Forty years ago, in 1979, the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Toronto began its life as the Mission of Chartwell-Milliken, under the leadership of the Rev. Rob Payton. He began with a rectory and a mandate to build an Anglican congregation north of Finch Avenue. It was clear from the outset that the recreation room of the rectory would be too small, so he arranged to use the music room at St. Marguerite Bourgeois Separate School for the inaugural service on March 4, 1979. It was attended by 14 people.
The congregation grew quickly, and soon it had to move to the larger science room, then to the stage area and, finally, to the gymnasium. This growth in numbers continued, bringing the congregation closer each year to realizing its dream of building a permanent home. A name for the new church was discussed and “St. Michael the Archangel” was agreed upon, after Coventry Cathedral, a church with a history based on hope, reconciliation and community.
During the week of July 22-28 this past summer, the church celebrated its 40th anniversary by inviting past members to come home and join the congregation for several events. There was a karaoke night, filling the church hall with a large crowd consisting of young and old, singing their hearts out and applauding the efforts of the brave souls who went to the mike. Then, on the following weekend, the church had a well-attended picnic at Morningside Park. Youth enjoyed potato sack races, a tug of war, and various other activities, whilst their elders cheered them on and swapped stories of days gone by.
Finally, parishioners and returnees filled the church to capacity for the reunion service. The Rev. Rob Payton returned to preach and reminisce about the founding of the church and the current incumbent, the Rev. Canon Richard Tanner, spoke of more recent days and the church’s dreams for the future. The “junior choir” sang once again, as it did 20 years ago under the leadership of the beloved Mrs. Batson, whilst her son, Curtis, accompanied it on the piano. Stories were shared by representatives of the congregation. There was much laughter and a few tears as people looked back over four decades of parish life.
The church is grateful to the reunion committee members, Julene Goring, Cynthia Bovell and Eulalie Walling-Sampson, who did all the hard work, planning, organizing and drawing together so many people for a series of events that will be remembered for years to come.