After this summer, the Rev. Canon Mark Kinghan will never take water for granted.
Canon Kinghan, the incumbent of St. George on Yonge in north Toronto, handed out cups of water outside St. James Cathedral and the Rogers Centre during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games.
“It’s amazing how much a cup of water means to people when they’re really thirsty,” he says, adding that there was a spiritual element to the moment. “People needed water to quench their thirst, but there was also this Biblical image of quenching the spiritual thirst. We may not have had a conversation about it, but something happened in that moment. It was also a chance for them to see that the church isn’t just a building.”
Canon Kinghan was part of a small army of Anglicans across the diocese who volunteered to help out during the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, either at churches, community events or the sporting venues themselves.
For many, it was a chance to be the church at the games. “The church needs to be out in the community,” says Canon Kinghan, who wore his clerical collar while volunteering. “The whole idea of missional ministry isn’t a theory – it’s something we’ve got to put into practice.”
Several parishes kicked off the games with community festivals and viewing parties for the opening ceremonies on July 10. St. Bride, Clarkson hosted a PanAmazing Community Fiesta, which featured sports, games, crafts and a barbecue outside on the church grounds.
In downtown Toronto, Little Trinity hosted a picnic in the park, with screens set up in the sanctuary to watch the opening ceremonies. In the late afternoon and evenings, the parish offered quiet conversation and prayer in the sanctuary, as well as refreshments, Wi-Fi and conversation in the parish hall.
Further east, Nativity, Malvern welcomed neighbours to “Catch the Flame” featuring a barbecue, bouncy castle, face painting and games. For the first two weeks of the games, the in-house chef at St. Paul, Bloor Street prepared $10 Pan Am lunch specials three days a week.
On Fridays during the games, St. James Cathedral celebrated its midday Eucharist in both English and Spanish. The cathedral also showed the men’s gold medal soccer game.
The cathedral also raised social justice issues during the games. Inside was a special exhibit on the legacy of Indian residential schools, and outside was the GIFT Box, to raise awareness of human trafficking. A water stand hosted by the Salvation Army was set up outside the cathedral.
“I’m so glad we didn’t miss this opportunity,” says the Rev. Simon Davis, the assistant curate at the cathedral. “There are tons of visitors to our city, we’re right in the centre of it, so let’s use that to make a difference. It’s been great.”