Storied downtown church celebrates anniversary

Vertical banners with hearts in many colours hang on either side of the church door.
Banners announcing Holy Trinity’s 175th anniversary hang outside the south entrance of the church.
 on September 28, 2022
Vivian Harrower

Holy Trinity, Trinity Square in downtown Toronto is observing its 175th anniversary this year with the slogan “Memory and Hope.” A service of celebration will be held on Oct. 23 at 10:30 a.m. with Bishop Andrew Asbil as guest homilist. The service will be hybrid, with some of the congregation in the nave and some participating via Zoom. A lunch will follow the service for those attending in person.

Colourful banners announcing “Memory and Hope” hang at the south entrance to the church. They are just steps away from the homeless memorial, where mourners and housing activists gather monthly to remember people who have died as a result of houselessness on Toronto’s streets and to call on governments at all levels to take concrete action to solve this crisis.

Photos and news articles from the parish’s rich history are on display in the church during October. Holy Trinity was opened in 1847 thanks to a bequest by an anonymous donor in England who had stipulated that no pew rents were to be collected (rentals being a common practice at the time). Years later, the donor was identified as Mary Lambert Swale of Leeds.

Holy Trinity’s commitment to social justice has continued through the years, including the Rev. John Frank’s ministry during the Great Depression, sheltering draft dodgers from the U.S. during the Vietnam War, championing women’s ordination and fighting for equal rights for 2SLGBTQ+ persons in the Anglican Church and wider community, and sponsoring a multitude of refugees. In 2020, the parish furthered its commitment to truth and reconciliation, welcoming Toronto Urban Native Ministry into office space in the city core. Outreach to those affected by the COVID-19 shutdown of many downtown services ramped up quickly to provide food to people in need; that outreach continues through the Unity Kitchen ministry.

The parish also maintains a commitment to the arts through its sponsorship of Music Mondays, a summer concert series, and the annual Christmas Story, a tradition since 1937. Theatrical performances, book launches, art exhibits, original hymns by parishioners, and a variety of concerts have all taken place at Holy Trinity. Seasonal altar frontals, most of them created by long-time member and artist Fran Sowton, bring added colour to the worship space.

Before re-opening for in-person worship in the spring, the parish underwent major upgrades to the nave: new flooring, an improved (more energy-efficient) heating and air-conditioning system and replacing aging pews with chairs. A number of chairs have been earmarked as memorial chairs; their cost will be covered by financial gifts in honour of people who have made significant contributions to the life of the parish.

More details about the anniversary are posted on the church’s website, A donation of $200 for a memorial chair may be made through e-transfer to [email protected] or by a cheque to Holy Trinity. Be sure to include the honouree’s name on the memo line of the cheque or in the e-transfer.

A Brief History of the parish by the Rev. William Whitla, a long-time member, provides a deeper look at the people and events that made up 175 years of memory and hope. To purchase a copy, contact [email protected].


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