Bursary honours liturgical innovator

A map pointer with the image of a church
 on May 1, 2018

In memory of the late Douglas Cowling – musician, writer, scholar, and revitalizer of the sacred drama of divine worship – his family and friends have established a new bursary in liturgical music.

To be awarded for the first time this fall, the annual $5,000 bursary is a tribute to Mr. Cowling’s bold experimentation and commitment to breathing new life into worship in the diocese. Known as an intergenerational connector of people, Mr. Cowling died in January 2017.

“He was someone who had an absolute passion for liturgical reform that would involve the entire congregation in song and music,” says the Rev. Canon David Harrison, incumbent of St. Mary Magdelene, Toronto, where Mr. Cowling was a parishioner.

While he championed unorthodox reform and renewed congregational engagement, Mr. Cowling was at the same time an erudite and precise scholar of music and musical history.

A founding member of Toronto’s Renaissance-focused Tallis Choir, he served as a music director and organist at several parishes in the diocese. He was also a scholar of medieval English. “Douglas was very interested in the York Mystery Plays and he was working on his PhD in that area,” says his widow, Elizabeth. He was once a member of Poculi Ludique Societas, the University of Toronto’s medieval drama troupe.

Starting this fall, the annual Douglas C. Cowling Bursary in Liturgical Music will go to a musician working part-time in a parish in the diocese. Its aim is two-fold: to encourage creative musical and liturgical expression that fosters full participation by the people of God of all ages, and to further the recipient’s own training to enrich the musician’s ecclesiastical setting.

The Cowling family has committed to giving at least $5,000 a year for five years to a fund managed by the Anglican Diocese of Toronto Foundation. The bursary fund currently stands at $20,000, and donations are being accepted by the Foundation at

Applicants for the bursary should send full proposals by May 30 to: [email protected]. The date for announcing the 2018 award has not yet been decided.


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