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|1578: St Bartholomew's,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Bartholomew's, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese
A dignified brick building with a simple cross on the roof.
On entering, one is greeted by an icon of St Charles Stuart,
King and Martyr. Inside one finds a fairly ornate interior,
including a traditionally-oriented chancel (no westward celebration
here), a Lady chapel, and a shrine to the Virgin. Above is an
organ loft and choir gallery. Various saints are depicted in
the stained glass windows.
St Bart's is one of five Anglo-Catholic parishes in Toronto.
It is small in numbers and resources, and recently the diocese
of Toronto has been trying to close it down and merge it with
two utterly different parishes in the area. The parish appears
to have a healthy gay presence. The rector is a former superior
of the Canadian congregation of the Society of St John the Evangelist,
or Cowley Fathers, whose monastery at Bracebridge, Ontario,
was closed in 1988 for financial reasons.
The church is on Dundas Street, a major east-west thoroughfare
that meanders through the entire width of Toronto. The street
bisects Regent Park, Canada's first and largest social housing
experiment built in the late 1940s in a slum neighbourhood called
at the time Cabbagetown (a name now applied to the upscale,
gentrified region to the north of Regent Park). The average
income for residents is about half of that for other areas in
Toronto. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives below the
poverty line. Originally designed as a transitional community
for those experiencing financial difficulties and/or receiving
social assistance, it has in the past two decades also become
an area for the settlement of new Canadians.
The Revd Gordon Walls, rector, assisted by a single server.
The date & time:
Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 22 June 2008, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Mass and Baptism.
How full was the building?
There were about 15 souls in a nave that could have seated ten
times that number.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived relatively early and the church was empty. Closer
to the service, an usher came along proffering leaflets.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was quite adequate, with a very good kneeler padded, but
not too soft.
How would you describe the pre-service
The church was fairly quiet, save for the murmurings of the
choir as they prepared for mass.
What were the exact opening words of the
The introit began: "Hearken unto my voice, O Lord, when
I cry unto thee." Afterward, the celebrant wished us good
morning and announced that the baptismal candidate had not yet
arrived. The usher replied from the back of the church that
he had seen her outside and that she had promised to come in
What books did the congregation use during the
The Book of Common Prayer (1962) and the English
Hymnal. A leaflet was provided giving an overview of the
service, together with inserts giving music for the psalm tones
and the ordinary of the mass.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, rather idiosyncratically played by an interim organist.
Afterward I heard someone remark, "He doesn't know how
to accompany plainsong."
Did anything distract
At one point the wind swept into the church and blew through
the Lady chapel, rustling the frontal and the curtain around
it. It was an idyllic sight.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
This was not only Anglo-Catholic, but very Prayer Book.
Although it often alarms English Anglicans to learn this, many
Anglo-Catholic churches in Canada do use the 1962 Book of
Common Prayer because our edition of 1962 seems more Catholic
than the 1662 version. Still, this service was unusually faithful
to the BCP, using features that I have never seen used outside
of Prayer Book Society events. For instance: (1) The traditional
eucharistic lectionary was used, hence no Old Testament
lesson. (2) The proper introit and gradual from the table of
psalms were sung. (3) The Gloria was at the end of the mass.
(4) The rite of baptism "of
such as are of riper years" was used, which is almost
unheard of around here, at least in my experience. The ordinary
of the mass (except the Gloria, which was Merbecke) was sung
to Missa Orbis Factor in Latin. The sursum corda
and preface were accompanied by organ, which was new to me but
nice. The only missal-type interpolation was the Ecce Agnus
Dei before the distribution of communion.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Father Walls reminded me of the Roman Catholic homilists
of my childhood articulate and conversational, without being
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The gospel was the calling of Simon Peter from his boat. Just
as he asked St Peter, so does Christ ask permission to enter
our lives, and it is up to us to invite him in. Like Peter casting
his net, we are called to follow obediently in faith. The sea
is like the world, into which we are called to go out, even
though it seems vast and dark. If we have the courage to do
so, we will reap spiritual bounty as great as the fish that
broke the apostles' nets.
Which part of the service was like being in
The singing of the Angelus at the end of mass, something I have
always wanted to do in church, but had not as of yet. Also,
the congregation's joy at hearing that a new part-time interim
priest had been called a reprieve, one hopes, at least for
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
I found myself speaking alone when responding to the Ecce
Agnus Dei. Evidently the custom in this parish is for the
congregation not to continue the prayer with Domine non
sum dignus ("Lord I am not worthy..."). Inasmuch
as the prayer of humble access was recited, perhaps they see
the Domine non sum dignus as redundant.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Several parishioners introduced themselves to me, and I was invited to join them downstairs for refreshments.
How would you describe the after-service
I was treated to a rather bland cup of fruit drink, but there were also chocolate chip cookies, peanut M&Ms, and that perennial Canadian favourite, Timbits (doughnut holes).
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 Should I at any time find myself in the market for
a new parish, St Bart's would be a serious contender. A priest
friend of mine, who was an intern here, remarked to me later
that he was surprised that the parish isn't more renowned among
Anglo-Catholics in the diocese. I have to agree.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Absolutely. This was the best of Anglo-Catholic liturgy and congregational fellowship. I got the impression that there are a lot of interesting characters at this church, which is always a good selling point for me.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The rustling of the frontal on the Lady altar in the wind.
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