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Four churches in Toronto’s west end to amalgamate

By Stuart Mann

When Sandra Lewis spoke to her fellow parishioners at St. David, Lawrence Avenue, about the possibility of amalgamating with three other churches in Toronto’s west end, she was surprised by their responses. “They said, ‘Yes, it’s time to move on.’”

With an old building and a dwindling congregation, the parish had to act, said Ms. Lewis, who is the people’s warden at her church. “Instead of pumping more money into our building, we’d rather put it into the mission of the church – to continue to spread the Gospel and win souls for Christ.”

At a special vestry meeting this spring, the church voted unanimously to merge with the other churches – Church of the Advent, Church of the Good Shepherd and St. John, Weston. All of them have agreed to amalgamate.

“This decision is a God-send,” said Kuinivia Seiloa, the people’s warden at the Church of the Good Shepherd, which also voted unanimously to merge. “We’ll accomplish way more stuff if we have more hands. We can take on new initiatives that serve the public and our parishioners. For me, that’s exciting.”

Dianne Izzard, the rector’s warden at the Church of the Advent, echoed her comments. “I’m excited because the focus is going to turn from survival to ministry,” she said. “In a small congregation, you’re always concentrating on survival. But now we’ll have more people and resources to do other things.”

Bishop Philip Poole, the area bishop of York-Credit Valley, said he was proud of the churches’ decision to join forces. “These four congregations have all had a storied history in this part of Toronto but they have concluded that they will be much stronger together than they will be apart. I think it speaks to their courage, vision and faith as they seek to respond as church in a challenging time in society.”

A transition team comprised of Bishop Poole and representatives of the four churches will determine the new church’s location. A decision is expected by the end of August. The plan is to build a state-of-the-art church on one of the existing properties, to be paid for by the sale of the other three churches. The transition team is being facilitated by Heather McGregor, a member of the diocese’s Reconfiguration Team.

Bishop Poole said historical elements from all four churches will be incorporated into the new building. Worship and outreach from the four churches will also be incorporated as much as possible into the life of the new parish. “We’ll do our very best to provide an Anglican presence in that whole area.”

He said the amalgamation has the potential to create a large, vibrant Anglican church. “What we’ve learned is that you don’t program your way into critical mass, you critical mass your way into programming. If you’ve got enough people, enough hands on deck, you can do an awful lot of things. Bigger is not better but it’s different and it gives you the capacity to accomplish more. If it all comes together, it will become one of the larger churches in the diocese.”

Cynthia Rouse, a churchwarden at St. John, Weston, said she is looking forward to the day when all the congregations will be together in their new church. “The way I see it, our church is closing but it is magically turning into a butterfly. We’ll be at a new location with a new name. I’m looking forward to that.”