This Blog page shares updates about St. Anne's and our presence in the community. We hope you enjoy the pictures!

Sanctuary: Our Church is a Safe Space

posted 3 May 2018, 12:18 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 12 Dec 2019, 09:33 ]

The graphic above appeared in my social media feed this week, an astonishing reminder that it has already been five years since Archbishop Colin Johnson granted St. Anne's the local option to bless the relationships of same-sex couples. Since that milestone, our local option has been upgraded to allow us to offer same-sex marriage. We await the decision of General Synod, our national decision-making body, in June 2019, on our continued local option status. The vote at the previous General Synod in 2016 was dramatically close, and the canons of the Anglican Church of Canada require that this vote be repeated at the next General Synod in order to become the permanent policy of our denomination.
How we got here is worth a review. The St. Anne's congregation expressed interest in becoming more inclusive about 15 years ago. We had to demonstrate to the Archbishop that we had built a broad consensus of our community and especially that we had not bullied our community down this road. This process required study and conversation. Our Discernment Sunday took the form of a Café Eucharist with round tables for discussion, and presentations on scripture and theology, the recent history of lesbian and gay liberation movements, and the "lived experience" of gay and lesbian members of congregation.

We were delighted to present our process to the Diocese and to receive our designation. We put the rainbow on the church sign. We walk with the Proud Anglicans group in the Pride Parade. We run/walk in the Pride & Remembrance Run. We have not celebrated any same-sex marriages, though the representation of gays and lesbians in our community has increased.

Our St. Anne's Safe Church process has raised deeper questions about safe space. It's time for a review: Is St. Anne's a safe space? Are we welcoming, accepting, or affirming? We have been exploring the idea of Sanctuary - for those who have been harmed, for those who are questioning and looking for a safe place to ask questions and, with God's help, to find their way.

The Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer
May 3, 2018

"The Church is on a Journey" graphic is from an article that is worth reading! Have a look.

St. Anne - Mother of Mary, Grandmother of Jesus, Patron of our Church

posted 7 Sep 2017, 18:49 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 20 Sep 2017, 07:45 ]

What is the best way to celebrate our patron saint, Anne the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus? What is the best way to celebrate the ministry of a church named for this saint?

This summer, I visited St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Riverdale (Broadview and Gerrard) to take part in their celebration (different spelling but the same saint). It was the 102nd anniversary of the parish, and the occasion celebrated both Anne and their church's ministry in the community. I noticed that they moved their festivities from the traditional calendar date (July 26) to the nearest Sunday. That's practical, and we have taken it a step further by moving our celebration to September 17. We hope everyone is back, refreshed from rest and travel, and ready to celebrate with us.

St. Ann's Church did some things we have tried: A visit by the bishop, invitations to special guests including their MP, acknowledgement and thanks to all who serve in their many ministries of outreach in the community, and a barbecue in the front yard following the liturgy. The way they went about it was beautiful and memorable:
  • The church organized a novena - a special nine-day prayer that people commit to do each day in their homes - to pray for their community and its needs, and to ask God's guidance in their readiness to serve their local community.

  • John Robinson, leader of their Native Peoples' Mission, opened the liturgy with smudging for purification using a special mixture of cedar, sweetgrass, tobacco, and sage. Diverse representatives of the Native Peoples' Mission walked through the whole community using eagle, peacock and goose feathers for the smudging, as John led the whole community to face the four directions, the earth at our feet, and the Creator above us.

  • They had a special Hymn to St. Ann written for their church:

    • Chorus: Mother of Mary, teach us ever more to be faithful and to serve as you taught the one you bore.
    • First Verse: The love for our God you gave to your daughter
      Mary that she would agree to be the mother of our Lord.
    • Second Verse: You gave of yourself as serving in the temple.
      You taught her that the gifts she had were promised to the Lord.
    • Third Verse: The lessons you taught with Joachim your husband
      gave her the strength to be a witness to her Son.
Of course, every church community is different. Not every good idea translates easily into our setting. Let's give thanks for St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church, and let's do what makes sense for us.

Here's our plan for St. Anne's Day on Sunday, September 17. The 10:30 a.m. service will celebrate Anne and the ministries of our church. The service includes Holy Baptism: we pray for Luna Li and Lingyin Shen as they conclude their preparation to be baptized and as they prepare their testimonies of faith. 

We will have a reception in the church following the service, including a St. Anne's Day Cake and a light lunch. 

Our first concert of the 2017-2018 season takes place Sunday at 2:00 p.m. It's a benefit concert to continue repairs to the church organ. We're looking forward to beautiful music featuring some of Toronto's finest organists! 

Sunday, September 17 is also the Community Dinner, and we welcome volunteers from 2:30 p.m. through to 7:30 p.m. for all aspects of the dinner: food preparation, serving guests, cleaning up. 

St. Anne's Day is a full day of loving God and loving our neighbours, our St. Anne's way of "Bringing the Community together for Good."

If I could adopt any one aspect of the celebration from St. Ann's Catholic Church, it would be about that novena prayer. What about, over the coming week, some thoughts about our neighbours: who are they and what do they need? Maybe, we are asking God to show us the best ways for our St. Anne's to befriend our community and stand with them in the challenges and joys of life.

Blessings to you as we celebrate the patron saint of grandmothers, women in labour, horseback riders, the Mi'kmaq of Canada, miners, sailors, and the protector from storms.

The Rev. Gary van der Meer

Same-Sex Marriage at St. Anne's! - November 15, 2016

posted 16 Nov 2016, 12:38 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 16 Jan 2017, 04:49 ]

Dear Friends, 

Effective immediately, St. Anne's now offers marriage to same-sex couples. 

I trust you know about St. Anne's longstanding inclusive welcome. Indeed, since 2013, St. Anne's has been designated to offer same gender blessings. This came about at the request of our community following an extensive discernment and study process. This past summer, the Anglican Church of Canada debated same-sex marriage, and narrowly passed a motion to proceed. 

Archbishop Colin Johnson has authorized provisional guidelines allowing us to offer same-sex marriage. These guidelines will be in effect until 2019 when the Anglican Church of Canada will finalize its position on same-sex marriage. The Archbishop's Letter and the Pastoral Guidelines explain these details (see the attachments).

We will offer same-sex marriage using a special liturgy created by the Episcopal Church USA. It is a beautiful service of marriage, and it is available to all couples regardless of gender (I have heard people say they prefer it over our traditional marriage liturgy). I hope you will click the link and take time to read it.

I want to stress that we are called to kindness. Not all will welcome this development: some because it goes too far, some because it is not enough. We will meet people who are uncomfortable with same-sex marriage, and our inclusiveness should mean that we show kindness and respect regardless of whether we agree on this matter. Let's call it holy manners.

This is wonderful news for our community at St. Anne's, where we say we are Bringing the Community together for Good. Personally, I am delighted, especially as this has been such a long journey. I keep comparing full inclusion of LGBTQ people to running a marathon, with water stations along the way to keep us running. We are getting there. We are in a new good place, though there is more to be done. 

I hope you join with me in celebrating that St. Anne's now offers same-sex marriage.

With best wishes,

Jellied Salads and ABBA

posted 26 Apr 2016, 10:26 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 13 Dec 2019, 15:32 ]

Once upon a time, when I was newly ordained, I was invited to a church luncheon put on by the ACW. Some of you will know what that is, but a lot of you won't have any idea. The ACW (Anglican Church Women) was a going concern at St. James' Church in Orillia. It had four "chapters" and each took a turn putting on the weekly events. The end of season luncheon was for all the chapters. I was the invited special guest who gave a 'devotion' (an inspirational talk) and said grace.

Lunch featured jellied salads. I had never seen such strange foods, but I instantly loved them. There was an orange one (made from orange Jello), with canned mandarin segments and cut up red peppers. The green one (lime Jello) had olives, green peppers and canned fruit cocktail. 

My favourite was the tomato aspic - hardened tomato juice with canned shrimp in it. When I told my friends, they were horrified. Jellied salads were a time warp from the sixties. You weren't supposed to like jellied salads! You were supposed to make fun of them.

It reminds me of that time when you didn't admit you knew all the words to ABBA songs. And then the stage musical Mamma Mia changed all of that. ABBA became cool again. I'm still waiting for jellied salads to get the respect they deserve.

There was a time when it was embarrassing to admit that you are part of a church. Or maybe that time still exists? But I'm not waiting until church becomes cool again to talk about it. 

Most people are friends with people who are demographically similar to them. In my church, I am part of a diverse community of people I would never otherwise meet. My church can pack a reception room with Jews and Muslims and Christians so we can enjoy talking to each other. My church has put on Gilbert & Sullivan for 53 years running. That may sound quirky, but these operattas deserve respect!
My church has hikes, monthly history lectures, and better music than a lot of concert halls. My church prays for the neighbours, whether they are religious or not. My church is sponsoring gay refugees from Iran. If only people knew how good this is.

So I talk about my church!

I'm ready for that look I used to get for admitting I like ABBA and tomato aspic. Every church congregation has its own different quirkiness, and mine is the best-kept secret that everyone should know about.


From MInistry Highlights - April 25 - May 8, 2016 

ABBA - Take a Chance on me

Gary's Update: We're a Multicultural Church for a Multicultural World

posted 26 May 2015, 12:24 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 13 Dec 2019, 15:28 ]

We are hearing many languages at St. Anne's. Over the past weeks since Easter Sunday, you have heard the scriptures read in Bengali, Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin. Pentecost is our celebration of abundance, with nine languages all together. And there are more to come.

We have often heard that Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world, but we might not be in the habit of thinking of St. Anne's as a multicultural church.

A multicultural church is actually a great blessing:

Enjoyment - As we hear the scriptures read, I notice the beauty of the sounds, and I find myself waiting to recognize a familiar word as I try to follow along in the English text.

Welcome - A visitor sitting among us on Sunday morning would notice how we're so relaxed about it all. Another language is part of the flow of the liturgy. It's also a tangible sign that our welcome is real and that we are genuinely interested in our world and the gifts of the people in our community.

Knowledge - Have you read along in our Ministry Highlights as we learn the story that goes with each language? You may already be interested in what is happening in our world, or it may seem remote and not especially relevant to your own life. But a multicultural church gives you a personal connection to the events of the world through people you know and care about.

Prayers - We pray differently when we have more knowledge and a deeper connection. Our prayers of gratitude are richer and more deeply felt. And we ask God on behalf of others with greater mindfulness.

As I have asked others about their experiences of multicultural churches, I have come to appreciate how it takes 3 things to make it work:

1. An integrated worship service.We need one place where we come together. This expresses our faith that God loves all people and challenges us to remember that we are all included in God's love. This ends our stereotypes. It also stops the kind of faith where two sides pray to the same God for victory over the other. The truth is that we are all to be one humanity. As a multicultural city, Toronto has many ethnic churches. They all face a great challenge. The first generation builds a prosperous thriving congregation worshiping in their language and celebrating their culture. The second generation wants to be Canadian. Often, the founders end up seeing their beloved church close as their children and grandchildren stop coming. An integrated multicultural church is a better model. It will always be for everyone.

2. Small Groups where people come together. It is so satisfying to feel like you belong and to be in a group where you can speak your language or share your culture. When people are new to Canada, a small group is essential in dealing with loneliness, as a place to ask questions about immigration status, job possibilities, and contact with family members back home. I had a conversation with a priest from Zimbabwe who gathered the Zimbabweans together. It was especially important to them to sing their songs together. Small groups come together based on interest and passion. For example, the St. Anne's Choir gathers people who love to sing, and, more specifically, the St. Anne's Music and Drama Society (MADS) gathers people who love to sing Gilbert & Sullivan. In high schools, Gay/Straight Alliance clubs give support that is much needed by gay and lesbian teens. Multicultural is more than multilingual. It would be great to have more small groups at St. Anne's. Let’s create special ways for people to belong and to receive the support they need.

3. Intentional activities for people to build community across cultures. A church made up of small groups based on language or culture would be a church of jostling cliques if there were no effort to be one community. We need activities and events that help people get to know each other. At St. Anne's, the Sunday service is the most important place for that to happen. Hikes, adult study groups, gardening days, big concerts - these are so important in building shared purpose. You can also be intentional about getting to know people who are different from you. Get together for a meal or a visit. The vitality of our whole community grows when you do this. Maybe you noticed that the members of our newest group, English Coffee, deliberately don't all sit together on Sunday morning. And, during coffee, they make a point of talking to everyone. It's intentional.

A personal note - I grew up in an immigrant church that was full of first generation Dutch Canadians. It was going strong and full of young families. That church no longer exists. Looking to the future, I hope we can do better than that. Do we want a Toronto where people never get out of their comfort zone, where they only associate with their own kind? Do we even want a world like that? What we want for our world should fill our prayers, and it should begin from our own example.

The Pentecost story tells us that, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, people were able to set aside their differences (as symbolized by their different languages) to come together in a new deeper unity.

I propose that our re-enactment of the languages of Pentecost is showing us a promising way to create this unity in our own times. Let's grow into being an integrated multicultural church, with caring supportive small groups and intentional cross-cultural friendships. A multicultural Toronto and our conflicted, multicultural world need churches that can pull this off. May God help us to make it so.

The Rev. Gary van der Meer
May 25, 2015

Check us out in the "Spirit of Invitation" Video

posted 4 Mar 2015, 13:45 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 4 Mar 2015, 13:48 ]

Think about it!

This fun video includes beautiful scenes of us - mostly shaking hands, running in the rain with umbrellas, and making people feel comfortable hanging out with us. See if you can recognize people you know.

Published in December 2014, the video has the following introduction about being invited:
Home explores our preconceived notion of what Christian invitation might involve. From obnoxious sales tactics to simply avoiding the topic, it’s safe to say that many of us have some issues. But, what if invitation begins at home? What if the first question isn’t about how we invite others - but about how we explore and deepen our faith in community, inviting one another back in again and again.
This is part of a series:
Episode 1: Table
Episode 2: Home
Episode 3: Joy
Episode 4: Us
Episode 5: One
Episode 6: Go

Have a look at them all:

St. Anne's sings the Hallelujah Chorus

posted 20 Dec 2014, 08:01 by Gary van der Meer   [ updated 20 Dec 2014, 08:26 ]

Hallelujah Chorus for Cantate: A Neighbourhood Christmas Concert

Hallelujah Chorus: Gladstone's historic Anglican church presents Cantate: A Neighbourhood Christmas Concert. This second annual Christmas concert supports the Youth Scholarship Program of the Division 14 Community Police Liaison Committee. This scholarship is for high school students who show leadership in working against prejudice, racism and bullying, and for the safety and well-being of our neighbourhoods and community.
The concert, held on Sunday, December 7, features the Choir of St. Anne's, The Junction Trio, and friends under the leadership of St. Anne's Music Director Matthew Otto.

Our mission is "Bringing the Community together for Good". The next Cantate will be in December 2015!

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