Church wins long battle to install traffic lights

The Rev. John Stephenson sprinkles holy water on a newly installed traffic light outside St. Timothy, Agincourt as members of the congregation look on. The church has been seeking traffic lights at the busy corner for the past three years.
 on January 1, 2016
Michael Hudson

You could say it was a blessing that was years in the making.

After the Sunday morning service on Dec. 6, the congregation of St. Timothy, Agincourt processed out of the church and over to the nearby intersection of Sheppard Avenue East and Lamont Avenue. There, the Rev. John Stephenson, incumbent, blessed the corner’s newly installed traffic lights, one after another.

“So many people have been invested in this over the past three years, it was a major moment of thanksgiving in the life of the church,” said Mr. Stephenson. “We wanted to bless the lights, so that people can come safely in and out of the church, and to the businesses and homes around us.”

The church’s troubles started several years ago when an underpass was built in front of the church on Sheppard Avenue East. Traffic from the underpass made getting in and out of Lamont Avenue difficult and often dangerous. Lamont Avenue is sidestreet that provides access to the church parking lot and local businesses and residences.

Since the underpass opened in 2012, there have been traffic accidents, and a pedestrian was hit a couple of months ago. “We had moms with infants trying to cross the street with no lights to get to our children’s centre,” said Mr. Stephenson.

He said the underpass has hurt the church in other ways as well. “Up until then, we had experienced modest growth over a period of years,” he said. “Since the underpass was completed, we have had decline in numbers and givings. It was so dangerous to try to get out onto Sheppard Avenue that people simply stopped coming. It became a major problem.”

Toronto’s traffic department did not want to install traffic lights, so Mr. Stephenson and members of the congregation and local businesses made a presentation to Scarborough Community Council. Council overruled the traffic department’s decision and recommended to Toronto City Council that the lights be put in. The city agreed.

“It’s almost miraculous that the lights were approved, and even then it has taken almost two years to get them installed,” said Mr. Stephenson.

He said the fight to get the lights installed has brought the church into close contact with its neighbours. “It became a tool for community action, something we could all work together on it. It was really neat to have everybody involved. It was a missional thing, because we joined with our neighbours in seeking to get this done for the safety of all those around us.”


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