Over the past three years, Guildwood Village in Toronto – and Holy Trinity church at the heart of the village – has been devastated by the Emerald Ash Borer.
“Thousands and thousands of trees have been killed,” says the Rev. Stephen Kirkegaard, incumbent of Holy Trinity. “We have lost 130 trees on our property alone. It looks like a clear cut.”
The trouble for Holy Trinity began in 2012, when a few trees were removed. Since then, a few more have been cut down every year, culminating in a staggering 96 trees cut down in the first four months of this year. All that is left on the property is four trees.
The cost to the parish has been enormous, too. The bill for tree removal is approaching $50,000, and that is on top of $60,000 for a new church roof.
Fortunately, Bishop Patrick Yu, the area bishop of York-Scarborough, became the parish’s champion, and the area council gave Holy Trinity a grant of $15,000 to help pay for tree cutting. Parishioners also responded to a special appeal to cover the tree costs, and two fundraising concerts raised $29,000.
The loss for the church has also become a loss for the village. Holy Trinity is situated on a large, unfenced lot right at the village crossroads, and over the years it has sought different ways to engage with the community, outside the church walls.
As a result, the church property has become the village green, hosting concerts, theatre, a farmers market, an annual garage sale, barbecues, the Seniors Health Fair and Back to Church Sundays.
The Guildwood community has rallied to the church’s support, its ratepayers association donating a couple of thousand dollars for the tree cutting. Now, as it plans the replanting of the property, the parish is in talks with the community.
“We’ve started a Trees Down/Trees Up campaign,” says Mr. Kirkegaard. “As we replant, we’re speaking to the community about how we can best use the property to serve the community. We want to try and capture a missional vision for it.”
He also anticipates financial help from all three levels of government. “I think all levels of government are saying there’d be some willingness to assist in the replanting,” he says. “Replanting is much easier to get support for than cutting down.”
Although it has been a devastating loss, parishioners’ morale is high. In the Our Faith-Our Hope campaign, Holy Trinity raised $236,000, exceeding its target by $91,000, says Mr. Kirkegaard. People felt very encouraged when, after Holy Trinity supported the diocese, the diocese in turn supported it in its time of need.
“For the parish, it was nice to see that immediate loop of support and fellowship from the diocese,” he says, adding, “Although we are dismayed by the loss of our beautiful tree canopy, we are excited about the missional possibilities of our Trees Down, Trees Up campaign.”