Church growth in the post-World War II period was neither haphazard nor ecumenically uninformed. Rather, careful planning went into the location of parishes to serve new neighbourhoods. “Many hours of careful planning were needed in order to avoid, on one hand, damaging an established congregation or the social ministry of another denomination, and on the other hand, over-supplying the area with new churches. In short order the principle was developed of siting parish churches no closer than 1.5 miles from each other, to serve a church population of around 2,000. A tacit agreement in practical ecumenism was reached so that new churches of other denominations were also set at least a half-mile away, depending on the availability of land.”  (The Diocese of Toronto since 1939: A Chronological Overview. )

St. Wilfrid’s, Etobicoke and its neighbouring parish to the north, St. Richard of Chichester, demonstrate this intention, begin situated 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometres) apart, and being established within three years of each other. (And, we will see, their histories almost came together some forty years later.)

St Wilfrid’s first service was held in a portable on Kipling Avenue, south of the Kingway, in September 1955. (Photograph from online Toronto Public Library collection.)

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The Church School quickly expanded beyond the capacity of the portable and began to meet at nearby St. George’s School.

A permanent building was dedicated on October 16, 1958 by Bishop Frederick Wilkinson. Situated on a two acre lot which backed onto a forest, the architectural design of the new building was striking and not the “norm” of post-World War II church buildings.

IMG_5472The plans called for a Christian education wing to the north, and a chapel and bell tower to the south. When the building was dedicated, optimism abounded: “With such expansion in so brief a period we should look forward, even at this time, to the day when we will need the additional facilities for which plans were laid at the outset.”.

IMG_5454The Christian education addition was built, but the tower and chapel never were.


In the 1970s an adjoining rectory was added. (As St. Wilfrid’s was my ‘parish’ church (in the geographical sense) and my father was the organist at St. Luke’s United to the north, I recall watching the rectory be built.)


No sooner had St. Wilfrid’s and the other “1950s” parishes been built than Anglican attendance in Canada began to fall. St. Wilfrid’s attendance peaked in the period 1961-1963 (an average of 394  weekly). As it happens, 1961 was the very year that the percentage of the Canadian population identified as Anglican peaked. By 1970, average weekly attendance was 192; by 1980 it was 115.

In the mid-1990s, St. Richard’s (to the north) approached St. Wilfrid’s to engage in a discussion of the possibility of amalgamation. The vision was of one facility (St Wilfrid’s) with two clergy and a deacon. In the end, while the vestry of St. Wilfrid’s approved the proposal, St. Richard’s vestry did not. Latterly, there were discussions involving St. Philip’s, Weston Road, and St. Matthias (on Royal York) but, again, no plan came to fruition.

The last service of the parish of St. Wilfrid’s was held on April 11, 2010. The building is now occupied by the Church of South India, a parish which is part of the Anglican Communion and associated with the Diocese of Toronto.


The post-war period between 1945 and 1966 witnessed an explosion of Anglican church growth in the City of Toronto with twenty-eight parishes being founded in that time period (averaging one every ten months!). This blog has told the stories of many parishes in the downtown or near-downtown which experienced profound demographic changes as their parishioners moved east, west and north into new suburban areas. The flip-side of this movement was the many parishes founded in new suburbs.

One of these twenty-eight parishes was St. Richard of Chichester, located in Etobicoke on The Westway between Kipling and Islington.

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In many ways, St. Richard’s is a ‘typical’ story of suburban church growth in this period. The life of the parish began in July 22, 1958 when thirty-seven people met in a small portable to conduct a vestry meeting requesting the Bishop of Toronto to establish a new parish. The congregation met in a portable until 1960

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In 1960, construction on a permanent building was completed.


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The parish’s first priest, the Reverend Fred Hall, served both St. Richard’s and the Anglican Church in Malton. He described the early missionary work of the parish in this way: “When we started, this was a very small Westway Village. We had high-calibre entertainment, musical plays. I went around slogging through muddy new subdivisions inviting people out.”  At one point the Sunday School numbered one hundred. It is same to assume that this pattern was played out throughout the City in these years, as the suburbs were built and populated and parishes were founded and grew. Fr Hall also recalled that church attendance began to drop as early as 1959. When the Diefenbaker government cancelled the Avro aircraft, British employees who had come to Canada to work on the project (and who lived in the neighbourhood) returned home.

By 1965 the parish was self-supporting and on May 25, 1980 the mortgage had been discharged and the building consecrated by Archbishop Lewis Garnsworthy. A new Keates pipe organ was dedicated at the same time.

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During the incumbency of Fr James McCue (1983-1991), the sanctuary was renovated with a new altar and furnishings. (I had the pleasure of playing the organ on the evening these renovations were dedicated.)

IMG_4275 (1024x711)IMG_4278 (1024x693)Changing demographics and a preponderance of Anglican churches nearby meant, for St. Richard’s, a gradual decline in parishioners and attendance. At one point the parish asked the parish of St. Wilfrid’s to the south to contemplate amalgamation, but, in the end, the St. Richard’s vestry declined to accept the proposal, which would have resulted in selling the St. Richard’s property. The final service was held on April 27, 2003, with the founding priest, the Reverend Fred Hall, preaching.

The building is now home to the New Gate Korean Presbyterian Church. (I have, as yet, not been able to gain access to the building to see what remains of the furnishings.

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The parish of St. James the Just (located in Downsview near Dufferin and Wilson) had a very short history of twenty-two years, with just thirteen years in its first and only building. And yet it also had a difficult birth.

After the Second World War, Downview was still largely a farming community, but farmland quickly began to be subdivided for housing. In 1946 a retired priest with the last name Ben-Oliel was appointed to begin an Anglican community. The first service was held on December 8, 1946 at the Duffield Community Hall located at Dufferin and Wilson. The building (known informally as Duffy’s Tavern, after a popular radio program at the time) had poor heat, a leaking roof, and was far from a commodious place from which to build a congregation. It was quite common for people to come once and not return.

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Land for a permanent church building was purchased on Dufferin Street but the congregation was not in a position to begin to build.

In the fall of 1949, the Reverend E.A.H. Clifford was appointed to St. James and the parish of St. Lawrence, which opened the previous year south of St. James on Dufferin. The congregation continued to meet at the Community Hall until it was condemned in 1953. This caused a crisis for the congregation which had, for a time, nowhere to meet. In January of 1954 it began to meet at the Anthony Road School. The move to a better location seemed to turn attendance around. Deaconess Mabel Jones was appointed to conduct a parish survey. Making over 1000 visits (a staggering number), she identified 346 Anglican families in the community. In May of 1954 a rectory was purchased and the Reverend George Joseph Ball was assigned to the parish.

But still, there were set-backs. The congregation had to move to a rented store for the summer of 1954, after the school year ended. But by September attendance was increasing again and $40,000 in pledges (approximately $350,000 in today’s dollars) had been made for a building.

The site that had been purchased on Dufferin had, by this time, been sold and a new site purchased.  Architectural drawings which had been prepared several years earlier were finally acted on and the cornerstone of the new building laid on March 6, 1955.

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Construction was speedy, with the first service of the completed St. James the Just being held on June 12, 1955.

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In his letter to the parish at the time of the opening of the building, Bishop Frederick Wilkinson wrote of his relief that the day had finally come: “I cannot tell you what great pleasure I have derived from the building, completing and opening of the Church of St. James-the-Just. When I first became responsible for the work of Chruch Extension I sometimes wondered whether the Church of St. James-the-Just was ever going to be completed.”

In 1959 the Reverend Marwood F. Patterson was appointed. (He is well-known now as Marney Patterson, author and evangelist.) St. James was booming. For example, at one point there were 131 children registered in the Sunday School, with an average weekly attendance of 81. The boom continued through the first half of the 1960s, but by mid-decade things had changed. The parish history refers obliquely to some controversy. Demographic changes were also having an impact on the parish. The Rector’s vestry report of 1966 refers to “quite a decline in attendance. People have been moving out and Italian people moving in.”  Parish offerings plummeted 72% in one year!

By the end of 1967 the diocese gave St. James two options. Either close or amalgamate with St. Lawrence. At a Special Vestry meeting the parish decided on amalgamation. The minutes of this meeting note: “At the present time St. James has no propsects because of the incoming Italian population, and also no place to expand on account of the Airport at the north and Yorkdale at the south.”

In February 1968, St. James and St. Lawrence (now known as San Lorenzo) amalgamated. The land was sold in order to pay down the parish’s debts.

Today the building is St. Norbert Roman Catholic Church, a parish whose liturgies are offered in both Italian and English.

IMG_4352 (683x1024)An entrance-way has been added to the west end of the building.


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Unfortunately there are no interior photographs of the interior of the building when it was St. James to compare to what it looks like today.

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This year is the thirtieth anniversary of St. Dunstan of Canterbury Anglican Church, the most easternly parish in the City of Toronto, located near the Rouge Valley.

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St. Dunstan’s was established from by an amalganation of two parishes: St. Edward the Confessor (which was located in West Hill, a short distance to the east) and St. Simon’s, which was located in the community of Highland Creek, a short distance north.

These two church buildings are among the most unusual that I’ve discovered in my research.

The St. Edward’s building began life in the nineteenth century as a barn on the Ed Lacey Farm. The barn and land was purchased by the Diocese of Toronto to allow for future church growth in the West Rouge community.

In 1959, the barn was renovated and converted into a worship space. Work on this project was funded by the Diocese of Toronto, under the supervision of the parish of St. Simon, Highland Creek (with whom St Edward’s would amalgamated in 1984).

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A new roof, floors, heat and plumbing were added, as well as windows in the form of a cross, all of which went some distance to making the building bear a closer resemblance to a church. The converted barn was opened for worship on September 13, 1959.

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Over the 20 years between 1962 and 1982, nineteen clerics served St. Edward’s (averaging almost one a year.) Among them was the Reverend Ina Caton (1979-1981), one of the first women ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Toronto. Perhaps because of this instability in leadership, coupled with a building which did not conform to expectations of what a church building “should” be, St. Edward’s never grew.

The last service was held on September 30, 1984, twenty five years from the first. The building was sold to Grace Baptist Church. In the mid-1990s it was sold to Muslim congregation, which now uses it as a mosque.

An interesting note about the building as it appears today is the alteration to the cruciform windows.

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The other predecessor parish to St. Dunstan of Canterbury was St. Simon’s, Highland Creek.

Highland Creek is a community in what is now Scarborough, located west of the Rouge Valley. Before the 1920s, Anglicans in Highland Creek travelled to St. Margaret’s, West Hill, some one-and-a-half miles to the west. In 1923, funds were raised to purchase a quarter of an acre in Highland Creek in order to build a church. St. Simon’s Church in Toronto (located on Bloor Street) provided a significant donation, and thus the new parish took the same name. Sod was turned in 1925 and the basement built. From 1923 until 1950, St. Simon’s, along with St. Margaret’s and Christ Church, Scarborough, formed one parish, known as the “Parish of Scarborough.” The undated photograph shows the priest and choir in front of the entrance to the basement church.

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After the Depression years, followed by the Second World War, work on the building resumed in 1952, when the first part of the superstructure was built. The building was designed by artist Donald Self, who was also a parishioner. Over the next five years, the building was completed.

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What made this building unique it unique is that it was assembled from bits and pieces rescued from other church buildings demolished in the 1950s. Some of the labour was provided by parishioners and the rector, the Reverend G.W.B. Wheeler.

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The lower nave windows came from Wood Street Congregational Church (located near Maple Leaf Gardens); the rose window from Elm Street Methodist Church, the clerestory windows from the Catholic Apostolic Church which was located at Gould and Victoria Streets. The diocesan archives also say that part of another window came from Yorkminster in the United Kingdom. Many of the windows were designed by Donald Self from salvaged glass. The south entrance doors came from St. Michael and All Angels on St. Clair Avenue, and the large nave and transept windows from St. George the Martyr, located near the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Thanks go to Fr Bob Bettson, a former parishioner of St. Simon’s, for the first photograph below.

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Not only did the Catholic Apostolic Church donate windows, but there was also a confidential donation. A letter in the Diocese of Toronto archives from Bishop Frederick Wilkinson to the rector and chruch wardens (dated December 16, 1955) explains the donation of $15,000. “The trustess of the Catholic Apostolic Church regard this as the Lord’s money to be used in the extension of his work, and they wish noreferene to be made to themselves or any publicity whatsoever.” (For more information about the Catholic Apostolic Church, see here.) The photograph below is of the Catholic Apostolic Church.

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In 1960 additional land was purchase and consideration was given to building a new church. Instead a parish hall was built, which opened in 1968.

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Again, in 1981, there was talk of a new church building.

It would seem that this “something borrowed, something blue” building never fully met the needs of the community. Instead, the building was sold in 1983, and St. Simon’s and St. Edward the Confessor amalgamated to form a new parish (St. Dunstan of Canterbury) with a new name in a new location.

The final service at St. Simon’s was held on November 30, 1983. The property was sold in July 1984 to a Sikh temple and, shortly thereafter, burned to the ground.

Today, the site of the former St. Simon’s is occupied by housing.

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Recently I was cleaning up my stash of photos taken for this project and came across four photos of St. Jude’s, Roncesvalles I’d somehow neglected to include in the original post.

These photos are of the exterior and interior of the original St. Jude’s, which opened in 1890. After the new church was built in 1912, this building served as the parish hall until 1929, when it was demolished to make way for a larger hall.

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This photograph show the new church with the old one still standing next door. From the landscaping, I’d presume this was taken in 1912 at the time of the completion of the new church.

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And, finally, a photograph of the new church with remarkably overgrown ivy, which must have significantly blocked the light through the west windows.

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The dates on this cornerstone (1832 – 1889 – 1956) tell, in brief, the story of Christ Church, Mimico, which served the community of Mimico for 179 years on what is now Royal York Road.

IMG_2057 (Medium)Today this is the site of Christ Church Mimico Memorial Garden, a cemetery and oasis on a busy road. Until two fires in 2006 destroyed the third Christ Church building, this was also the site of the parish church.

Christ Church was the eighth oldest parish in the Diocese of Toronto, dating its establishment to 1827 (although there may have been Anglican services held in Mimico as early as 1823). In the early 1820s, William J. Gamble (1805-1881) opened a sawmill on Mimico Creek and a community developed. Gamble was a driving force behind the establishment of an Anglican community in Mimico, and one story has it that part of his impetus was to provide spiritual activity to occupy his rowdy lumbermen. Among those who officiated on occasion in Mimico was John Strachan, later Bishop of Toronto.

The first Christ Church building was erected in 1832 on land donated by William Gamble. (I could find no indication of where services were held before 1832.) The images below capture this small frame building.

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Christ Church was served by the Reverend Thomas Phillips, who also served St. Phillp’s, Weston, which was founded in 1828. (Services were also held at an ‘intermediate point’ between the two, which was likely Islington, and which grew into St. George’s-on-the-Hill in 1847. By 1856, Christ Church and St. George’s were a two-point parish. In 1877, the first Christ Church building was enlarged with the addition of a chancel.

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In 1889 a decision was taken to build a new church, which was opened on June 9th of that year. The second Christ Church was a much larger and grander building.

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In 1892, Christ Church became a separate parish.

A remarkable aspect of the story of Christ Church is that it was led for a total of fifty-seven years by just two rectors, who were father and son. The Reverend Francis Tremayne became rector in 1877 until his death (in his ninetieth year) in 1919. His son, the Reverend H.O. (Herbert) Tremayne came to Christ Church in 1907 to assist his father, and served from his father’s death until his own death in 1934. Both are buried in the Christ Church cemetery.

In 1956, a decision was taken to demolish the second Christ Church and build again.

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It was this building which was seriously damaged in the 2006 fires, after which a decision was taken to demolish what remained. Until 2009, Christ Church worshipped with its daughter parish, St. James’, Humber Bay and, at the beginning of 2010, the new amalgamated parish of Christ Church St. James was established.

The parish’s bell is preserved in the cemetery, as well as other reminders of the long history of Christ Church, Mimico.

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