In late August, the incumbent and churchwardens of St. Thomas, Huron St. were pleased to announce a $250,000 gift from a family in the parish to create a new social justice endowment fund. The donors wish to remain anonymous. Investment income from this endowment will support St. Thomas’s existing and future outreach and social justice programs.
The Rev. James Shire, pastoral associate and coordinator of the Friday Food Ministry, reports that the number of guests at the weekly community meal has increased 25-40 per cent since the pandemic started. “Before COVID, we would get about 60-70 people every Friday. Now we are regularly seeing 80-90 guests every week,” he says. The meal serves low-income people in the neighbourhood, including residents of the Senator David Croll apartments, a Toronto Community Housing building at Bloor and Huron streets. In addition to helping address food insecurity, the meal is a source of community for those who attend.
The endowment fund not only provides financial stability to the ministry but opens up new possibilities for the future. “We’d like to provide more than just meals to our guests,” says Mr. Shire. “We hope to find out what other services our guests would like to see that, until now, we haven’t had the capital to be able to address.”
Pre-pandemic, St. Thomas’s hosted the meal program and shared the workload with teams of volunteers from Trinity and Massey colleges and Royal St. George’s College, as well as from the neighbouring parish of St. Mary Magdalene. During the pandemic, the supply of college and school volunteers dropped off. St. Mary Magdalene’s continues to supply a team once a month, but the remaining weeks are taken on by teams from St. Thomas’s. Mr. Shire says he has been grateful for donations from Royal St. George’s College and Crescent School. He also hopes to be able to get some volunteers from the University of Toronto community again in 2021-22.
The other current outreach focus is refugee resettlement. Since the parish re-established its refugee committee in 2015 it has been continuously involved in sponsorship, helping to give a new start to refugees from Iran, Eritrea and Syria. Even through the pandemic, St. Thomas’s has supported two Eritrean cousins, now self-supporting, and welcomed a new family from Syria.
The Rev. Nathan Humphrey, incumbent of the parish, notes that social justice is deeply rooted in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Far from being solely focused on liturgy, the early Tractarians were renowned for their ministry to the urban poor in 19th-century Britain and America. St. Thomas’s sees itself as the bearer of this legacy. “From the very beginning of the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century, concern for the poor and those in any need or trouble has been at the heart of our witness to the power of God to transform individual lives and the world around us,” he says. Indeed, Mr. Shire says it was this emphasis on social justice that initially attracted him to Anglo-Catholicism.
“With this gift we are now better equipped to serve all people in Jesus’ name, as together this parish continues to worship God in the beauty of holiness, combined with the bold proclamation of Nicene orthodoxy as the foundation of all our efforts to cooperate with God in the redemptive work of justice, peace, and reconciliation in Toronto and throughout the world,” says Mr. Humphrey.
St. Thomas’s hopes to soon host a launch event to celebrate this new endowment, to engage people in learning about its existing ministries and sharing ideas on how these could be expanded. Parishioners and friends of the parish are also being encouraged to add their financial contributions to the fund so that it can continue to resource the parish’s ministry well into the future.
Elin Goulden is the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy consultant.