St. Philip’s, Caribou Road

This post picks up the story of St. Philip’s, Spadina, which was located on the south-west corner of what is now Spadina and Dundas.

In 1942, the congregation moved out of the building, and it was sold the following year for $23,000, along with a covenant that it would continue to be used as a church building. (See the post on St. Philip’s, Spadina for more details.) On November 2, 1975, through the kindness of  St. Elizabeth of Hungry Roman Catholic church, the congregation of the new St. Philip’s returned to their first building for a 100th anniversary evensong.

During the period 1940-42, St. Clement’s, Eglinton had begun a mission, named St. Margaret’s Mission (and sometimes also referred to in the archives as St. Andrew’s). This nascent community first met in a tent at the corner of Woodmount and Glencairn, and later in a simple, small building.



In 1943, St. Philip’s assumed occupancy of the building.


In 1946, the Reverend J.A. Robinson, who had been rector of St. Philip’s since 1920 and had overseen its move north, retired, and was succeeded by the Reverend David Clarke, who was to stay at St. Philip’s for thirty-six years and oversee its move to a new, permanent building.

After the war, land in the area was being developed and there was talk of enlarging the building. Instead, a lot was purchased on Caribou Road, just south of Lawrence and east of Bathurst. The new St. Philip’s opened in 1951 and was dedicated on March 25, 1952 by Bishop Beverley. In 1961 transepts and other meeting and office space was added.


IMG_1548I am sorry that there aren’t more photographs of the interior of St. Philip’s in the diocesan archives because it was a unique liturgical space, and very much ahead of its time. (If any readers have photos and care to send them to me, I will gladly add them!) Notably, the altar was free-standing (in a time when Anglican altars were all still against the wall), and located at the centre of what became (after the 1961 additions) a cruciform space. It was described this way: “The altar has been kept free from encumbrances in order that it may appear to be a Table set in the midst of the people and so that people all around it may see.” This arrangement very much anticipated the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s.

Another notable feature of the space was the reredos behind the altar, seen in this photograph. It was designed by noted Canadian artist Sylvia Hahn and featured autumn coloured leaves. (Note also the red maple leafs in the altar rail.) Above the altar hung a large cross of Christ, robed and crowned.


St. Philip’s came to represent a progressive and experimental approach not only in its architecture, but in its parish life as well. Religion writer Aubrey Wice, writing in the Telegraph in February 1960, noted this: “One of the most interesting things St. Philip’s is doing is their house church. This, literally, means taking the church to the people. What happens is this: Someone in the parish will invite his Anglican neighbors (sic) over for a service of holy Ccommunion. Maybe a dozen will turn up on a dark Friday morning at 6.30. Of course, the rector will be there, and if there are kiddies in the house, they’ll look in, too. The altar is the breakfast table, and after the service, everyone has a bite to eat before scurrying off to work.” In the 1970s, at a time when experiemental liturgies were being employed in the Anglican world, the parish wrote its own eucharistic liturgy (“The Caribou Liturgy”). (St. Philip’s was one of the parishes where I spent a lot of time as an itinerant organist in my late teens and twenties, and I recall quite clearly first being exposed to this rite, which was sharply different than any I had previously experienced.)

At one time, St. Philip’s had three Sunday morning services and a large congregation, but as the neighbourhood demographs changed in the 1960s (becoming a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood), St Philip’s became a smaller, “destination” parish for those attracted to is strongly progressive values and parish life.  The final service was held on May 30, 2010 and the parish was disestablished Among its legacies is a $100,000 gift to Trinity College establishing The David Clarke St. Philip’s Trust Fund for studies in urban ministry.

A new townhouse development is being completed on the site of the former St. Philip’s.





1 comment
  1. Doug Cowling said:

    Where did that “modernist” interior design come from? English or continental models?

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