“On budget and on time!” These were the captions on the two cakes that helped the congregation of St. John, York Mills celebrate the rededication of the recently renovated church on Nov. 2.
St. John’s is the oldest Anglican parish church in Toronto and will be celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2016. In preparation for continued service to the community, it recently completed a $1.6 million renovation. In doing so, it has realized its dream for new gathering and worship spaces that are both welcoming and reverential.
Although many renovations and two extensions had taken place over the years, the main portion of the building – the sanctuary – had changed very little. Updating it for the 21st century was a labour of love for the congregation. It was also important so that St. John’s could accommodate its growing programs for children and teens.
The church building is now refreshed, refurbished and re-imagined after nearly nine months of construction work, during which time the congregation worshipped in the basement auditorium. The renovated and brightened foyer is very welcoming, and the new social area and meeting room, still called the Garnsworthy Room (after the late Archbishop Lewis Garnsworthy), has been conveniently re-located to just off the entrance to the church; it now has a much larger kitchen. The beautiful sanctuary seems bigger than before, and the light and brightness is uplifting to all who enter.
On the morning of the rededication, the chancel was busy with musicians – choirs, worship team, band, bell choirs and young chimers. The children led the congregation in singing “Standing on the Promises of God.” All joined together to raise prayers to God in thanksgiving for the newly renovated church, His home, which is now more accessible and open.
Archbishop Colin Johnson presided over the rededication service. It was encouraging to hear him speak about how the new space was already being used; he referred to the church as a place for worship and learning. Also during the service, the Rev. Canon Dr. Drew MacDonald, incumbent, extended the congregation’s appreciation to those involved in the renovation.
St. John, York Mills is a teaching church, and now it has a more congenial space to hold its many events. On Nov. 1, the Leading Children’s Ministry Conference, held in the new space, was able to livestream the sessions on the Internet because of the technical updates; this enabled more people to benefit from the conference, even though they could not attend in person. With the front pews now replaced with chairs, and the new technology, St. John’s will be able to host and record a wider variety of musical and theatrical events.