Eureka! There was only one photograph of St. Dunstan’s, Lansdowne in the diocesan archives, and I was having a difficult time imaging what this building looked like on the inside, given it was built to be the basement of the church.
And then I had an email a few weeks ago from the Reverend Sheila Boudreau (Sheila and I were at Trinity College together). Sheila grew up at St. Dunstan’s; in fact her grandparents were likely among the very first parishioners when the building was built in 1923. Sheila sent me a photograph of the altar. She has other photographs which are stored away at the moment, but I’m hoping at some point I’ll be able to add them to the blog.
And then a second eureka! A number of weeks ago I happened to be biking up Lansdowne past the former St. Dunstan’s, which is now the Ghandi Bhavan Hindu Temple and I noticed the doors were open. I stopped and spoke to a few folks, explaining my project and interest in the building. They were enormously gracious and invited me to come back at another time with my camera.
On a recent visit I did just that. First things first — eating! The congregation was just finishing the meal they have together after every service and I was invited to partake of a lovely rice dish with salad. I asked some questions about Hindu rituals, and was told that the offering of food to the deities is an important aspect of the service. It is part of welcoming the presence of the deities as guests. “Just like you’ve welcomed me as a guest”, I said. And yes, that is what it is. The offering of a meal is a vital part of hospitality. (And I’ve been invited to come back ‘any time’!) Here are some of the members of the Ghandi Bhavan Hindu Temple who fed and welcomed me so graciously.
The photographs below show the space as it looks today. The pews are from the building’s St. Dunstan’s era. I was having difficult imagining what the space was like inside because, from the street, it is only the height of an ordinary residential building. However you step down eight steps upon entering, which means the space (originally intended only as the basemenet of a larger church) has plenty of height.