2 Historic pews for sale

These pews or benches were built in 1847 and have been in continuous use at Church of the Holy Trinity at Yonge and Dundas since that time. They were built by local craftspeople using pine cut in the forests around the 1847 edges of Toronto, now just uptown.

Many bottoms have rested on these pews over the years: rich and poor, young and old, politicians and citizens. They have been rattled with music from choirs, organs, and bands of many kinds — the Cowboy Junkies recorded here and rested on them in the 80s. This place has been at the centre of many community moments in 172 years. They have been slept on and around by draft dodgers, endured fire and flood. Now it’s time for some to go to new homes to allow new life for them and for those that remain.

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Getting out of God’s Way (Homily for Easter 5)

Acts 11:1-18     Psalm 148      Revelation 21:1-6     John 13:31-35

Sherman Hesselgrave

If there is one thing today’s scripture readings have in common, it is about God doing something NEW. “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” “Look, I make all things new.” And then there’s Peter, who clued in to the new thing God was doing after the third memo.

Jesus warned his disciples that God would be doing new things in the future, things they were not ready even to think about while he was yet with them. And, sure enough, it didn’t take long. One afternoon, while he was enjoying his siesta, God gave Peter a vision, which Peter interpreted as a test of his faithfulness to Jewish dietary laws. [A reproduction of Fran Sowton’s painting of Peter’s vision at Joppa is the featured image for this post.] When Peter came to realize that it was not a test, but a message, specifically a message that God was making the circle wider, and he needed Peter to be onside, he made the necessary adjustments, and embraced the new scope of the mission. In this instance, it was Peter’s own religious upbringing that got in God’s way—a phenomenon we will encounter repeatedly throughout Church history.

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God of extravagant love

Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 125, John 12:1-8,
and “The Heavens Torn Apart” – John Terpstra

Joanna Manning


The readings today are full of the promise of restoration. Isaiah has rivers gushing in the desert; the psalmist sings of those who sowed with tears reaping with joy and carrying home their sheaves; Paul tells us to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead; and in John’s gospel, Mary of Bethany pours out a jar of costly ointment which fills the whole house with its fragrance.

 And So we read about a God who breaks boundaries, does new things, a God of surprises, and a God of extravagant love! This is the thread that runs like gold through the readings of today, culminating in John’s account of the anointing of Jesus’s feet by Mary of Bethany then drying them with the strands of her lustrous long hair.

So in this gospel, after the raising of Lazarus, Jesus has returned again to the house at Bethany. It is possibly his last stop before he enters Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus feels safe here. Elsewhere Jesus has spoken wistfully about the birds of the air having a nest to shelter themselves, but he has nowhere to lay his head. But it does appear that he was a familiar and much loved guest here. It was a safe refuge, possibly the closest Jesus came anywhere to feeling at home and amongst friends.

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Living into Transformation

Homily for Lent 4, March 31, 2019

Sherman Hesselgrave

Joshua 5:9-12     Psalm 32       2 Corinthians 5:16-21  

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

There is no way to write a sermon and be oblivious to what is happening in the world around us. Two weeks ago, on the Ides of March, fifty people lost their lives in a shooting rampage at two New Zealand mosques. Millions turned out around the world to grieve the horrific loss of lives. This week, closer to home, a Muslim woman from Philadelphia was being sworn in as a new state representative in Pennsylvania, and at that legislative session another freshman representative, a Christian, was given the opportunity to offer an invocation. In her minute-and-48-second “prayer” she invoked the name of Jesus 13 times, in such an obviously  targeted way that an offended member in the chamber actually shouted, “Objection!” It was probably foolish of me not to give up Facebook for Lent, since I then felt compelled to find her official FB page and leave a comment. Of course, that released the proverbial Kraken, and a swarm of people who identify as Christian were not going to be convinced that the God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims was, indeed the same God, or that there was anything inappropriate about a politician using the name of Jesus as a cudgel in a secular government setting.

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loving justice in the heart of our city