Church of the Apostles, Downsview

Today, the area on Sheppard Avenue West between Allen Road and Bathurst Street is underdoing a significant redevelopment (called, by some, “avenuization”), with condo developments being built and single family homes along Sheppard boarded up and ready for demolition. Also ready for redevelopment is the site of the former Church of the Apostles on the south side of Sheppard at Harlock Boulevard, in the area known as Downsview.

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In 1930s this was sparsely built-up countryside. The priest at St. John’s, York Mills, the Reverend A.C. McCollum, convened a meeting and a decision was taken to purchase land on Thornburn Avenue (now Gorman Park Road). In 1936 a small building was erected by men of the parish and it was furnished with hand-me-downs: an altar made from a wooden bedstead, a second-hand pulpit, benches handmade from available lumber. The building was heated by a pot-bellied stove formerly in a railway station, and the font was a borrowed cut-glass bowl. Water was fetched on foot from a pump located on Sheppard Avenue. A.C. McCollum visited once a month from St. John’s to celebrate holy communion. It is not clear how the parish got its name, but one story recorded in the diocesan archives is that there happened to be twelve people present at the meeting called to choose a name.

By 1950 the congregation had outgrown the small building and land was purchased one block east. The first church building was sold in 1953, used for a time as a private residence and then demolished.

The new building was opened and dedicated on November 16th, 1953 by Bishop Beverley. It was intended as a parish hall with (presumably) the church to be build later. The design of the hall was based on that at St. Philip’s, Weston.

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The promotional material for the new parish hall provides a picture of the important place church halls played in the community in the 1950s. Not only was it to be a place for spirituality, but also sports, social groups, drama and education. (“To serve the community of Haviland” as it was then known, located nearby the de Havilland aircraft plant.)

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In 1965, the Church of the Apostles was part of a diocesan first — an attempt at team ministry among neighbouring parishes. Three congregations (Apostles, St. Laurence, and St James the Just) were overseen by two clerics (J.A. Purser and W.G. Linley). “The Parishes of Yorkdale” had a central Parish Executive Committee with each congregation maintaining its Advisory Board. Parish finances were centralized, with each congregation providing payments proportionate to its size. This experiment proved, however, to be unsuccessful and was cancelled within months.

St. James the Just was disestablished in 1968 and by the next year disestablishment was also on the table for the Church of the Apostles. The parish persisted, however, celebrating the building’s fortieth anniversary in 1993. The Church of the Apostles closed and was disestablished at Pentecost 2012.

The building is currently in use by a church called The Truth Centre while a proposal goes forward to redevelop the land with housing.

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1 comment
  1. William Cooke said:

    Good work as always, David.

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