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|1536: St Martin-in-the-Fields,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Martin-in-the-Fields, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Church of Canada, Diocese
Dating from 1905, the church is a well preserved example of
the Arts and Crafts style and is quite impressive from the outside.
Steps lead through a small sort of gable or shelter down to
the entrance of the church. I had been told that St Martin's
was Anglo-Catholic, and the interior confirmed these reports.
The first thing I saw on entering the nave was a statue of the
Madonna and Child with a prie-dieu in front of it. The sanctuary
had three lamps, as well as a tabernacle behind the altar flanked
by six candles. Noteworthy is a series of stained glass windows
on the "I am" theme: I am the bread of life, etc.
St Martin-in-the-Fields is somewhat enigmatic. Their website
gives few insights into their parish life, although church school,
nursery, and Scout troops are mentioned. However, the Revd Dr
Dana Fisher, chaplain at Trinity College, the liberal Anglo-Catholic
college and seminary at the University of Toronto, is an honorary
assistant at St Martin's, and the rector is one of the brethren
of the Anglo-Catholic Oratory of the Good Shepherd.
The church lies on the edge of High Park, the largest of Toronto's
public parks and the jewel of the city's park system, noted
for its varied attractions ranging from manicured gardens to
unkempt forests and including a small zoo. This is the last
remaining "dry" area in Toronto – i.e., an area where
the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
The rector, the Revd Canon Philip Hobson, OGS, was the celebrant.
He was assisted by the Revd Alexandra Meek Sharman, a deacon
in the diocese of Edmonton and a seminarian at Wycliffe College
in Toronto, as well as by an unnamed subdeacon who looked to
be about my age (that is, in her late teens). The Rt Revd Joachim
Fricker, a retired bishop, was the homilist and gave the final
The date & time:
Sunday, 11 November 2007, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Procession and Sung Eucharist for the Patronal Festival of St
How full was the building?
Probably about 80 per cent full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not knowing how long it would take me to get to that part of
town, I managed to arrive a full hour early, thus bypassing
the greeting system. However, over the course of that hour,
several people acknowledged me with a smile and a nod of the
head, including the rector. A woman approached me in my pew
to explain that everyone would be wearing name stickers and
asked if she could make one for me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. There was nothing extraordinary about the pew, but it served
its function admirably. The kneeler was also quite comfortable,
sturdy but padded.
How would you describe the pre-service
When I first arrived, two musicians were rehearsing at the organ.
I slipped downstairs to put away the bottle of cranberry ginger
ale I had brought, and was directed to the fridge by a group
of parishioners chatting in the kitchen. Things upstairs became
increasingly boisterous as mass time approached, even before
the church really started to fill up. Things quieted down when
the organist began the prelude, and by the time it was finished
silence more or less reigned.
What were the exact opening words of the
Father Hobson began the announcements with a hearty "Good
morning to one and all." The liturgy itself began with
the deacon intoning: "Let us go forth in peace," to
which the choir and congregation responded: "In the name
of Christ. Amen."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Book of Alternative Services and Common Praise,
the most recent Canadian Anglican hymnal. This may have been
the only Anglican church I have been to where there were no
copies of the Book of Common Prayer in the pews. A
comprehensive leaflet provided the outline of the service and
the propers, so that those familiar with the mass did not have
to refer to the book.
What musical instruments were played?
The main instrument was the organ, which was played quite competently.
A violin introduced the alleluia verse and, along with a piano,
made an appearance after the communion.
Did anything distract you?
There was a woman with white hair in a bun so large and so thoroughly
blow-dried as to be reminiscent of a poodle. Also, it was somewhat
odd that as the deacon sang the petitions of the prayers of
the people, the choir sort of hummed a continuous tone underneath,
in a manner that reminded me of an old spiritual.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
This was a modern Anglo-Catholic mass with both bells and smells.
The sacred ministers stood behind the altar and faced the congregation,
which is not my preference but which was handled well. The modern
language rite of the Book of Alternative Services was
used and the choir sang the music of the mass. In modern fashion,
there was no Kyrie. Although the introduction and conclusion
of the gospel proclamation were sung, the gospel itself was
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Bishop Fricker's train of thought was a little hard
to pin down at first, though I appreciated his use of an anecdote.
It involved his having his palm read in Boston while visiting
the Episcopal Divinity School in neighbouring Cambridge. I immediately
thought of several colleagues who would have wept to hear this.
However, his earnest words of encouragement to the congregation
were deeply inspiring. Also in lieu of the customary invocation,
the sermon was introduced with a prayer bidding God "through
us, [to] recreate the world," which I found theologically
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Is there a future for the Church? Bishop Fricker believes there
is, but we must acknowledge that we now live in a post-Christendom
reality. The congregation of St Martin's can play a unique role
in mission, not by "talking about Jesus" but rather by "being
Jesus." A community-wide study of the countercultural life and
example of St Martin might be a good jumping-off point.
Which part of the service was like being in
The choir singing from the back of the church during communion.
Also, this was the only Anglo-Catholic parish I have visited
that uses a decent red wine for the Mysteries, rather than a
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The singing of the Nicene Creed was extremely odd. They had
attempted to set the modern translation of the Creed to Merbecke's
tone, with uneven results. There was a painfully noticeable
gap in the chant when the filioque would have been
sung in the traditional translation. Finally, when the sacred
ministers kissed the altar at the end of mass, the subdeacon
only pretended to do so, and remained bent over with her head
a noticeable distance from the altar.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't really need to look lost. After kneeling at the prie-dieu
to say the midday Angelus (which had not been said congregationally),
I lined to up to greet the bishop (who graciously allowed me
to kiss his ring), the rector, and the deacon. Father Hobson
immediately invited me to the potluck taking place downstairs.
How would you describe the after-service
There were a number of delights to be found at the potluck.
I sampled the shepherd's pie, the perogies, the macaroni and
cheese casserole, a curry of some description, and several types
of dessert. During the luncheon, the Order of St Martin, a parish
award, was presented to this year's honourees. I sat at a table
with several other people and got to know the thurifer, who
as it turns out participates in an on-line Anglican discussion
group I belong to. There were several young men my age, which
is always a pleasant change from my own parish, and they were
quite welcoming as well. Several flags were hung around the
parish hall, and the tables competed to identify them with the
most accuracy. Partly since that's the sort of information I
tend to remember, my table won, and we all had a great time.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 St Martin's has a nice parochial feel in contrast to
the two "shrine" Anglo-Catholic parishes in Toronto.
In the future, I would be open to making it my parish home.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
It certainly did. I appreciated the excellent liturgy coupled
with the proclamation of the gospel. On a day when most parishes
in the city observed Remembrance Day in a display I often find
unfortunate, it was greatly refreshing to sing hymns to St Martin
praising him for turning from warfare (while of course also
remembering in our prayers those lost to war).
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The splendid vestments of the sacred ministers and the camaraderie
of our table's team in the guess-the-flag game.
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