Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Service and Transition Planning Meeting

We want to extend a special invitation to our annual Christmas service, which will be held Dec. 23, 2012.  Every year we do a special service of singing carols together, hearing ministry of music, and readings related to the theme of the holiday.  This year Mike Karpowicz will be playing the organ (we're always excited when we have organ in addition to the piano), and Joyce Dawson and Leandro Palacios will be performing solos.  Hopefully we'll also have ministry of music from Virginia Hodgins on her flugelhorn or one of her other instruments.  This is always a special service and I hope you'll join us for it and the social gathering afterwards.

Before the service, at the 10:00 am hour, the congregation will have an important transition plan meeting.  I was able to attend a meeting of the leaders of the Toronto area congregations and the Canada East Mission Center last night and they all expressed their support for Toronto Congregation as we plan our future after we leave our current building.  Our pastor, Roger Dodson along with Chuck Boyd proposed that the congregation have a transition planning meeting during the 10:00 hour on the 23rd.  Our goal is to set up a Transition Team so that we can formulate a plan for the immediate transition so that we're prepared to continue to meet after we vacate our current building and also for a vision for our congregation going forward.  I hope you'll also join us for this important discussion.

Note that we'll continue to have our weekly meetings between now and the 23rd.  This Sunday, Dec. 2, will include a budgetary meeting.  Please join us every Sunday 10 am for adult Sunday School discussion group and 11 am worship, followed by socializing with coffee, tea, and snacks.

Permanent Residency

I want to apologize for not posting here the past couple of months.  I'm committed to achieving a consistent, weekly posting basis over the course of next year.  Part of the reason for the slow down this fall is actually good news.  As many of you may know, I've been in the process of immigrating to Canada for several years.  Our application for permanent residency has been with Immigration Canada for two and a half years.  Being in limbo for so long had caused us to go forward with our lives with unfixed plans.  (This is a very similar situation to what the congregation has faced, knowing that we will be moving from our building, but not knowing when that change will occur.)

I had intended to spend much more of fall and winter in Toronto, but the news came a month ago that our application for permanent residency had finally been approved.  As a result, we decided to redouble our efforts to put our affairs in the states in order so that we would be prepared to make the final move at the beginning of the new year.  Our goal is to back the moving truck up the first week of January and make the final move across the border.  It's been a long time coming, but we're very excited to finally be able to set roots down in the city and to spend full-time with the congregation.

— John Hamer

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday September 23 Service

Here's a preview of next Sunday's service. The theme is "Be Servants of All." Roger Dodson will be conducting the service and Joe Hodgins will be giving the sermon. The scripture for our theme is Mark 9:30–37 (which is Mark 9:27–35 in the Inspired Version of the Bible). Click here for additional readings and information on our theme. 

Unfortunately, I'm in the states and won't be back to Toronto for a little while.  Right now I'm at international church headquarters in Independence, Missouri — I'm writing this post from the Temple.  I'm in the archives doing research on the history of the church in Canada.  I've found some great information, which I'll share in future blog posts.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

History of the Toronto Congregation (Part 1)

John Taylor, the first pastor of the Toronto
Congregation, joined Brigham Young's faction
of the church in 1844 and became president of
the LDS Church in Utah in 1880. 
The Toronto Congregation was first organized in 1836, just six years after the church itself.  Heber C. Kimball, one of the original apostles, had predicted that Parley P. Pratt (another of the apostles) would go to Upper Canada, even to the city of Toronto, the capital where he would find a people prepared for the gospel.[1]

On April 6, 1836, Pratt and five companions left Kirtland, Ohio (then the headquarters of the church), and made their way to Toronto.  There they met John and Leonora Taylor who were part of a small group of religious seekers dissenting from the Methodist church.  After a good deal of preaching and discussions, the Taylors and many members of their group were baptized into our church.  They formed the nucleus of the first Toronto Congregation and when Pratt and the other missionaries returned to the United States, John Taylor was left in charge as the congregations first pastor.

Two years later the Taylors moved to Far West, Missouri, which had become the new headquarters of the church. Several apostles left the church in the schisms of 1837–38 and one was killed during the 1838 Missouri Mormon War. John Taylor was among those called to fill vacancies in the Council of Apostles.  During the succession crisis following the assassination of church president Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844, both Pratt and Taylor sided with fellow apostle Brigham Young. They followed him to Utah, where Taylor eventually became Young's successor as the head of the LDS Church in Utah.

Like much of the church in the Midwestern United States, the congregation in Toronto became disorganized and ceased to meet in the 1840s and 50s.  A new headquarters organization was formed in 1860 at a conference in Amboy, Illinois, where Joseph Smith Jr.s eldest son Joseph Smith III was ordained president of the church.  Joseph Luff and John Shippy were the first missionaries from this reorganized church to return to Toronto.  They baptized a number of new members and reorganized the  congregation, which purchased a building on the south side of Arthur (now Dundas) Street.  Within a few years, however, this branch also fell into disorganization and ceased to meet.[2]

The third (and current) organization of the congregation occured on September 17, 1891.[3]  

[1] Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (Oxford: 2011) 83.
[2] History of the Toronto Branch, [1], unsigned manuscript dated November 1980, in the possession of the author.
[3] Ibid.

Sunday September 9 Service

Here's a preview of next Sunday's service. The theme is "All Are Worthy." Roger Dodson will be conducting the service and Gordon Hodgins will be giving the sermon. The scripture for our theme found in Mark 7:24–37 (which is Mark 7:22–36 in the Inspired Version of the Bible). Click here for additional readings and information on our theme. 

Remember that Sunday School is restarting after our summer break, so make sure you arrive by 10 am.  After the 11 am worship service, please stay with us for snacks and visiting.

"Tradition" (Homily from Sept. 2)

Here's the text of the homily I presented on Sunday. The service went well overall and the message seemed well received.  We had 25 people in attendance, which is pretty good for our congregation, especially during a holiday weekend in the summer.


You may be aware — or you may have guessed — I'm not personally a particularly traditional guy.  It's only because I'm traveling fairly light this trip and didn't bring a garment bag that I'm preaching today without suit and tie; you'll probably recall that I've had a tie fewer times than not.

I first grew my hair out 20 years ago when I went to graduate school.  It wasn't really the norm for men then and it still isn't.  My job has become non-traditional since 2007, when I ceased to go into work at a real office and began working from a “virtual office” — which has allowed me to travel frequently, always taking work with me everywhere I go. In some facets of my life, the lack is taken to places most people find extreme.  For example, although Mike and I very much enjoyed celebrating a Christmas meal with Chuck and some of you here last year, just as often when left to our own devices, we haven't celebrated the holiday at all.

But my lack of enthusiasm for some traditions is not, by any means, the whole picture.  In fact, my fondness for history, is connected with fond feelings that can include interest in and even nostalgia for all kinds of traditions — from old hymns to old stories to old rituals.

And it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that among the loves I treasure most, books rank very high.  My love of books extends back as far as I can remember.  Of course, books are primarily important because of their content.  But I've also loved them for more than their content.  I've loved to hold them.  I love for them to be beautiful.  I love to make them.  My love for them is at the root of why I went into publishing in my professional career.  And although I'm sure they are ever more wonderful, and although I'm sure I will eventually have a Kindle or some other kind of e-book reader, I have not been an early-adopter of this technology.  I'm not excited about the oft-predicted (and ever more likely) demise of print.  The printed book is one of those traditions that I find myself quite attached to.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Brief History of the Bathurst Street Chapel

Doris Hillyard, who serves (among other jobs) as the institutional memory of our congregation, sent me the following information about the history of our chapel, including a document by Charles McClean and several other documents without listed authors.

Our chapel on Bathurst Street is the third church building built by the Toronto congregation of Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church).

The congregation (or "branch" as it was originally known) was organized in 1891.   At the time, there were ten members and meetings were held in private homes and public halls.  By 1900 the membership had increased to 100 and the first small church was built on Camden Street.  Just six years later in 1906, the membership had increased to somewhat less than 300 and a second church building was constructed on Soho Street.

By the 1920s the branch had grown and a new, larger church was planned for Bathurst Street that would include a lower auditorium and an upper sanctuary.  The lower part of the building was completed by 1931 at a cost of $100,000.  The worldwide financial collapse of the Great Depression prevented any work on the upper sanctuary, but despite economic conditions, the congregation was able to pay off the mortgage over the next twelve years.

In 1962, after thirty-two years of meeting in the lower auditorium, the congregation made plans to complete the building.  Services were held for the first time in the new upstairs sanctuary on the first Sunday of March, 1963.  I talked to Gordon Hodgins who remembers attending that service. He says that President W. Wallace Smith attended and spoke at the dedication. The cost of finishing the building ($122,000) was fully paid within a year of the decision to begin the work, leaving the church clear of any debt.

In recent years, developers have approached the property owners on our block with plans to build mixed-use high rise towers.  The congregation entered into an arrangement to sell the building for a very good price, pending the developer's ability to get financing and sell a sufficient number of condominiums in the proposed high rise.  If the sale goes through, the congregation intends to build a fourth chapel within a larger mixed use high rise.  The advantage will be to have a newer building that is more accessible and more appropriate to our size and present needs.

However, with the high rise market in flux, it remains to be seen whether the move will occur.  In the meantime, we're still in our current building, which has served us so well for the past eighty years.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday September 2 Service

Here's a preview of next Sunday's service. The theme is "Give Us Clean Hearts." The scripture for our theme found in Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23 (which is Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 20–21 in the Inspired Version of the Bible). Click here for additional readings and information on our theme.

 Since this is the first Sunday of the month, the service will include the Sacrament of Communion. (Community of Christ is open communion and all are welcome.) Joe Hodgins will be conducting the service and I'll be giving the homily on our theme. Melanie Leitch will be telling a story for children attending, Don Bailey will be speaking on the Disciples' Generous Response, and Virginia Hodgins will be playing piano.

 After the service, please stay with us for snacks and visiting.

Welcome to Toronto Congregation

You are invited!

We're a small, but welcoming congregation of Community of Christ in the city of Toronto, Ontario.  We value building community and we would love to invite you to share the in community we've built.  We meet every Sunday at 10am for scripture study, and 11 am for our worship service, which is followed by visiting, coffee, and snacks.
Our chapel is located at 1443 Bathurst Street, conveniently near St. Clair West Station. Free parking is available for those driving.

The Bathurst Street Chapel on September 2, 2012.