St. George on Yonge in Toronto celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special service on April 23. Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, was the celebrant and preacher. She was assisted by the Rev. Leonard Leader, priest-in-charge of St. George’s, the Rev. Pam Prideaux, the Rev. Canon John Wilton, the Rev. Canon Sister Constance Joanna Gefvert and the Rev. Steve Shaw. The service was held in person, as well as live-streamed on the church’s Facebook page.
Established in 1922 as a mission of Holy Trinity, Thornhill, the original wooden structure that was St. George, Willowdale went through several rebuilds to accommodate its growing congregation and its role in the community. In the new millennium, half of the church property was sold to a condominium developer and the proceeds used to replace all of the former church buildings with the current one. Completed in 2012 with a contemporary design and environment-friendly features, the new church building is the fifth on the site. To preserve a sense of history, the modern structure incorporates elements from previous buildings such as stained glass and liturgical furnishings.
For the 100-year celebrations, St. George invited past members to visit their former church home. Prior to the special service, tours of the church building were conducted by parish volunteers. Memorabilia from the archives on display included a plaque and stone cross from earlier church buildings, photos from the time of building the original church to the present day, and membership directories.
At the start of the service, a minute of silence was observed in memory of the victims of the Yonge Street van attack, which occurred on St. George’s Day in 2018. Being held just a week after Easter, the service drew richly from the message of hope and redemption embodied in the Resurrection. Reflecting on this during her homily, Archbishop Nicholls said that the Church lives its life in the midst of whatever is happening in the world. We are in very challenging times, emerging from a pandemic, witnessing a war in Ukraine that could become much worse, and seeing the fallibility of broken human beings, she said. In the midst of all that, the gospel lights a spark, a light, a candle. The Primate concluded with the wish that St. George on Yonge carries that same hope into the next 100 years.
St. George’s location right on Yonge Street in the former municipality of North York enables it to serve the pastoral needs of a growing and diverse community and pursue its mission of nurturing relationships with God in Christ, with one another and with the community. St. George hosts a number of community groups, including a Korean Christian congregation and a Persian Christian congregation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the church welcomed other groups and music ensembles who regularly used worship spaces and meeting rooms, conducted ESL classes, and provided various forms of support to needy neighbours and refugees.
St. George is grateful to the volunteers who gave their time and talents to prepare for and bring life to the 100-year celebrations and to all who came to celebrate this special day.