Calvary Church, Silverthorn & Rosethorn

I’ve written about St. Mark’s Carlton Village (aka St. Mark’s, West Toronto) and Calvary Church, which were amalgamated in 1970 to become St. Mark & Calvary.

Here are some photographs taken at a recent visit to the building, which is now the home of the Cornerstone Baptist Tabernacle. When I was last at the site, after St. Mark & Calvary closed and before the new owners took possession, I missed this cornerstone because it was obscured at the time by a large bush.

IMG_7748 (Medium)I’m grateful to Ben Reid, son of Pastor Patrick Reid, for graciously allowing me to take photographs of the interior.

This reredos behind the altar is by the noted Canadian artist Sylvia Hahn. It depicts Christ in the centre, flanked by St. Mark on the left and St. Michael on the right. The pulpit has been moved to the centre, between the choir stalls.

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These final two photographs are of a separate side chapel. The banner (“Calvary”) is surely from the former Calvary Church.

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I’ve blogged about the history of Calvary Church was was closed in 1970 and sold to St. George’s Romanian Orthodox Church. On a recent visit to the site I was delighted to be able to meet the parish priest, the Very Reverend Fr. Ioan Bunea. Fr. Ioan was very gracious in allowing me to take photographs of the interior as it looks today.

It is completely transformed from the way it would have looked in the years when it was Calvary Church. (To date, I don’t have any photographs of the interior during its Calvary days.) When Fr. Ioan arrived in the parish in 1990, some renovations had been made to transform the space into one characteristic of Orthodoxy. In the past two decades, under Fr. Ioan’s, leadership, the space has been completely transformed. The old brick walls are now covered with dry wall and vivid icons and other painting. The large wooden iconostasis was designed by Fr. Ioan, carved in Romania, and assembled piece by piece in situ.

The original windows are still in place, but are covered by newer windows. In the photograph below the original windows are just visible behind the newer windows. 

The windows on the north side of the building are no longer external windows, as the parish has built a very attractive addition on the north side. Photographs of the addition are included in the original entry on Calvary Church. (The three external towers of the addition are architecturally characteristic of the Orthodox tradition.)

The one original window which is plainly visible is the large window with four large blue crosses at the back of the church.

I asked Fr. Ioan if I could take his picture. He consented but invited me to be in the photograph. I’m seriously underdressed!

Calvary Church, which was located at the corner of Silverthorn and Rosethorn (between St. Clair & Eglinton, just east of Keele) can trace its existence back to a commitment that a Mr and Mrs Ball made to their English vicar as they prepared to emigrate to Canada in 1910. They promised that, if there was no Church of England community near where they would live, they would make sure one got started.

In the second decade of the twentieth century, the community of Silverthorn was largely agricultural. During that decade, two large farms (the Silverthorn and Rowntree estates) were subdivided and new suburbs were born. (Some things never change; this kind of green field development is exactly what goes on today throughout the GTA.) Calvary Church got its starts from the Ball family and a few others beginning to meet informally in homes. Eventually the group met on the second floor of the Orange Hall on Silverthorn Avenue.

In early 1915, a temporary building was constructed, “erected almost entirely by the free labor (sic) of our [parish] men, then out of work and really needing the money we were unable to give.” The land on which the building was located was purchased by the parish of St. Mark, West Toronto, which was located to the south.

Calvary continued to be a mission until becoming an independent parish in 1923. By 1924, these facilities were inadequate. The building sat 170 and over 150 adults regularly attended worship. The Sunday School, which had begun with 12 children and two teachers, now numbered 375 students and 27 teachers. A fundraising appeal put the need this way: “In our need we turn to our friends and ask for their sympathy, their prayers, and as far as possible, their financial assistance and support in building a church worthy of the Anglican Communion in this growing district and suited to the needs of the ever-increasing population settling in the parish.” The appeal must have worked for, in 1924, two adjacent properties were purchased. In 1927 the sod was turned and cornerstone laid for the new Calvary Church, which was opened in March 1928.

The histories of Calvary Church and St. Mark’s (about which I will post soon) weave together at several points after St. Mark’s assisted with the founding of Calvary. It seems there was some rivalry between the two congregations over territory. St. Mark’s was, at the time, located on Ford Street, south of St. Clair.  A parish history of Calvary, published on occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1964, makes this comment: “After years of discussion between the congregation of St. Marks and Calvary, an understanding was reached that St. Marks would remain south of St. Clair Avenue. However, in 1930 St. Marks moved north of St. Clair on Blackthorn Avenue against the protests of the Calvary congregation.” In its new location, St. Marks and Calvary were located approximately one kilometre apart.

After the second world war, attendance at Calvary began to drop. The same parish history attributes this, and a change of worship patterns from Sunday evenings to mornings, to the advent of television: “During 1949 and 1950 we see a changeover from large 7 p.m. services to large 11 a.m. services and a general drop in attendance. This is coincidental with the introduction of television in Toronto via the Buffalo station. This medium has caused a great change in our social habits.” In the 1960s, the cause of the decline in attendance was clearly identified as the exodus of Anglicans to the suburbs. The parish found itself in arrears to both the gas company and the diocese. In 1967, Calvary (always a parish of the low Anglican tradition) experimented with combining services twice a month with nearby Silverthorn United Church.

In 1970, the decision was taken to amalgamate Calvary with its mother church, St. Mark’s. An opportunity arose when the new rector of St. Mark’s died suddenly. The rector of Calvary, Don Beatty, became rector of the newly amalgamated parish, and the Calvary building was sold. May 3, 1970 was “Amalgamation Sunday”. After Morning Prayer at 10.00 at Calvary, parishioners moved by car to St. Mark’s where, at 11.00, Bishop George Snell officiated at confirmation with candidates from both Calvary and St. Mark’s.

The building is now St. George Romanian Orthodox Church. The photographs below show the original Calvary building with an addition added after Calvary was sold. The architectural contrast is striking. 

There are no pictures of the interior of Calvary in the diocesan archives and I’ve been unable to make contact with someone at St. George’s to see about seeing the inside today. However the parish website offers a photographic tour of its rich interior.