St. Elizabeth, Mississauga, took another step into the Promised Land on April 12, breaking ground for a church expansion project that will see the current building almost double in size.
“It’s our dream and it has come true,” says Dr. Wilson Loo, the rector’s warden and co-chair of the church’s extension committee.
The church, located at 1051 Eglington Ave. W., will increase to 7,500 square feet and will be able to seat 230 in the main worship space. It will have a chapel that can seat 60 and two large rooms for outreach and social functions.
The expansion is necessary to accommodate the church’s three congregations and to provide effective outreach and evangelism, says Dr. Loo.
The church has a Mandarin-speaking congregation, a Cantonese-speaking congregation and an English-speaking congregation – all meeting at different times on a Sunday morning. The expansion will give them more space for worship, Bible study and fellowship.
It will also give them the opportunity to worship together on special occasions. “We’ll be able to come together to worship in three different languages,” says Dr. Loo.
The expansion will provide more space for social functions such as the church’s fellowship lunch and its evangelism meetings, which can draw up to 200 people to hear guest speakers. For really large events, the foyer can be used for extra seating.
In addition to its current outreach activities, the church is thinking about providing a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for the less fortunate in the community. It might also use some of the space for a daycare.
The expansion project will cost $2.75 million, of which of the diocese will contribute $1.75 million through grants and an interest-free loan. The church has raised nearly $900,000 toward the cost of the project. Construction is expected to be completed by the spring of 2016.
About 180 people attended the ground-breaking ceremony on April 12, including Archbishop Colin Johnson, Bishop Patrick Yu and Bishop Philip Poole, the area bishop of York-Credit Valley. A number of local dignitaries also attended, including Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
In an interview afterward, Bishop Poole praised St. Elizabeth’s for its Christian witness and outreach to newcomers to Canada. “It can be a real challenge these days to be the church in society, but there are many places, including St. Elizabeth’s, that are not only meeting that challenge but expanding and growing,” he said. “I think York-Credit Valley is the most diverse area of the Anglican Church of Canada, and it’s very encouraging to see our increasing ability to welcome people from the 164 countries of the Anglican Communion who are coming to the area.”
Since the original Cantonese-speaking congregation formed in 1992, it has met in many locations, including St. Elizabeth’s church in Etobicoke, which was destroyed by a fire in 1999. With the insurance money from the fire, the congregation purchased 1.7 acres in Mississauga and eventually raised enough money to build a church on it in 2003.
“Looking back, I think it was good to spend some time in the wilderness to develop ourselves both spiritually and fellowship-wise, so that we can really work together,” says Dr. Loo. “We’ve gone through many bumps over the past 20-odd years, but after each bump we got stronger. We really believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Since 2003, the church has grown from 60 people on a Sunday to more than 100. Billy Ng, the people’s warden and co-chair of the church’s extension committee, says the building’s location – near a large intersection in central Mississauga – is one of the main reasons for its growth.
“We have the best location in Mississauga, especially for reaching the Chinese population,” says Mr. Ng. He credits Bishop Ann Tottenham, the former area bishop of York-Credit Valley, with recommending back in 2000 that the congregation buy a piece of land in a highly visible location.
“There were three pieces of land for sale at that time, and we never thought we would be able to afford to buy this one. The other two locations were cheaper but smaller and not near a major intersection.”
We also credits the parishioners for their faithfulness and dedication. “Whenever there are events or ministry that we want to launch, they don’t think about it – they volunteer themselves right away. We don’t mind trying things and failing. That’s okay.”
While he’s excited about expanding the church, he says the parish needs to keep focussed on ministry. “We have to look at how to serve the community and spread the Gospel. I don’t want to have a building that is only 30 or 40 per cent occupied. This is our challenge – how we can build from 110 people to 200. That’s should be our target.”