myself what could I bring to the table that you have not thought of doing before.
My first question was: What makes a good Steward?
Is it the generous giving of time, talent and money or is it more?
As Christian Stewards, we receive God's gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.
Our theme for the 2013-2014 Stewardship Campaign is Grace Matters. Our first response was the formation of a permanent Stewardship Committee that will meet throughout the year. Its purpose is to implement ways our Parish can promote stewardship and educate parishioners about the finances of Grace Church about how much and on what the Church spends every year as part of our annual operating budget and that we spend only what we receive from our Offertory campaign. We first met in March and have established a Welcoming and Engagement Committee, the Legacy Giving Committee and The Offertory Giving Committee. A Calendar of Stewardship Events for 2014 will be sent out shortly.
Last year, our Offertory budget was $ 687,000.00. This year we would like to increase this budget to $ 720,000.00. This $ 33,000.00 increase may seem high, but for a Church of our size, our history, the importance of our ministries, this amount is pretty low. We are very fortunate in that our Clergy and staff do an incredible job managing the resources we give them and we operate without incurring debt. We only spend the money that we have and we don't borrow more.
You all should have received the Narrative Budget by now. This will give you an overview on how we spend our money. If we can increase our Offertory budget, we can adjust our spending and put greater resources behind things like: our newly developed Community Development Ministry which includes an expanded Sunday School and a new toddler program, the Music Ministry, our expanded Outreach programs and our Physical Plant.
Over the next few weeks as you think and pray about Stewardship, I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions.
The first question is why does Grace Matter to you?
Grace Church is our spiritual home and a representation of our commitment to God. It has been the spiritual home for Torontonians for 100 years. Many of you grew up here, you were baptized here, you attended the Sunday School while your parents worshipped. You then were involved in the youth programs and you became acolytes. You were confirmed here; you sang in the Choir, you were involved in the Sanctuary Guild, served as Ushers and on the Vestry. You were married here; your kids were married here. We also remember our loved ones who had memorial services here. We also prayed here, individually and as families; some families for generations. Many of you are new to our community and have found your spiritual home here and we are delighted.
Grace Matters to all of us for many different reasons. That one fact alone makes Grace Matter to me - that it is our spiritual home.
The second question is why is it important to give to your spiritual home?
Peter, Rachel, Chris and Catherine do an excellent job of teaching us about our faith, how to pray, ministering to us during the trials of life and developing our lives spiritually. As parishioners, we all strive for spirituality, develop friendships, teach our kids and pray together. We do all these things as part of our spiritual home here at Grace.
I want us to think about something more basic and fundamental. How do we keep our spiritual home and its ministries operating? As with our personal homes, we want and need them to function. We want them to be a reflection of us. We want our spiritual home to reflect the importance our faith to us.
Not only do we need to pay basic bills like electricity and water, we need to do routine maintenance.
Our Church was built in 1912 and the last addition was in 1962. Our needs today are different than our needs in 1962. We are continuously shoring up our building to bring it up to today's standards. The need list goes on and on to include updated wiring and cooling the Parish Hall.
Would we tolerate this in our own homes?
When I asked myself this question, I was stunned to learn that my family was spending more on supporting The Maple Leafs and the Argos, going to about 5 games each a year, than we were giving to our spiritual home. I was also stunned to learn that we were spending more belonging to a Golf Club than we were giving to our church, our spiritual home. Even though we spent significantly more time at Grace Church and if you were to ask us, our faith is more important than these other activities, especially hockey or football. Yet giving to our church was a lower financial priority. It didn't take much to change those priorities and the personal rewards are and will be tremendous.
The last question I want you to think about is what should I give?
What we give to our Church is a personal decision and is confidential. Peter will tell you that you should give joyfully, freely and without regret. The Biblical tithe is 10% and some may be able to give more and some less. A tithe is a symbol. Our whole lives belong to Christ and we are his stewards. We need to give something for the wellbeing of the Church and our own hearts.
Some have said the best way to determine the amount to give is to stand in front of a mirror and say the amount and see if you can say it with a smile. If you don't smile, it is because either the amount is too low and you feel guilt, or it is too much and you are very concerned. Ultimately through prayer and reflection you will find what is right for you.
I would like to take a moment to talk about Pre Authorized Giving. What is Pre Authorized Giving?
Many may remember that we used to write 52 checks per year and put them in the Offertory envelopes. Today we can do the same thing through Pre Authorized Remittance through the use of a Credit Card or your bank account.
Pre Authorized Giving is a benefit to both you and the Church:
Guarantees a stream of reliable revenue.
Supports our ministry in your absence.
You don't have to remember to bring money.
We have mention Cards.
Helps the Wardens plan for future expenses.
Provides peace of mind to Wardens and Clergy.
Pre Authorized Giving is good theology
Pre Authorized Giving not only refers to money it also refers to Time and Talent for the church.
Pre Authorized Giving insures consistency, reliability and commitment.
In closing I want to revisit the concept of Christian stewardship I mentioned earlier.
"As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace"
Over the next few days, you will receive a letter from the Wardens and from me with an overview of the annual Operating Budget and your pledge card. Please review this material over the next few weeks. Our goal is to receive $ 720,000.00 in pledges from you this year. We have enclosed a pledge card and return envelope in hopes we hear from you by Commitment Sunday on November 17th so we can finalize the annual operating budget.
Every gift is important and we ask that you prayerfully consider making a pledge to help us reach our goal and to support your Parish ministries. We are truly blessed at Grace Church and we hope you respond by using your gifts to serve one another as good stewards. Each and every one of us is a priority to God. Please make supporting your Church a financial priority in your life.
Grace really does Matter
Faces of Grace - Nick Cheng
My name is Nick Cheng. I came to Grace Church at the turn of the century when my son was invited to join the choir as a boy chorister. Since I had to bring him to rehearsals and services, I thought I may as well join the choir myself. What I found at Grace transformed both me and my son. For me, I discovered some wonderful traditions of the Anglican church, particularly its music ministry. A former colleague of mine from England visited Grace one day, and told me that she found our service to be "most like home". I also tapped into a friendly, talented, and dedicated community of musicians - singers, organists, and instrumentalists.
For my son, being in the choir taught him many things. It taught him discipline - to concentrate and listen. Like many young boys, he never sat still. But in a short time, he started giving me his critique of the sermons. It taught him commitment, which won him the attendance award five years in a row. It also taught him teamwork and enlarged his vocabulary.
It's amazing what singing psalms can do. He went on two England tours, and they ignited his love for travel. Oh yes, I should also mention the music education he got. It's something that serves him well today and probably will for the rest of his life.
I think the best thing you can do for your children, or grandchildren, is to sign them up for the Grace church choir. I'm here today because I want to help preserve these great things Grace has to offer. Thank you.
Faces of Grace - Bettie Tullis
Hello. I am Bettie Tullis. My husband, Mark, and I walked in these doors almost 8 years ago, a freezing Sunday in January 2006. We were immediately embraced by the wonderful, warm community here and knew we had found our church home. We quickly got involved with various things. You have seen me serving the Chalice, leading the prayers, and reading the Scripture, or perhaps we've been together at a Cariboo or committee meeting. I also help in the church library on Tuesday afternoons, and volunteer at the Food Bank. I am honored to serve as one of your lay delegates to Synod.
I was asked to talk about why it matters.... I think there are two main reasons. One, because I recognize that I am a spiritual being and I need a place where I can be fed spiritually and be honest to myself and others about what really matters. And two, because Christianity does not operate in a vacuum. It is important to participate in, and build up, the Body of Christ, the community of believers.
I am glad we are on this journey together.
Faces of Grace - Frances Main
I have been a parishioner of Grace Church all my life. Even though I live across the street from St. Clement's Church, I make the Wheetrans trip here to Grace Church because this is where I feel at home. As you know, I suffered a stroke about eight years ago. That was when I really started to realize what wonderful and caring Christian community Grace Church is.
When I was still in acute care in the hospital I received many visits from the clergy. Anna Greenwood-Lee brought me communion, as did Marlene who was a constant and faithful visitor and support to me in those dark days. When I was released from hospital and sent to rehab; I started to get visits from parishioners as well. Lynne Youston popped in quite often as did Julia Keeling. Betty Calvin came to visit quite often too. This contact with Grace Church was very important to me. I got to know people whom I'd seen my whole life and not talked to before. As Marlene said to me the great thing about belonging to a faith community is that when you can't pray for yourself; there are others to do it for you.
Being a working mother in my former life, I wasn't able to get as involved at Grace Church as I would have liked, but I did serve for a while with my daughter, Alex, which I really enjoyed. We both benefitted from participating in the liturgy .I think it was a great experience for both of us to do together and it helped her as a young teenager to take ownership, so to speak, of what happens during the service. As the person in charge of getting readers for the 11:00 service, I have been able to meet and get to know quite a few people. I feel that the more I have become involved in what is happening at the church, whether it is volunteering or bible book club or going to the brunches, I feel more in touch with Grace Church as a Christian community where we reach out and embrace our faith and let our light shine before others that hey may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.
Faces of Grace - By Sylvia Fawcett
My name is Sylvia Fawcett and I was born – quite a few years ago – in northern England and came to Toronto in 1964 with my husband and 2- year old daughter. Our younger daughter, Ann, was born two years later.
I joined Grace Church in 1978 when we moved into this area. I was already acquainted with the building because I had been a member of the diocesan Education Committee which held its meetings here. I only have one vivid recollection of that time and that is of standing in the Narthex one evening, looking up towards the darkened nave, and seeing the softly illuminated reredos at the back of the chancel. It was beautiful, and there was a spirituality present that caused me to instinctively and reverently bow. That spiritual ambience is still present and is particularly evident when the church is quiet, and most wonderfully present during our Special Services.
You've probably guessed it! One of the reasons I came to Grace Church was because of the worship and my need to be part of a worshiping community. The liturgy, music and sermons here are truly outstanding
I also came with a desire to grow spiritually and to increase my knowledge about the faith I profess. Over the years there have been many opportunities to do this. Discussion groups, and Advent and Lenten programs have all played a big part. The creative discussions and programs that Rachel, Catherine and Scott are continually devising are worthy of our enthusiastic support.
As for volunteer opportunities – the possibilities for donating time and talent are endless. I have been involved with many committees and projects, but my main interests have always been in building Christian community and Christian education. My involvement has been enriching and rewarding and I particularly treasure my 35 year membership with the 53 year old, still-going strong, Cariboo Group, a group which to me epitomizes what Christian community is all about.
It is through knowing, working with, and caring for each other that we create community and a sense of belonging. At the same time we are strengthening the body of Christ and equipping ourselves to be a vibrant force for God and good in this indifferent and secular world. I think that is worthy of our support.
Faces of Grace - By Jim Lawson
My name is Jim Lawson and I come to this parish with a background in the United Church of Canada, where I grew up and spent much of my life, but in the past ten years or so I have been attending the Anglican Church. My switch in allegiances has mainly to do with the differences in liturgy- I much prefer the Anglican service, as did my dear late mother who joined me here for worship last Thanksgiving weekend.
I moved to this neighbourhood from the west end almost two years ago and began looking for a church over the next few months. To anybody driving past, Grace Church may well seem like a formidable spiritual fortress from the outside, and it takes a bit of time to work up the nerve to come into a new place of worship. Past experience has taught me that any venture into a new church often exposes you to all manner of well-meaning but over-eager individuals, anxious to fill positions on various committees and interest groups long before you've had time to decide whether or not to stay.
It was a refreshing change then, to be able to find my way at my own pace, get comfortable with the place and maintain my space while I settled in and got to know people. In time I found my niche in reading a lesson every few weeks, which is one of the things I love to do most in service to the church. As one who usually attends church alone, it is important to me to have found a church which attends to my spiritual needs while allowing me to get immersed at my own pace.
Grace Church would not be the same place without our warm and welcoming clergy, and Peter and I have become fast friends and coffee buddies. I appreciate the clergy's hard work in keeping this place moving ahead, much of which goe on behind the scenes, and their infectious warmth which seems to have permeated all things Grace.
Faces of Grace – By Christopher Bunting
I first came to Grace Church in the mid-1990s when I initially moved into the area. It was my local parish church but while new to me, it was not new to my family. My grandparents attended Grace for years and as far back as the 1930s Grace Church on-the-Hill was the scene of family weddings, funerals and other life events. So I grew up well aware of Grace and when I first came here as a new parishioner, I found the place to be a welcoming sanctuary from the hectic daily routine of running a consulting firm. In those early years, I volunteered for some committee work and through that my commitment to Grace Church grew.
After almost a decade living in London, England, I returned to Toronto in late 2010. Canon Peter Walker (whom I had known many years before when he served as summer rector at St. Peter's on-the-Rock, Stony Lake) was the new incumbent and I looked forward to returning to Grace. And I haven't been disappointed. The place is a hive of activity and there really does seem to be something for everyone. I have become reacquainted with familiar faces and have met lots of new people. There is an enthusiasm about the Church these days which is palpable. I was recruited by Francesca Malin Parker to help out with the parish brunches – and it's great! We have a community rich in interesting people doing amazing things for our Church and the community beyond, and it is a privilege to be part of it. This experience really is a classic case of "giving a little and getting a lot", and Grace Church is a wonderful spiritual home.
Faces of Grace - By Michael Royce
My name is Michael Royce and I, along with my wife Sheila, have been coming to Grace Church for many years. Until 1980, however, we were very much Easter/Christmas Christians and in that capacity brought our children to church on Christmas Day, 1979. As we left, Malcolm Evans, the then Rector, whom my family had known from early days in Kingston, expressed his pleasure at our being there and told us that the church "is also open on Sundays".
After conducting due diligence and ascertaining that this was indeed the case, Sheila and I decided that we would begin attending church regularly and therefore were in the pews on the first Sunday of the new decade, 1980, only. O hear Malcolm Evans, during the course of his homily, announce, quite unexpectedly, that he would be leaving Grace Church to begin a one year course in leadership at the Royal Military College.
Sheila and I of course realized the real reason for his departure was not RMC, but rather the recognition that, having persuaded the Royces to come to church regularly, his clerical career had peaked and there was no reason to continue.
So that is how we came to start attending Grace Church regularly, but that leaves the question as to why we have continued to do so pretty faithfully since that time.
Speaking for myself, I think it comes down to the fact that, living the relaxed and stress-free life of a trial lawyer, I found a degree of calm, peace, and in due course comfort which was to me irresistible. As Sheila and I begin began to become more involved, I serving as Warden In the 1980s and Sheila serving as Warden a few years ago as well as being part of the group organizing Grace Once More each year and performing the Screening in Faith coordination for staff and volunteers, we increasingly came to realize how much we benefited from our participation in Grace Church.
Recognizing that the name of the hymn we are about to sing includes the words "Let It Be", I think it appropriate to quote in this regard the well-known philosopher, Paul McCartney: "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make". As in life, so in Grace Church; the more you give, the more you get.
To the extent that you are not already doing so, I encourage you to jump in and get involved in what is going on here at Grace Church. It will be good for the church, and it will be good for you.
Faces Of Grace – by Pam Bailie
I came to Grace Church on-the-Hill because of my mother. Not only was she actively involved in the church that I grew up in Ottawa – Altar Guild; Parish Council; Synod Representative; Sunday School; Annual Bazaar; Mother's Union and so on - but she was also, for several years, the manager of the local Anglican bookstore, Canterbury House. Needless to say, I learned a lot from her and my father on what it means to give one's time, talent and resources.
I continue to come to Grace Church because of people like Francesca Mallin-Parker, Linda Gaylard, the Sanctuary gals and now my fellow Wardens. As a result, I have come to believe that Grace truly is worth supporting with my own time, talent and resources. My life is busy, as is yours, and finding the time can sometimes be challenging, but being a good steward is truly rewarding. Please think of what Grace Church on-the-Hill means to you and thereby how might you extend your commitment to our church.
Faces of Grace - By Andrew C. Duncanson
I was baptized and grew up in this parish
In the late 70’s moved away over 30 years ago to pursue my career in the US. When I moved back GC had just hired Peter Walker as the new rector and was looking forward to meeting him. Upon meeting Peter, I found him warm and welcoming but not only that I also found him interested and interesting. What a combination!
Several months later I noticed that the congregation and staff had a new vitality and there was a new energy at the Church. I realized after a few months that Peter, Rachel, Chris and Katherine were taking all the right steps to preserve and strengthen GC for the future.
I wanted to be involved in this mission so I volunteered to be your new Stewardship Chair.
I believe together we will secure and reinforce GC for future generations.
Faces of Grace - By Francesca Malin Parker
Funny the way the world works, as it was actually a Jewish friend of mine that got me involved at Grace Church in the first place! She told me we absolutely HAD to sign our kids up for the fabulous program called "Mother's Morning Out" and we lined up outside the church at 6 a.m. in the first week of September to do so. That was back in the fall of 1983, and I've been hanging out here ever since!
I went from being a parent and "duty mom" at Mother's Morning Out to being an assistant teacher in the program starting in 1989. I became Supervisor of Mother's Morning Out in 1992. The name changed to Toddler's Morning Out and I became an RECE. In September 2008, I also became the Director of Children's Ministry at Grace Church. In September of 2013, as my role at Toddler's Morning Out has come to an end, I will be undertaking another new role as Co-ordinator of Community Involvement at Grace Church
It would be almost impossible to state in brief, or perhaps at all, how much Grace Church has meant to me over the years and how much it still means. However, I will pick one thing: my son, Jesse Parker, is now an Anglican priest. Grace Church played a major role in his formation and for that I am eternally thankful. When he became aware of his vocation, I took on the role with our Sunday School so I could walk the path a little bit with him. Some of the rest of our family were not as qualified to do so, either by inclination or education. I hope he has found it meaningful to have a family member with whom he could discuss "church stuff." I thought it might be a bit of a drag to have to work every Sunday morning, though. But it wasn't! And when Canon Walker took over as incumbent it seemed to open up even more avenues of involvement. In fact, I have found being more involved doing things for and with the community incredibly enriching on a personal level. We sometimes think we are being asked to do things "for the church" or " for others" and although that is certainly the case, I can speak from personal experience that the rewards you will receive in return are manifold. You will receive many things through Grace.
Faces of Grace - By Sarah Hicks
I came to Grace Church 5 years ago and, to be honest, I was not at all looking for a Parish. I came to work, as a section lead, and to have a place to sing. What I found here was a community that I have come to know and love. My first experience with community at Grace Church was in the Women's Choir and then the larger choir community but the longer I have remained at Grace I have found that sense of belonging and fellowship with this entire community. Grace Church is my parish, my home, and my extended family. This is a place where I have been given the opportunity to serve, primarily through the ministry of music. I believe in the profound healing properties of music ministry and being a part of that ministry is essential to my own spiritual well being and to the well being of this entire community. We are all given gifts and abilities that make us ideal stewards in some capacity. Many of us possess many gifts. What I am most grateful to Grace Church for is the opportunity that I have been given to foster and explore new gifts. Gifts such as leadership, teaching, organizing, and fundraising are gifts that Grace Church has encouraged, fostered and affirmed in me.
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My name is Betty Calvin, and I have been a member of Grace Church for my whole life. My earliest memory is of my baptism in the newly built chapel when I was 3 years old. I knew it was something very important, and I wondered if it was OK to wipe off the water trickling down my nose.
I guess I went to Sunday School, but I don’t really remember it much. What I do remember well was the group I attended as a high school student at BSS. It was called Youth Forum; most of the others in the group were university students, we sat around the table in the kitchen and we talked about God, faith, prayer and things that seemed really important to me.
My father was warden in the 50s when the Christian education wing was built and Bob and I were married here in 1958. All 3 of our children were baptized here (in private services on a Sunday afternoon!) and our daughter, Isobel was married and her 2 children baptized here.
Bob was a sidesman, wearing his mourning coat with all the other men in those early years. I taught Sunday School one year in the early 60s, (I’m sure I learned more than the Grade 6 girls in my class) and for a while I was Co-ordinator of Church Schools, one on Sundays and one on Thursday afternoons, for families who were away week-ends. Both of our sons, Denys and John, sang in the choir under Derek Holman, and Isobel, was part of the very active youth group as a teen.
I was one of the founding members of the Cariboo Group, which has been an important part of my life here at Grace. We went from meeting monthly and trying various fund-raising ventures, some of which I chaired, to our present format of shared leadership and meeting 4 times a year. The women in this group are my dearest friends, whom I know I can always count on for support and help, and for whom I hope I can always do the same.
There were periods of time when I was away from Toronto, 6 years in the late 40s when I lived in Montreal, 4 in the mid 50s, when I was away at university, and 2 in the early 70s when we lived in NY. In those years I worshipped in different churches, which I think broadened my perspective, but coming back to Grace always felt like coming home.
There were also times when I wasn’t very happy about what was happening here; I wanted change and it didn’t happen fast enough! I thought about leaving and going to another church, but I knew that nowhere would be perfect, and churches, like people, go through dry spells. So I realized I would just have to wait, because this is where I belong. And it always got better after those times.
After we came back from NY in the 70s I started taking courses in the MDiv program at Trinity at UofT, with no goal in mind, definitely not ordination. I served as People’s Warden for a couple of years – stressful, and an eye opening time, but very important in figuring out what I wanted to do next. I took a pastoral visitors’ training course from Rev Betty Kilbourn with a group of about 10 of us here at Grace, and that was when the light bulb flashed on for me! I volunteered as a Pastoral Visitor at Mt Sinai Hospital, completed my degree, and did my clinical training at Sick Kids, and applied for a newly created part time position as Protestant Chaplain at Mt Sinai. I had finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up, many thanks to the encouragement and support provided by this community.
Grace Church was my foundation and source of strength and understanding in the 16 years I spent at Sinai. I continued to volunteer as Chair of the Parish Council for a year, a member of the pastoral care committee, a reader, chalice bearer and leader of the Prayers of the People, which I continue to do still. I chaired the Education Committee for a while and, for several years shared the leadership of many bereavement groups with Milton Barry. This was the most rewarding volunteer activity I’ve ever had. More recently, I have been a member of the Parish Selection Committee that brought Peter to us, and a member and chair of the Parish Nursing Committee.
Bob has been a member of the group who help to count the collection on Mondays, and for both of us, as well as the time we give, our financial contributions to Grace are very important. Worshipping here every Sunday for so many years, and being involved in so many different ways, has deepened my understanding of how God is always present in my life. For all the gifts which have been given to us as members of this community, it matters a lot to us that Grace Church be here in the future to guide and support those who follow, whatever that looks like. And we’ll still be here with you, over there in the columbarium!
Faces of Grace Testimony
Good morning and a happy Mother’s Day to all those loving and caring moms out there! It’s great to see everyone here today! Allow me to start my testimony by introducing myself. I am Izabella, and I have been a chorister in the Grace Church Children’s Choir for quite some time now. I first joined the choir in September of 2015 making this the near end of second year being a part of this choir.I have never really said this too much, but being a part of this community means a whole lot to me. Many components make up what we have here at Grace; coming here every Tuesday for weekly rehearsals, singing songs of praise during Sunday service and being a part of something huge, like our Jonah musical. It was a wonderful opportunity to have dancing, acting and singing all in one. Every one of those combined make something that I may never experience anywhere else; which makes me so proud that I was given this opportunity. Currently, my brother Denzel and I are now in the choir. He joined just last September, and I am sure he is glad that he did. My mom is a volunteer here as well. She’s a small part of that big team of helpers that clean up after us every time we eat. It’s typical of her, as she does the same thing for us two at home!
Anyways, that just shows even more how important Grace is to us. Grace Church is like another home to us; and though it is a far home away from home, we still feel welcomed by all the warm-hearted parishioners. And it brings a great joy to my heart that I get to share my talent with the community. This is why we must support Grace Church because there are blessings in knowing God’s word, blessings in hearing inspiration from music, blessing in the ministry for children, youth, adults, and seniors; and most of all, the blessing in the fellowship for one another. At Grace, we can rest from our weekly activity and just spend time for spiritual upliftment and in fellowship with one another. It has been a great privilege to come here at Grace Church, because through my mentors Stephen, Sarah and the choir family, they helped me develop my talent to use for God’s service and to the wider community as well. This is my testimony.
Thank you very much.