I am delighted to be here with you all today in Wychwood Barns―an historic building that was preserved, renovated and repurposed to build community connections in a rapidly changing neighbourhood―and therefore such a fitting location for the launch of your Capital Campaign and 125th anniversary, as you look to renovate and renew your historic church building, so that it can continue to be a place where beautiful worship is offered to God and where service to our neighbours can take place, for both present and future generations.
An anniversary of such significance―125 years of Anglican ministry―gives us an opportunity, first and foremost, to give our praise and gratitude to our loving Heavenly Father, who has sustained your parish for several generations. We also are able to remember with fondness and thanksgiving all those who have gone before us, saints known and unknown, who laboured to build up the parish of St. Thomas’ and who, alive with Christ, are delighted that there are so many of you here, seeking the continued renewal of your beloved church.
I realize that this is the 125th anniversary of the parish in its current location, and that two previous iterations of the parish already existed in the neighbourhood. Your current buildings―your sanctuary, parish hall, rectory, etc. ―are on the one hand, simply a physical container for gospel ministry, but in a deeper sense, they are also hallowed ground, where God has been worshipped in spirit and truth, and the walls are soaked with the tears and laughter of the daily lives of God’s people. However, physical renovation is necessary if you are to honour the faithful legacy of Anglicans who have gone before you and if you want to serve future generations, as they did―for we worship a God of the living and not of the dead.
Because of your deep history and your willingness to follow God into the future, I am excited about what the years ahead hold. St. Thomas’s is strategic and important. You are located in the heart of one of the great universities in North America, a veritable United Nations of people intellectually searching for meaning and truth. What an opportunity to preach the gospel! Your rich history of liturgy, music, and intellectual inquiry contains the riches of the Anglican tradition, which is increasingly rare in our rapidly changing culture and which needs nourishment so that it can be passed on.
I have met with representatives from your Project Team―Fr. Mark Andrews, Willem Hart, Michael Rowland, Janet Stewart, and Andrew Gray―and I am looking forward to continuing to work with them on the master plan for your parish campus and facilities that will be revealed tonight.
I have served in two historic parishes―St. Paul’s Bloor Street and St. Clement’s Eglinton―which both undertook very significant facilities renewal and which, once completed, set the stage for significant renewal in the spiritual and community life of the church.
I firmly believed that God gives us everything we need to do God’s work. Vision always proceeds Provision. I see the vision that your team has for a renewed facility is driven by your hoped-for ministry in the future―and it is critical that ministry drives this renovation.
I am delighted to be here with you this afternoon. What a fun party! And I understand that the St Thomas’ choir has a musical treat to help us celebrate, and so I invite Mathew Larkin and the choir to take the stage and share their gifts with us.
May God bless you all.