20 June, 2024

Doing Church in the City


by | 21 August, 2005 | 0 comments

By Russ Kuykendall

Keele Street Christian Church has existed in Toronto since at least 1889. Daniel W. Clendenan, first mayor of West Toronto Junction and a land developer who gave land for the building, and others organized the new church with the assistance of Disciples who worshiped downtown at Denison Avenue and at Cecil Street. A year later they built a chapel just south of West Toronto Junction”s city centre.

Changing Face

West Toronto Junction was annexed by Toronto in 1909, but the neighborhood is still known as “the Junction.” The community was originally occupied by people of British descent””like the Ulster Scots who organized the church””but has undergone at least two major transitions. After World War II, the community welcomed new Canadians from Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states, and over the last few years it has become a magnet for people in the marketing and communications industry as well as young professionals. Victorian homes converted into rooming houses years ago now are finding new life, again, as single-family dwellings.

The church”s face likewise changed. It started out as a congregation of mainly British stock, many of whom descended from the Haldanean “Scotch Baptists.” These folks “found” Alexander Campbell in the 1820s as they organized churches of Christ in Ontario on the Haldane model, joining and identifying with the Restoration Movement early on. But over the years, Keele included folks from the Caribbean, new immigrants from Scotland, Filipinos once ministered to by direct-support missionary pioneer Leslie Wolfe, and Americans. Now, Keele has Caribbeans, ethnic Chinese, Filipinos, and people from Belarus, Albania, Mexico, Korea, India, Africa, Turkey, other parts of Canada, and the United States all coming together under one roof and one Lord at the Junction.


How does Keele do church in the city? There are challenges.

Many members and families travel across a city of some 4 million people to attend services. As a result, the congregation serves a potluck lunch on Sundays, limits the number of meetings at “the Junction,” and offers programs for different age groups concurrently. Public transit is the only means of transportation for many, so when Keele recently added a second Sunday service, leaders took into account that the subway doesn”t begin operation till 9:00 am on Sunday. The first service begins at 10:00 am, the second is at noon, and the Sunday potluck is between services.

Many visitors are either unchurched or unfamiliar with our mode of services. So, in order to explain the Lord”s Supper, a slide is projected describing the Lord”s Supper and its meaning as the meditation is delivered. Likewise, a slide explaining the offering lets guests know they aren”t expected to contribute, and another slide is shown when someone is baptized.

As with its ethnic profile, Keele”s age profile is diverse. This brings challenges with respect to the selection of music for congregational singing. The church endeavors to have “something for everyone” (at least occasionally), but the watchword is excellence in performance and leadership of music, keeping in mind that this is congregational singing.

Preacher and equipping minister Grant MacDonald delivers messages accompanied by presentation software giving main points, key sentences, and scriptural citations reinforced with graphics and embedded video. This all is offered with a view to helping those for whom English is a second languageKeele is conscious of its community, participating in cleanups, supporting a local women”s shelter, joining in community prayer walks, and annually hosting a picnic at a nearby park. It gears the weekly “J-Kids” and annual VBS to unchurched children in the neighborhood.

Keele”s vision for long-term ministries at the Junction presents a challenge for growth, but Keele is considering the acquisition of contiguous real estate.

Keele holds a vision for starting new churches elsewhere in Greater Toronto and around the world. Former Keele ministers Jim and Claudia Tune and Kurt and Tammy Kuykendall left in 2000-01 to launch Churchill Meadows Christian Church in suburban Mississauga under the auspices of church-planting mission Impact Ontario. Keele backed this with financial and volunteer help, and plans to support the launch of another new church in Mississauga this year. About a year ago, Keele sent elder “Skip” Daniels (who retired recently as a city streetcar driver) and his wife, Linda, to serve as missionaries in the Philippines.

Finally, Keele holds a vision of equipping its members for service, both to the church and to the larger community. Its numbers include teachers, a dentist, business people, tradesmen, caregivers, factory workers, systems analysts, civil servants, students, a public policy analyst, a retired newspaper editor, and others. Keele believes Jesus is Lord of all””Lord of the heavenly city, and the earthly city of Toronto.

Russ Kuykendall is a member of Keele Street Christian Church (www.keelestreet.ca) and is senior researcher with the Work Research Foundation (www.wrf.ca), a Christian economic and public policy institute. Russ writes a “blog” at http://burkeancanuck.blogspot.com.


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