Church of the Epiphany, Scarborough

The Church of the Epiphany, Scarborough is not exactly “lost”. Rather, it continues as Grace Church, Scarborough, the result of the amalgamation in 2011 of four Scarborough parishes (Epiphany, Scarborough, St. Giles’, St. Crispin’s and St. George’s.)

Scarborough Junction was a village formed in the nineteenth century from an amalgamation of the villages of Strangford and Mortlake. In 1905, Anglicans began to meet informally in a private home on St. Clair Avenue East, across from the Pine Hills Cemetery. In 1909, a formal mission was established, the fourth Anglican congregation in what is now Scarborough (following on St. Margaret’s, St. Jude’s and Christ Church). In 1910 a one acre building site was purchased at the south-west corner of St. Clair Avenue and Danforth Avenue. Two years later, the men of the parish were involved in erecting the first building, which was dedicated by Bisohp Sweeny on July 10, 1914. The parish took the name “Church of the Epiphany” at the suggestion of a Lay Reader from the Church of the Epiphany, Parkdale, who was assisting at the time with the new congregation at Scarborough Junction. 

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The Church of the Epiphany was to become the mother church of three other Scarborough congregations: St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff, St. Crispin’s, and St. Timothy’s, Agincourt. (From 1925 until 1931, the parish priest was Henry Roche, who features largely in the stories of the Church of the Ascension and St. Margaret’s, North Toronto on this blog. It appears he led the parish while living in Toronto, his address being listed at one point as 699 Manning Avenue, just up the street from my parish and residence.)

In May 1933, the parish hit the news when the rector, the Reverend A. W. Downer, was charged with operating an illegal lottery. The parish was raising funds for disadvantaged children by selling 25 cent tickets, which allowed participation in a dance and a chance to win a car. The newspaper headline from the time reads: Charge Scarboro Rector with Operating a Lottery: Morality Squad Seizes Tickets and Hals Church “Draw” for Car to Aid Children”. (It is not clear whether or not the charges were dropped, by the Rector (Wally Downer) went on to serve in the Ontario legislature from 1937 until 1975, serving as Speaker from 1955 to 1959.

Scarborough Junction was one of the first communities to see massive post-war housing development. By 1953, the little village church building was overflowing. (Average attendance of adults was 50 in 1952 and had grown to 240 in 1944, along with 125 children). In 1952, Fr Gregory Lee was appointed vicar and, the next year, fundraising began for a new church building.

IMG_6714 (2)A new 4.5 acre site was purchased to the north, on Kennedy Road, and ground was broken for the new Church of the Epiphany on October 31, 1954. Appropriate to the day, the groundbreaking was held at night, when 400 people, shovels in hand, began to dig. On Easter Day, 1955, the final service was held in the old church, and the congregation moved into their new home. The new building was dedicated on June 16, 1955 by Bishop Beverley, assisted by Bishop Wilkinson.
IMG_6736 (2)IMG_6732 (2)Epiphany Scarborough 1956 Vintage TorontoThose who knew Fr. Lee describe an eccentric and faithful priest who fashioned a unique combination of liturgical experiences at the new Church of the Epiphany. Former parishioners of mine told me of his intention to have a liturgy for every different Anglican sensibility. This meant a said eucharist at 8:00 am on Sundays, a high church Sung Eucharist with “bells and smells” at 9:00, and a traditional 11:00 which alternated between Morning Prayer and Holy Communion. Fr Lee also offered a daily eucharist. In 1960. Epiphany became home to a pipe organ that had been in the parish hall at St. James’ Cathedral, and had been given as a memorial to Canon and Mrs Welch.
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Epiphany, like so many urban and suburban parishes, experienced a steady decline in members. In 2011, Epiphany and three other nearby parishes voted to amalgamate into one new parish, to be named Grace Church, Scarborough.

IMG_8298The Epiphany building underwent significant renovations to accommodate the new parish. The west wall of the nave was opened up to create a new entrance way.

IMG_8300IMG_8305The former liturgical space was divided into a large narthex and a smaller liturgical space. (Here is one of the wardens, Yvonne, who was so very helpful on the day I visited to take photographs.)


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Epiphany’s bell had not been rung for years because of complaints from the neighbours. It is not on this movable platform and is rung (indoors) on Sunday mornings.

IMG_8290The Christus Rex which latterly hung behind the high altar has found a new home in the space.

IMG_8285The windows behind the altar are from the original Church of the Epiphany building at Danforth and St. Clair Avenue East.

IMG_8284The baptismal font and small chapel altar are also from the original Epiphany building.IMG_8278
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The words “The Church of the Epiphany” are just visible.IMG_8301

This is the corner of St. Clair Avenue East and Danforth, where the Church of the Epiphany first stood.

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