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2374: St Thomas's, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
St Thomas, Toronto (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias.
The church: St Thomas's, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese of Toronto.
The building: A smallish structure, a fine example of the Arts and Crafts style in red brick, dating from 1893. The baptistery was added in 1919 as a memorial to the First World War. There is some fine stained glass and a reredos behind the high altar depicting nine saints who are associated with the growth of the Anglican Church.
The church: St Thomas's prides itself on its high liturgical and musical standards. The parish has made a strong commitment to its music program and to Christian formation. A glance at the Sunday service leaflet gives a bird's-eye view of the parish's extensive activities. Clearly there is much going on in the life of this parish. There are five services each Sunday, and three different choirs support the liturgies of the sung services.
The neighbourhood: Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario, and is also the largest city in Canada. It is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange; professional sports teams in baseball, hockey, and football; a highly-respected symphony orchestra and opera company; and a lively theatre scene. St Thomas's is north of downtown Toronto, on the western edge of the University of Toronto's downtown campus. The immediately surrounding neighbourhood features older homes, other churches, and schools.
The cast: The Revd Mark W. Andrews, rector, preached; no other participants in the service were listed in the service leaflet. I surmise that John H. Tuttle, organist and choirmaster, was at the organ.
The date & time: Fourth Sunday after Easter Day (although the propers were those of the Fifth Sunday of Easter in the Revised Common Lectionary), May 6, 2012, 9.30am.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.

What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist.

How full was the building?
There were 17 of us in the nave, and perhaps a dozen more in the chancel (clergy, choir, acolytes). I would estimate the church seats about 350.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A sidesperson handed us all of the materials we would need for the service: the seasonal leaflet, the Sunday leaflet, the bulletin, and the readings for the day. The Sunday leaflet included the order of service for all of the five Sunday services.

Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden, moderately comfortable. Fold-down kneelers were under the pew below.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Alleluia! Christ is risen!" to which we responded, "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Hymn Book and the Book of Common Prayer (1962) were in the pews. The latter was not used; the seasonal leaflet had the appropriate texts from the Book of Alternative Services (1985), along with the service music for the eucharist (William Mathias' Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus, and Agnus Dei).

What musical instruments were played?
A three-manual pipe organ, restored from previous instruments by the Québec firm of Guilbault-Therien in 1991.

Did anything distract you?
There was a babe in arms who seemed to have some objection to Father Andrews' sermon; at one point, he duly noted the objection and appreciated that it came as he was describing gnostic heresies.

St Thomas, Toronto (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly formal. St Thomas celebrates its early and late masses ad orientem, with full ceremonial for the 11.00; for this service, a portable altar had been rolled out in front of the chancel to permit a versus populum celebration. Except for the celebrant being vested in chasuble, and the sursum corda and preface being chanted, there was little indication of the Anglo-Catholic ethos that St Thomas's is famous for; ceremonially it was no fuss, no muss. There was certainly nothing that could be considered happy-clappy.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Fairly straightforward, certainly no eccentricities. Father Andrews preached from a lectern that had been set up in front of the portable altar, and seemed to be reading from a prepared text. But I couldn't help but wonder if the sermon might not be a condensed version of the one intended for the 11.00 service, as it was based on the first and second readings but not the gospel reading.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The rector's texts were Acts 8:26-40 (Philip instructs and baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch) and 1 John 4:7-21 (God is love). The eunuch (we might better relate to him as the court official in charge of Ethiopia's treasury) was a man of faith with an inquiring mind. His journey of faith was extraordinary, and he was open to what Philip would preach to him. But John was preaching to a congregation from whom a segment had broken away, and thus they needed encouragement. The group that had left the congregation were probably gnostics, and John uses the language of gnosticism to refute their doctrines.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The care which this congregation devotes to their liturgical worship, and the wonderful motet (the British composer John Frederick Paynter's Come My Way, My Truth, My Life) sung by the small, but expert, choir.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, perhaps not hellish, but perhaps purgatorial? First, I find it totally frustrating to have to deal with a hymnal that has not a single note of music in it. Perhaps more relevant, though, is that I constantly had the sense that all involved were acutely aware that this service could not go more than a minute or two over 50 minutes (so that mattins could begin at 10.30). There was no opening hymn (choir and clergy entered during the prelude); no offertory collection (an offertory plate was at the back of the church, and brought up immediately as the offertory began); hymns began with a single-phrase introduction; and there was no postlude (simply a brief, quiet improvisation that served as travelling music for choir and clergy to exit). St Thomas is trying to fit quite a few services into a fairly tight timeframe; my sense is that it's the 9.30 that is expected to give way to the two services that follow it.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Because there had been no collection, I had to find the offering plate, to deposit my offering and Mystery Worship calling card. Found it, but no one talked to me as I looked for it. Materfamilias spoke briefly to the sidesperson as she returned the various written materials we had used, to be used in later services (points to St Thomas for ecological sensitivity).

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Such an event was mentioned in the seasonal leaflet, but I had not a clue as to where it was held (there were no announcements of any kind during the service), and, as everyone seemed to be in a hurry to prepare for the next service, Materfamilias and I decided to begin our six-hour trek home.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – A very, very hard call, especially after only 50 minutes exposure to the life of the parish. From their webpage and bulletin insert, this is clearly a parish with much to offer. The music program is of an extraordinary quality, and they obviously prepare their liturgies with great care. But I would probably end up looking elsewhere in Toronto, and coming back to St Thomas for solemn evensong once a month or so.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiful choir anthem.
 
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