About the College Street United Church Community
Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick, take a sack of your best flour, and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and picked out a calf that was tender and fat, and gave it to a servant, who hurried to get it ready. He took some cream, some milk, and the meat, and set the food before the men. There under the tree he served them himself, and they ate. Genesis 18: 6-8
College Street United Church has been located on the north- west corner of College Street and Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto since 1884. It was successfully converted into an 8-storey condominium in1990, with the church now occupying the entire ground floor unit of the new building.
Despite being located in the centre of Toronto, our church - much like the neighbourhood in which it is situated - has a definite small town, family feel and it would be difficult for any member or visitor to feel anonymous.
Toronto is the largest and most populous city in Canada, but it does not feel that way. Toronto is a city of communities and neighbourhoods, which are interconnected, open, inclusive of all, and as varied as the countries of the world they represent. You will find that many groups cluster in areas serviced by retail and professionals of the same background, but that the same area has representatives of many other groups. The area of Greektown, for instance, has many Greek restaurants and bakeries, but also Afro centric stores, Asian restaurants, British pubs, and American retailers. Two blocks east of Greektown is one of Toronto’s most established natural food stores, while farther west is an area of increased East Asian presence.
The multicultural acceptance of the city is a core part of the identity of College Street United Church.
Situated very near the University of Toronto and the country’s principal financial district, the neighbourhood we serve is extremely diverse: the residents near our church could spend their day at either place, and still come home to our neighbourhood and live next door to each other. The residential use is extremely diverse: many single family dwellings (ranging from very large to quite small), a growing number of condominiums and town houses, but also younger students renting small apartments or rooms in rooming houses.
The population of the neighbourhood is, however, in transition. The aging Catholic- Italian and Portuguese families that have lived in the neighbourhood for many decades are slowing moving out (a process that has been on-going, but which has
accelerated in the last 5 years) and giving way to new residents. These are typically young and without children, however, more and more young, professional families are moving into the homes and the recently Constructed town-houses and condominiums, as they come to realize the advantages of living in our community. That is to say, a community where everything is accessible by foot, or transit, where you can stop at a weekly farmer’s market in a local park for fresh food, or enjoy a four course dinner on a street-side patio while, quite literally, watching the world pass by.
Take a few steps out of our front door and you can catch a streetcar and be at Lake Ontario in 10 minutes (15 if traffic is bad) or be on the subway in less time. Cross the street and enjoy some great Mexican food while listening to an up-and-coming band at Sneaky-Dee’s. Or if you are feeling unwell, walk 2 blocks south to the Toronto Western Hospital, one of the city’s best health care facilities. Our neighbourhood, like most in Toronto, is an
amalgam of many things.
At the same time, a vast area of high-rise condominiums has been built along the lakeshore to the south of the church: with no spiritual amenities serving these new residents, College Street United Church is the closest United Church.
College Street United Church provides a permanent home to two other churches: the Faith Filipino Fellowship (a seven day Adventist church) and Cathedral United in Christ (a Portuguese speaking congregation), as well as the Xing Dance Studio.
The congregation is surrounded by Social Agencies mainly in the Housing sector as well as organizations such as CAMH assisting the mentally ill. The church subsidizes these agencies with lower rental costs and catering costs when they hold staff and client meetings in our facilities. Houselink, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, CRCT, Massey Centre, Mainstay, ONPHA and more. Some clients come and attend other functions with us. We consider this part of our Outreach work and at the same time we add funds to our operating account.
College Street United Church supports the various missions located in its community (the Scott Mission, the Daily Food Bank and the Massey Centre Women’s Shelter) through food and clothing drives, and has the ambition to do more – as more support is needed – with new church leadership.
The church frequently provides food and tokens to people in need who drop in, and members of the congregation have been known to open the doors of their own homes to people in need.
We also reach out to our community with an annual Christmas meal, Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, and Easter breakfast, and by hosting cultural and world-community events in the form of “International Nights”. These evenings combine the food of a specific culture or region with fellowship and are followed by an hour or two of entertainment. Our entertainment ranges widely from semi- professional opera to talent and games nights and from square dancing to performances by professional dance troops.
College Street United has joined forces in the past with two other United Church churches to its north raising funds for a mission to Cuba. Under an effective leader, the congregation hopes to undertake more such initiatives with other local churches.
Finally, in terms of its larger, world community, College Street United Church has formed a Social Justice Committee, which has spoken up on several occasions by writing letters to different world leaders encouraging responsible, democratic action.