Jane’s Walk explores Leaside’s places of worship, Story for Leaside Life June 2012

May 16, 2012

in Jane's Walks


What a great day for participating in Jane’s Walk! Sunday, May 6 was sunny but not too hot and about 30 people learned a lot about Leaside’s places of worship, their architecture and artistic treasures, and their social and cultural role in the community. Thank you to the excellent presentations given by representatives at each of the five Leaside churches. And we kept to schedule!

Jane Jacobs was a famous urbanologist who lived in Toronto, a person who was passionate about protecting and enhancing cities from unbridled growth. She pinpointed the existence of thriving neighbourhoods as the essential building block ensuring that cities were liveable and dynamic Jane’s Walk encourages citizens get out and explore their cities through organized walks. entities. She felt no grand planning scheme could substitute for an understanding of people’s everyday experience of the city. Led by volunteers, Jane’s Walks are offered in 263 neighbourhoods and 24 towns and cities in Canada. Last year over 10,000 people participated.

First we visited St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church where we were impressed with the simplicity of the design, the light and openness of the nave, and the flexibility afforded by the use of chairs rather than pews. The Church was even able to help another parish whose pews were in worse shape than theirs when they outfitted with the new chairs.

At Leaside Presbyterian we experienced the new reality of churches opening their worship space to other faith groups. They bring different traditions of worship too; in the Korean Methodist Church, the choir members are seated with the congregation, except for special choir anthems.

At Leaside United, an important feature is I was struck by the “community remembrance” role of the Church. The stained glass windows that record (let us never forget) the names of those killed in the Second World War and Korean War.

At St. Anselm’s Roman Catholic Church, the stained glass windows are again a feature, but here it is their brightness and clarity not their symbolism that excited us. (There is the beautiful carving on linden wood of the stations of the cross, and the bronze statue of Christ crucifix). FACT CHECKING NEEDED RE MATERIALS MENTIONED If inclined you can spend a fair bit of time trying to identify the personages illustrated in the ecumenical window at the south end of the Church.

Our final visit was at St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, is the oldest of the five churches. It was originally established as a Mission church from Christ Church Deer Park (Yonge and St Clair) and later was the Mother church for St Augustine’s. St Cuthbert’s, similarly to St. Augustine’s has an open expansive feeling, though the pews remain! A magnificent mural by Sylvia Hahn of Christ the Teacher (Christus Magister) is on the west wall.

As well as architecture and art, the Walk reminded us that places of worship reflect the the society in which they operate. In the period after the Second World War, society was more religious at all stages of life, and the Leaside community was almost entirely Christian. As a result, churches were packed and Sunday schools had hundreds of children and young people in attendance. At this point, several of the churches are looking at their future and asking whether they can we continue to go it alone. For example Leaside Presbyterian Church is considering a partnership with Glebe Presbyterian Church (west of Bayview), but with Leaside as the lead congregation, a reversal of its historical origins as a mission church of the Glebe.

We were also reminded of the important role of places of worship in direct service provision and in making available inexpensive space for all manner of community services from child care to scouts and guides to badminton clubs to community kitchens.

Finally, and mindful of the fate of many former places of worship to condominium conversion, re-development or demolition, it was noted that none of the five churches is listed on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties. There is work to do to assess and ensure that these community assets are treated as such.

Geoff Kettel
May 9 2012

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