Islington in the News

Interfaith Lectures 2020

Islington United interfaith lecture series
offers path to spiritual practice

'Through interfaith relationship we can learn
to love unconditionally,' says Barbara Sheffield

Opinion Jan 08, 2020 by Barbara Sheffield
Ever wonder what the fuss is all about when it comes to different religions and how the faithful practise them? Sometimes fear of the unknown or fear of the other drives our opinions and leads to lack of understanding or connection. Have you ever been in a faith conversation with a neighbour or friend about mindfulness or spiritual movements like tai chi or yoga or music that reflects our different faith traditions and wonder whether you need to drill down more into the subject matter?

Increasingly, we live in a pluralistic society where we can learn from each other about inner peace and spiritual harmony. Media reports these days talk about the rise of authoritarianism, nationalism and isolationism, which leads to division. Our world is more broken than ever, but we can be part of the healing in our own neighbourhoods. Through interfaith relationship we can learn to love unconditionally, to love our neighbour and promote respect and trust. Exploring interfaith practices allow us to deepen our own faith by learning from others.

Our Islington United Church Interfaith Circle is trying to build new relationships with others to find what we share in common, to find new pathways that lead to unity and peace. This month, on Wednesday evenings, we are offering a three-lecture interfaith series, Pathways to Spiritual Practice, which might be just the right educational experience for you. Contrary to what we might think, exploring interfaith should not create fear, but should help us connect. Through dialogue and collaboration, we become more open to new ideas and learn from the wisdom of traditions other than our own.

Our third annual lecture series begins on Jan. 15, as we explore prayer and mindfulness inspired by our Abrahamic roots, as well as by the Eastern traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism with Dr. Timothy Gianotti and Dr. Ranjini George.

On Jan. 22, we are focusing on the union of body, mind and spirit as a binding life force with Helen Wu (tai chi) and Marcia Wilkinson (yoga), as well as learning more about inner peace from lecturer Tevfik Baba when he shares with us the Whirling Dervish practice that comes from the Sufi Muslim tradition.

Jan. 29 will give us an experience of spiritual harmony in music and chanting. Our lecturer is Hussein Janomohamed, a composer, conductor, singer and music educator, who has a wonderful story to tell about the unifying role of music that comes with new relationships.

Come and join us at Islington United Church, 25 Burnhamthorpe Rd., for this community education event 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 22 and 29, where we will connect and learn about Pathways to Spiritual Practice. You can register through Eventbrite to let us know you are coming.

Let’s engage and enter into relationship with others in the community to discover what we share in common. Islington United Church sees interfaith activity as a fulfilment of our mission — Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.
Barbara Sheffield is Islington United Church's Interfaith Circle co-chair.

Islington in the News

The Colours of Christmas

Experiencing the Colours of
Christmas at Islington United Church
Rev. Maya Landell says the season invites
us to notice colours 'as an artist would'
Opinion Dec 16, 2019 by Rev. Maya Landell
Oscar Wilde once wrote that mere colour can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.

As we have prepared for the special seasons of Advent and Christmas at Islington United Church, I could not help but notice the colours of life all around us — red poinsettias, orange in candle flames, yellow star-shaped sugar cookies for coffee hour, greenery, blue in the Mary costume for Christmas Eve, and white twinkly lights lighting up the night. I see these colours in the eyes of children and adults alike who are paying attention to the mystery of Christmas all around them, who are finding the colours of their story interwoven with the colours of God’s story.

This season invites us into noticing, as an artist would, how these colours show up in our lives: the colour of hope, the colour of peace, the colour of joy, the colour of love. I hope others will notice the colours of Christmas differently this year as we prepare for Christmas Eve.

I am deeply grateful to serve in ministry at
Islington United, to be part of a community that places welcome, generosity and compassion at the heart of all we do. We are a colourful community that is passionate about faith in action. We are a community that serves from the heart. We are a community that doesn’t always agree and works to make room for difference of opinion. We are a community that is moved to care and reach out. We are a community that trusts the peace that passes all understanding is always with us, guiding us through the Christ-light, to make a difference.

We have also made room for the colours of remembrance and grief in a service for those who are finding the holidays difficult. The Blue Christmas service, a special time of music, prayer and candlelighting, designed to assure us of God’s support and presence, demonstrates our love and caring. Grief and suffering will not last forever. Gradually, heavy hearts lighten, feel comforted, less sad and less lonely, knowing that we can all trust in God’s love, in the light beyond darkness.

At Christmas in Islington, the colours of Christmas were given a soundtrack, a time when we heard choirs of all ages, handbells, orchestra and community singing, celebrating the season of light.

Join us on Sunday, Dec. 22, at either the 9:30 a.m. service or the 11:15 a.m. service, or on Christmas Eve — when more than 1,500 people will join us for four services — families with young children at 5 p.m., carols and readings 7 and 9 p.m., followed by candlelight communion at 11 p.m. And, if you are homebound, see the colours online as the 7, 9 and 11 p.m. services are streamed live at On Sunday, Dec. 29, we are offering one service for people of all ages, to have another taste of Christmas together.

The baby is coming, the Christ Child who changes hearts and calls us to co-creating a better world together. Don’t miss it! No matter what you are doing, take a moment to pause and notice the colours of Christmas around us. Blessings. Rev. Maya Landell is the lead minister of Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Islington Rummage Sale

More Than a Rummage Sale
Article in Etobicoke Snapd (Dec. 2019)

Islington United Church was once again transformed into a shopping extravaganza on October 25 as it hosted its annual Rummage and Christmas Sale. Bargains were sought after in every nook and cranny of the church. Attendees bustled in the themed rooms, including a Christmas room, as they searched for that special something. Shoppers had lots of choices such as gently used and new clothing, accessories, collectibles, vintage treasures, home decor, clothing, accessories, costume jewelry, shoes, books, toys, games, linens, household goods, sports equipment, small appliances, arts & crafts, china, antiques, furniture, food stand and much more. The packed church was as busy as ever with many people finding coveted treasures.

Islington in the News

Sound of Peace Concert

Sound of Peace Concert
Article in Etobicoke Snapd (Dec. 2019)

On November 9, everyone was invited to gather at Islington United Church for a unique and beautiful evening concert of remembrance with the senior choir, conducted by Jason Locke. The concert started with Instrument of Piece, featuring the higher voices of the choir. Then, soloists David Walsh, Peter Barnes, Jennifer Taverner, Lindsay Promane, Ben Promane (trumpet), and Cynthia Smithers took over the stage with different themes that delighted the audience in commemoration of Remembrance Day. Reverend Maya Landell, IUC lead minister, did the act of remembrance, thanking everyone for being a part of this Sounds of Peace concert.

Islington in the News

Islington Sings (Nov.)

Islington Sings
Article in Etobicoke Snapd (Dec. 2019)

Islington Sings is a community sing-a-long out of the Islington United Church that is entering its fourth year of active fun. Regular members meet once a month to enjoy and sing themed music such as love, camp, broadway, hymns and standard songs.

For their get together on November 13, the group picked an assortment of material that was requested by members. Islington Sings is open to all ages. It is a casual, friendly and non pressured atmosphere and you can enjoy some refreshments afterwards. On December 11, they will be singing holiday carols.

Islington in the News

Craft Show & Café

With These Hands Craft Show& Café
Article in Etobicoke Snapd (Dec. 2019)

On November 23, Islington United Church opened their doors to welcome the community to the “With These Hands Craft Sale & Café”. The event featured local craft vendors who displayed their best items for the holiday shopping season – from frilly to felted, cookies to cards, jewelry to jams, and so much more! Plus, there were a ton of baked goods for sale, prepared exclusively for this special season. Carrie Chenier, Chair of the Sale & Café, thanked the attendees for their support of Canadian vendors, and looks forward to having everyone back at the next event!

Islington in the News

Hospitality at Islington

Hospitality is an embodiment of faith at Islington United Church. Helping others recognizes 'the equal value and dignity of all persons,' writes Isla Grady
Opinion Nov 14, 2019 by Isla Grady

Hospitality — such a familiar word. The word has origins from the French hospitalité, and Latin hospitalitas, hospes — ‘host, guest’. Hearing the word “hospitality” can conjure up images of welcoming faces, or maybe the hospitality industry providing food, drink and tourism dollars for our cities. Or maybe in our homes arranging dinners for our family and friends. These are great images, but they sometimes miss the dynamic expression of vibrant faith that the practice of biblical hospitality conveys. In biblical texts hospitality has Greek origins, “philoxenia,” a blend of two words: philo, 'love' and xenia, 'stranger' — love of strangers.

My family attends Islington United Church. Hospitality is one of the core values at Islington. Our mission motto, "Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds," is an expression of that desire to move from tolerance to offering unconditional welcome.

Islington United has a vibrant hospitality ministry. I have been blessed to serve with a team of amazing women and men who are the very embodiment of the word hospitality. This dedicated group serves food to hundreds of people each month at our food bank, church luncheons and dinners. At Islington United, when we gather, we welcome and we eat!

Our team understands that welcoming a stranger, showing hospitality, isn’t just a nice thing to do if we can. It’s the very embodiment of our faith. Offering food and shelter to strangers, as well as friends, remains a vital way of recognizing the equal value and dignity of all persons. We share this value of hospitality with many faith groups in our community, and our work together means we share resources with Out of the Cold and other programs in our community and beyond.

Islington’s value of hospitality is the foundation of our strong programs of social justice and our team is committed to providing food and fellowship in support of all our ministries. This month, we celebrated 40 years of refugee sponsorship. We hosted the 103 individuals and their families we have sponsored from all over the world. Of course our team prepared food, and more than 200 people enjoyed a fun-filled luncheon after a joyful worship service. Our team understands serving food is a place of trust between the host and guest and gathering people into community at the table is at the very heart of hospitality.

When we share a meal together, our conversation changes. We celebrate joys, we share times of struggle. Over a meal we encourage each other, we help problem-solve, we listen. It becomes a place of hope where we can move from feeling lonely and lost to finding hope and help. At Islington, our hospitality ministry’s message is come in and be safe, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.

We invite and warmly welcome you to our many worship services and celebrations over the seasons of advent and Christmas. Visit our website at for more information.

May this be a special season of hope, peace, joy, love and health, and may you experience the true welcome of hospitality. Isla Grady is the lead of the hospitality team at Islington United Church.


Islington in the News

Refugee Support Ministry

103 people, 33 families, 13 countries Toronto church helps refugees find 'a new place to land'

Islington in the News

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Etobicoke Church Group Hopes Prayer Shawls Will Bring 'Some comfort and healing'
"Shawls will be sent to 'families and friends of those who were killed and wounded' in synagogue shooting", writes Carol Wilson
Opinion - Oct. 22, 2019 by Carol Wilson -

An act of terror killed 11 people and injured six others during a prayer service at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Oct. 27, 2018. In response to this mass shooting, a group at Islington United Church committed to knitting and crocheting prayer shawls for the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. On the first anniversary of this attack, the shawls will be blessed by the minister and a guest rabbi during Sunday services, and subsequently sent to the synagogue in hopes of extending comfort and healing to the families.

For centuries, the term "prayer shawl" has referred to tallits, or Jewish prayer shawls, which are used in worship to symbolize the commandments of the Torah. However, more recently a different type of prayer shawl has emerged, which is not faith specific and is known by various names including: Prayer Shawl, Comfort Shawl, Peace Shawl, and Healing Shawl.

The contemporary prayer shawl serves to offer healing, peace and hope to the wearer as blessings, verse, song, mantras or prayers are stitched into each garment by the crafters. For the crafters, the very act of knitting and purling a garment together is a tangible and visible act of connecting to the divine.

“Out of a single strand of yarn, a flowing fabric emerges that will eventually wrap itself around another’s shoulders and speak love into another’s heart, a visual expression of Mystery,” according to Susan Jorgensen and Susan Izard in their book Knitting Into the Mystery.

The experience of making prayer shawls replicates life with beginnings (casting on), living (remedying mistakes, including picking up dropped stitches or tearing out the errors and starting over), and endings (casting off and giving the shawl away).

The healing shawl group at Islington United Church was formed in the early 2000s by Audrey McLeod, whose instructions for the group included a message of connection and care for shawl recipients.

In recent years, Gayle Little has continued this legacy by serving as the prayer shawl co-ordinator on the pastoral care committee. She identifies needs, provides shawl instructions, wool (usually donated), and ensures the delivery of shawls to grateful recipients.

In 2005, church member Mary Bradley began a weekly knitting group, motivated by her love of crafting, creativity and building community for women.

Mary says, “Knitting is a form of prayer. When we knit, we are making a difference in this turbulent world.”

The blessings woven into the shawls are replicated among those who are part of this group, as crafters laugh at joy shared, hold the pain of another who is struggling, and knit into the Mystery.

Please join us at either the 9:30 a.m. or the 11:15 a.m. service on Oct. 27 when the shawls will be blessed. Carol Wilson is a member of Mary’s group and co-chair of the Interfaith Circle at Islington United Church.


Islington in the News

Resonance Project

Resonance Project at Islington United Church
Creates Community for Youth
"Program connects youth through food,
music, and art" writes Andrew Aitchison
Opinion - Sept. 15, 2019 by Andrew Aitchison -

In today’s hyper-connected digital world — social media weaving through most of our lives — it’s hard to believe that lack of connection and loneliness are reported at all-time highs among youth and young adults. In part, as a response to this need, Islington United Church has launched a new worship and engagement experience called “The Resonance Project.” The result of a generous grant from the United Church of Canada, it is geared to connect with youth and young adults, creating a space for community.

Resonance seeks a different way to connect with God, ourselves, and with one another. The aim is to do this through food, music, art and community in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. A church gym is transformed each time we gather, becoming a cosy carpeted environment enclosed by drapery and soft lighting, with comfy chairs and cushions. This makes a more-relaxed space where our Christian tradition is brought into conversation with other traditions: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, the Bahá'í Faith and others. The Resonance band grounds the interactive experience each time by leading the gathering in upbeat and contemplative music, while a guest artist or speaker is woven into the worship to engage with the participants artistically. It’s a safe space to explore faith and life issues with people you can trust.

Sharing a meal in itself can be a sacred experience and this is a central part of each Resonance event. The meal begins at 6 p.m. in the Resonance Café and then we move into the worship space as we feel ready, generally a bit before 7 p.m. The service wraps up around 8 p.m. and with many hands making light work, we then tear down the gear and return the space to its former gymnasium glory. Following this quick transformation, folks, who want to keep the conversation going generally move on to a local bar for continuing connection in community.

The inaugural experience took place in March, with worship experiences being offered every other month since then. Alternate months feature “Resonance Socials,” which began with a summer excursion to Toronto’s Centre Island and will continue through this year with fun events such as board games, baking and sports, live band karaoke, escape rooms, barbecues and more, all to further engage folks in community experiences. Upcoming Resonance Worships at 6 p.m. are on Oct. 27, 2019; Dec. 29, 2019; Feb. 23, 2020; April 26, 2020; June 28, 2020. Resonance Socials are Sept. 22, 2019; Nov. 24, 2019; Jan. 26, 2020; March 29, 2020 and May 24, 2020.

If you are a youth or young adult who is looking for connection and spiritual engagement, come check us out at one of our worship experiences or social events. Bring others from your own circle of friends with you. It’s an opportunity to experience community. You will find us in Stewart East Hall, Islington United Church, 25 Burnhamthorpe Rd. Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram — The Resonance Project IUC. Andrew Aitchison is staff music associate with Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

IUC rEcess Program

Islington United Church Program Offers
Monthly Program for Special Needs Kids
'We offer parents a night off,' writes Michelle Allen
Opinion Aug 12, 2019 by Michelle Allen

To be honest, I started rEcess Islington for selfish reasons. I was worried that my five-year-old twins were growing up to be spoiled and entitled. To combat this, I wanted to provide them with a volunteer opportunity that supported families in our direct community, was really fun and that we could do together.

My search brought me to rEcess Oakville, where we volunteered for six months before partnering with Stephanie Collins and starting a rEcess chapter of our own at Islington United Church. The result has been an awesome experience for my twins and for the dozens of families who participate each month.

rEcess is a free, once-per-month child care program for children with special needs and their siblings. We offer parents a night “off” while we provide their kids with a safe, inclusive and engaging environment. Each child at rEcess is paired with a trained volunteer and is encouraged to move between the play spaces where we have games, crafts and sensory activities. Everything at rEcess is adapted to meet kids’ unique needs and interests.

It’s also an awesome place to volunteer. Each month, we host approximately 25 children through the support of more than 50 volunteers. Our volunteers work one-on-one with the kids in the program, supervise our play rooms and cook a delicious meal for the volunteers before the kids arrive.

We have been blessed with an outpouring of support from the surrounding community, including lots of high school students and parents wanting to volunteer with their children. As a high school teacher, I have recruited student volunteers from my own school; some of whom have challenging life circumstances themselves. It is a joy to see these students, and all our volunteers, donating their time on Saturday evenings to brighten the lives of families in our community.

As a mom, I know that raising children is, at times, isolating, overwhelming and exhausting. I can only imagine the added stress of raising children with special physical, cognitive and emotional needs. It is my hope that rEcess offers parents a little bit of the love and support they deserve.

Here is what one parent had to say about us: “Having rEcess start in our community has been a small thing with a big impact for us. We have child care for our son, without needing to think about whether we're asking too much of a sitter. Our neurotypical daughter is welcome too — and there aren't too many places or activities that embrace both equally. It means a lot to have them both be 'kids' together. And having the regular times set for us mean we actually make plans as a couple ‘just because,’ which is something we don't otherwise do."

It’s been an honour to have started rEcess Islington in our community and I’m excited to start our new season in September. If you are wondering how to get involved, check out our website or send us an email at We would love to connect you with our awesome program. Open hearts, open minds, open doors.

Michelle Allen is co-founder of the rEcess program at Islington United Church where she is a member. The program was first started in the U.S. and there are now four locations in Ontario, including out of Kingsway Baptist Church in Etobicoke and in Oakville and Burlington. Michelle Allen is the co-ordinator of the rEcess program at Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Mabelle Food Program

Building Community Through
the Mabelle Food Program in Etobicoke
Mabelle Avenue a 'food desert', write David and Carol Laughton
July 15, 2019 - David and Carol Laughton -
Ever wonder what it takes to create a world of caring justice? At Islington United Church we are trying to build community through food. We established the Mabelle Food Program about 12 years ago with a Christmas basket initiative that soon expanded when we realized there was a much greater need very close to home.

The program is operated by a small team of directors and supported by 40 volunteers, many of whom are retired and have a passion to help others. What motivates our volunteers is knowing that we make a difference in the lives of people who otherwise could not adequately support themselves. Gratitude and smiles are the reward.

The program operates at the Mabelle Avenue housing complex in the buildings where our clients live. This area is considered to be a “food desert” with no easily accessible, affordable grocery shopping. Medical, mobility, language and age issues make shopping all but impossible for most clients since most do not have access to affordable transportation. Currently, we serve more than 200 client families representing more than 450 people. Eighty to 100 client families are served each distribution day.

The Mabelle Food Program is one of 179 agencies supported by the
Daily Bread Food Bank. It is also supported by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which supplies the space required at no cost. Every two weeks, a team of volunteers sets up in the gym at 49 Mabelle Ave. and prepares to offer food and hospitality to client families. Daily Bread supplies some basic needs and our team accesses those supplies and supplements them with donations from the Islington United Church congregation, other supporting congregations and community groups.
During the growing season, fresh vegetables are supplied by Islington's
Giving Garden, harvested and packaged by our green team. Clients are always pleased to receive fresh produce. In the winter, newly knitted hats, scarves, and mittens are generously donated by a team of church volunteers.
Distribution begins at 11 a.m. and clients are admitted based on a lucky draw number selected when they arrive. Each client is then registered with Daily Bread and paired with a volunteer shopper. Clients select from the groceries available in a grocery store-style format in accordance with the number of people in their family. At the end, the client can select from the "miscellaneous" table of items that are not normally offered — things such as toothpaste, hair shampoo and detergent.

After shopping, the client is free to participate in a light lunch of warm soup, cheese sandwich, fresh fruit and cakes/cookies provided by Islington’s hospitality committee. It’s a safe place for friendly conversation with friends, neighbours and volunteer staff that leads to building community. Some clients do not shop; they come only for the camaraderie of the social experience and just want to talk and hang out.

Financial contributions or contributions of stable shelf food items can be made at Islington United Church office,
25 Burnhamthorpe Rd., northeast corner of Dundas Street West and Burnhamthorpe Road.
For more information on how you can help, contact us at or 416 239-1131. Open hearts, open minds, open doors.

David and Carol Laughton are responsible for Islington United Church's Mabelle Food Program.

Islington in the News

Summer Music Camp

Summer Music Camp
'Shapes character, promotes self-challenge'

Building skills and friendships that last a lifetime
June 20, 2019 - Jason Locke -
As a young person, I grew up attending Salvation Army music camps. I dedicated my summers to working at camps for underprivileged children: Roblin Lake Camp, in Ameliasburg, Ont., and Camp Sebago, near Portland, Maine. These were wonderful summers — filled with learning and growing opportunities.

Twelve years ago, working as music director at a church in Scarborough, I launched a two-week day camp that focused on introducing children to band instruments. It was received with enthusiasm and excitement. Every year, since then, I have been running summer band camps. They’ve changed along the way, to adapt to the needs and skills of the communities where I find myself, but the core drive remains the same.

At the root of summer camp, we find this question: how can we, as a faith community, provide opportunities for children to experience what it is to learn a new skill and grow as young people along the way? We get an opportunity through music-making to shape character and promote self-challenge. These lessons transfer beautifully to other facets of life: how do we learn to commit ourselves to a task, to be patient with ourselves and work with others who may be different?

This summer,
Islington United Church is embarking on its first Summer Band Camp from July 22 to Aug. 2. Children from the ages of senior kindergarten through Grade 8 are welcome to participate in two concurrent programs. The early learners music program will focus on rhythm, movement, recorders, singing and engaging in musical activities together. For those who are a little older, ages eight to 12, we teach band instruments (woodwinds, brass and percussion) in a band setting with daily rehearsals and sectionals. For youth who are high school age, we have a leaders-in-training program where they get to focus on their unique leadership skills (not necessarily musical skills) during the camp experience.

The core program includes other opportunities, such as arts and crafts, sports and games, and other musical and non-musical electives that campers get to choose. Throw in some outside play, snacks and lunch, as well as a final concert for the community, and there we have it — two-week Summer Band Camp, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. We can even handle early drop-off at 8:30 a.m. and late pickup until 5 p.m. And, as a great end to a full and rewarding two weeks of fun and hard work, we will head to a water park on that last day of band camp.

To register for band camp, visit: or for more information, call me at the church: 416-239-1131, ext. 226, or reach me by email at The registration fee for both weeks is $500, but there are additional discounts for families with multiple children. If you need help with the fees, there are also scholarships and financial assistance.

What a great opportunity to help your children develop life and music skills in a faith-based setting — Summer Band Camp — friendships that last a lifetime. Jason Locke is minister of music at Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Diversity and Inclusivity

Islington United Church
Committed to Diversity and Inclusivity
May 16, 2019 - Peggy Sheffield -
“Those who feel marginalized should be heard”
writes Peggy Sheffield

A year ago, Islington United Church committed to becoming an affirming congregation in the United Church of Canada- a congregation that welcomes everyone, that is public, intentional and explicit in our commitment to diversity and inclusivity. We committed to eliminating discrimination against all people and creating safe space for worship, education and dialogue. It means that we will continue to grow in celebrating God’s love and no one needs to fear they are not welcome.

We are celebrating our first year of such justice and compassion by welcoming Pam Rocker, the past national chair of Affirm, who is from Calgary, to preach at our Sunday service on June 2. She has chosen to speak on Burnt Toast for the Journey. She believes that affirming is a radical hospitable notion, a dedication to honour difference, a mark of leadership and boldness in a world that can be ambivalent.

She is an atypical activist, award-winning writer, musician and speaker, who has been chosen as one of Calgary's Top 40 Under 40. She seeks to communicate with humanity and humour, and to challenge prejudice exploring theology, feminism, equity and diversity. For almost a decade, she has worked for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in faith communities, organizations and in society. She is known for taking serious and sometimes controversial topics, helping people connect to, learn from and find joy within. She is currently board chair of the United Church of Canada’s Broadview magazine, and she plays a mean ukulele.

I became involved in supporting Affirm when a gay business colleague, who died recently, told me that he could not go to church anymore because it was not a comfortable place to be. I found that very sad, because faith communities are places of safety, places to work together to reduce oppression and hatred in the world. Affirming gives congregants a forum to ask questions, learn and engage to make the world a better place. I care that the voice of those who feel marginalized should be heard and valued in church life and community.

Starting in September, we will be hosting rEcess, a program that runs one Saturday night per month to serve families affected by disabilities. Parents can bring a child with special needs and their siblings to rEcess so that they can go out on a date, reconnect and not worry about their children. To host the program, we have had to renovate part of our building to be more accessible and are raising $45,000 through a gift-card project to create a barrier-free building.

Whether you are a person of faith or searching; rich or poor; physically challenged or not; gay, straight or trans; or a newcomer to Canada looking for a faith home — there is a place for you at Islington United Church. You are welcome. Come and find a home with us. Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.

Join us on June 2, at 11:15 a.m. worship, to learn more about Burnt Toast for the Journey.

Peggy Sheffield is lead of the Affirm Team at Islington United Church.


Islington in the News

Book Leads to Retreat

Moving Book Leads to Retreat at Church
April 18, 2019 - Dale Kucharczyk - Etobicoke Guardian

“Retreat will explore ways to discover and
experience god's love” writes Dale Kucharczyk
Have you ever been pas­sionate about something, so much so that you wanted to share it with anyone who would listen? As a woman of faith at Islington United Church, I could not help but wonder if such passion was placed on my heart for a purpose. And, then I read the first book in the Sensi­ble Shoes series by Sharon Garlough Brown.

The books tell the story of four women who are aware that something is not quite right with their lives. They hesitantly sign up for a six-session Sacred Journey retreat that changes their lives as it brings these diverse wom­en into relationship with each other and God.

During the retreat, they are introduced to spiritual practices that bring them into a deeper relationship with the Almighty. Getting to know and be known by God takes intentional prac­tice and, like a physical workout, one builds mus­cle and tone by repeating a variety of exercises. The spiritual director in the book leads the women through various practices that help them discover how God is present in their lives and the lives of their friends, partners and chil­dren.

After being moved to tears by how the lives of the characters touched mine, I sent the author an email. One thing led to another, and I invited her and her husband, Jack, to lead a one-day adult spiritual en­richment retreat at Isling­ton United Church in May that will explore ways to discover and experience God's love.

This retreat, entitled Deeper into the Heart of God, is an opportunity to experience the transfor­mative power of God as re­vealed in these books.

A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. Sharon Garlough Brown is a spiritual director in addi­tion to her work as an au­thor and retreat speaker. She has served on the pas­toral staff of congregations in Scotland, Oklahoma, England and most recently in West Michigan. Jack Brown, her husband, is a pastor, teacher, and wor­ship leader, who is also a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. Jack has served with Shar­on in churches around the world and currently serves as the worship and spiritu­al formation pastor at Sar­anac Community Church in Michigan.

Faith formation at Is­lington is offered in a vari­ety of ways, whether it is found in Bible study. discussion, Lenten studies, meditation sessions, re­treats, lectures, or the Sun­day sermon. We are a learn­ing church with groups to help people at all stages in their spiritual journey ex­plore and develop their un­derstanding of Christian faith and its importance in today's complex world. Join us to discover, explore and develop your spiritual­ity.

On Friday. May 3 at 7 p.m. hear how Jack and Sharon were led deeper into the heart of God's love with a free-will offering. On Satur­day, May 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. spend the day learning spiritual practices that help us receive, remain in and respond to the love of God in Christ for a registra­tion fee of $50.

For tickets, visit the church office at 25 Burn­hamthorpe Rd. or call 416- 239-1131
Dale Kucharczyk is the Deeper into the Heart of God retreat co-ordinator, Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Purple Dress for Lent

Etobicoke Minister Wearing Same
Purple Dress for 40 Days of Lent
March  21, 2019 - Rev. Maya Landell -

Lent is a time 'reorient back to the heart
of all life' says Rev. Maya Landell
Sometimes we can walk right through a mystery and don't even notice it. 

For Christians around the world, Ash Wednesday, March 6 this year, marked the beginning of Lent, the 40-day journey that helps us get ready to enter the Mystery of Easter. Lent is a time of repentance, meaning to turn around or reorient back to the heart of all life. It is a time to let go of something, participating in the ancient practice of fasting. I wonder what you are willing to give up, to cease from doing, in order to live?

A few years ago, I fasted from wearing different clothes. In solidarity with many people around the world who only own one or two outfits, I wore the same purple dress for the 40 days of Lent (with the exception of pyjamas and workout clothes). I redirected the effort and mind power of deciding on daily clothes choices to make room for drawing closer to God, and substituted that time with prayer.

This Lent, I will wear the same purple dress again for 40 days, redirecting found time to reading and action, to make more room to explore what it means to be committed to Reconciliation and Right Relations. When I look in the mirror, may the purple dress remind me that I do have time for important things, that Lent can also be a time for trying something new that helps us reorient.

At Islington United, we have many options to engage Lenten practice. People in our community have written daily reflections for this season, which can be found on our website In addition, each Wednesday, we will gather for a meal at 6 p.m. and a time of learning around the theme Feasting on the Gifts: A New Understanding of First Nations. Join us, if you can, by calling the church office at 416-239-1131 to let us know you are coming.

And we even have a retreat April 7 to 12 at the church called Week of Guided Prayer centred around the call to Abundant Life.

Lent is a season for going deeper on the journey to Easter, answering the call to follow Jesus, who showed radical hospitality, unconditional love and never-ending grace. During Holy Week, we will tell the story of Jesus’ final journey. This powerful experience begins April 14, Palm Sunday, followed by a Monday prayer vigil ending with a 7 p.m. meditation in the chapel.

Tuesday, April 16, we are offering a soup lunch and bible study at noon, and again at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 17 at 2 p.m. we will be gathering to sing the hymns that encounter the cross, and Maundy Thursday, April 18 at 5:30 p.m. we will tell the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet followed by sharing a meal together and a special communion service. 

We mark Good Friday, April 19 with a 10:30 a.m. service leading to the hope of Easter Sunday (9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.). Join us at any time on this journey; may the next 40 days be filled with reminders that in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not Alone. Rev. Maya Landell is the lead minister at Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Inner Peace is Available

Inner Peace is Available to
One and All,' writes James Aitchison

February 28, 2019 - James Aitchison - Etobicoke Gaudardian

In a world increasingly reaching toward warp speed, people need ways to become quiet, to slow down and become grounded. 

This need is common to all. In the wake of our
Interfaith Lecture Series at Islington United Church, we marvelled at just how much we found in common between people of different faiths. Placing Christianity in conversation with Hinduism and Buddhism, we discovered some fertile crossover. Of course, each faith has a distinct history, but in terms of practice, we found much shared interest in learning to centre ourselves.

Meditation in Buddhist and Hindu practice is well documented. Most of us associate meditation with these traditions. What many of us fail to realize is that Christian mystics (both ancient and contemporary) have similarly used centring prayer as a grounding practice to find inner peace. No matter the background, I sense this inner peace is available to one and all.

There are many ways to approach meditation, and various intentions one might carry into it. Perhaps the best attitude for meditation is one of openness and curiosity — a willingness to explore oneself a bit more attentively. By sitting comfortably and simply noticing the breath (ideally through the nose), we can ground ourselves in the present moment, not getting caught up in our habitual speculation and judgment.

One way to observe our progress in a meditative path is by monitoring our physical relaxation and mental alertness, like two sides of a coin. By allowing our bodies to relax, we invite the energy and intelligence of nature to bring us back into a state of balance. By staying wakeful and alert, we strengthen our awareness, developing perspective. The combination of these two elements is experienced as peace and clarity.

I stumbled into meditation while cycling around Europe, landing a job at a yoga retreat centre in Italy. I began experimenting with the teaching of the Hindu sage
Nisargadatta Maharaj, meditating on the feeling "I am", continually recentering my attention when it wandered outward. I later realized how deeply this connected with biblical wisdom, God revealing himself first to the Hebrews as "I am", and Jesus later claiming this same "I am" to be his own identity.

I wonder what we might discover if we paid more attention to this sense within us, this feeling of "I am"? Instead of focusing on all of the things the world might try to convince us of, how might we engage differently if we were more centred, more mindful of our own ground?

Though holding our attention on something like "I am" can be challenging as a beginner, using our breath as an anchor is a great way to develop momentum. Meditating with others can also be supportive of our practice.

I host breath-centred meditation at Islington United Church every Monday at 7 p.m. and on the second and fourth Fridays of every month at 3 p.m. Join us in the chapel as we ground ourselves in our breath. James Aitchison is a pastoral care student minister at Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Interfaith Lectures

Islington United Church
Hosts Interfaith Lectures

January 29, 2019 by Tamara Shepard

Moderator James Aitchison encourages people not to be afraid of 'other'

A cold, unseasonably rainy winter night didn’t discourage approximately 130 people last week from hearing perspectives on how Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions engage with Christianity.

This month,
Islington United Church hosted its second interfaith lecture series, Eastern Traditions: Pathways to Spirituality, as part of its interfaith work.

“Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” is Islington United Church’s mission.

The panel discussion, the final session of the Etobicoke church’s three-week interfaith lecture series, heard from Swamini Shivapriyananda on Hinduism, Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala, known as the Urban Buddhist Monk, and
Michelle Voss Roberts on Christianity.

Earlier this month, Shivapriyananda, with Chinmaya Vedanta Heritage Centre
in Brampton, and Saranapala, with West-End Buddhist Cultural Centre in Mississauga, each lectured on their own faiths.

Last week, each lecturer shared the practices and principles important to their own spiritual traditions.

Voss Roberts, the first female principal of
Emmanuel College, a theological college associated with the United Church of Canada at the University of Toronto, spoke of Christian practices of “attention to the movement of God’s spirit."

"Where is that spirit moving in the self, moving in the community and moving in the world? Prayer is important, song, meditation on scripture or an icon, walking a labyrinth, poetry. Those things attend to God’s motion in ourselves and in the world,” Voss Roberts said. 

Buddhism is focused on the internal life and the understanding that “all problems, whatever they are, are in the mind,” Saranapala said.

“We learn how to fix our own mind,” Saranapala said. “All the problems and suffering that arise in our lives come from our words, our actions and our mind. We learn a major paradigm shift to right understanding, right thinking, right actions, right effort, right concentration. When you train your mind to concentrate on the right things, there is a huge positive change in your life.”

Hinduism teaches “we are all divine beings,” Shivapriyananda said. “The purpose is to live as a divine being, with all your practices directed toward unveiling the divinity within. You avoid selfish actions by purifying the mind.”

Voss Roberts noted both Hindu and Buddhist traditions teach the “gentle practice of non-attachment.”

“Society needs this coming together,” attendee Candace Brown said of the interfaith lecture series.

“They’re talking about love, loving kindness, compassion. I think that’s the basis of humanity regardless of religion. There’s so much truth in that,” she said.
Moderator James Aitchison, a student minister and master of divinity student at Emmanuel College, said he “wants to encourage people not to be afraid of 'other.'"
During a decade of travel, Aitchison practised yoga and meditation at a Buddhist retreat in India.

“I found I was able to stand in my own tradition more because of these engagements with Eastern traditions. I think it gives us a great capacity to find our unity.”

Jack Grady moderated Islington United’s interfaith series last year, which explored Christianity, Judaism and Islam’s common roots in seeking peace and justice.

“We don’t have the one true Word. There are many pathways to God,” Grady said. “The value of interfaith work is to think more deeply about our own faith background and faith traditions. Interfaith is important; learning about another religion is important.”
Linda Gershuny, previously Jewish and now Baha’i, has attended all of Islington United’s interfaith lectures.

“The only way to get out of our troubled state is moving toward unity. I believe it will happen,” Gershuny said. “Eastern traditions resonate a lot with North Americans because of their focus on peacefulness.”

Islington in the News

Faith Communities

Faith communities look different these days -
and Islington United Church is no exception
Dec 29, 2018 by Barbara Sheffield in

'We learn to live unconditionally, to heal a broken world,' writes Barbara Sheffield

Faith communities look different these days. Some have even gone so far as to say, “This is not your grandmother’s church; come and discover us.” In addition to worship, education and study, congregations and parishes are reaching out to the community, inviting more engagement and connection.

Networks, circles, collaborative projects are all part of church life today. And, Islington United Church is no exception. One of our newest initiatives is our Interfaith Circle, established to build ecumenical and interfaith relationships. We discover, celebrate and demonstrate respect for all faith traditions through relationship.

But, what does that look like? — Conversations, lectures, sharing meals, music and cosponsoring youth programs like summer camp and a weekly basketball and arts program.

It begins by seeing each other with new eyes and hearing each other with new hearts so that we can trust each other in new ways. It is more than words or talk. It includes welcoming the stranger, working collaboratively and demonstrating empathy. It involves not just knowledge, but entering into a relationship with others to find what we share in common.

New relationships show us how to share our values, address racism, learn more about each other and to seek justice and peace in our communities. We have participated with our Muslim neighbours in an Iftar, a meal that ends a dawn-to-dusk fasting, that is part of Ramadan in partnership with the Arab Community Centre. We knitted prayer shawls to send to the Quebec City Mosque to grieving families after the terrible attack there in 2016. We invited a Muslim imam, Jewish rabbi and Christian minister to lead us in worship. In 2018, we became involved with the Ribbons of Peace project, a community art installation, with Arts Etobicoke, Montgomery’s Inn and Creative Village Studio, that was supported by the Islington Business Improvement Association, to create public messages of peace, hope and love in Islington Village. A year ago, we also offered a lecture series to the community to help us all learn more about our Abrahamic roots where Judaism, Christianity and Islam connect.

Join us this month on Wednesday evenings — Jan. 9, 16 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. at a second lecture series with a focus on Eastern Traditions: Pathways to Spirituality, where we will learn more about Hinduism and Buddhism and how they engage with Christianity. Lecturers include Swamini Shivapriyananda, Chinmaya Heritage Centre, Brampton; Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala, 'The Urban Monk', West End Buddhist Temple, Mississauga; and Michelle Voss Roberts, principal, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto. Our lecturers will explore connection and spiritual practice.

Interfaith activity leads to discovering where God is already at work and joining in that workthrough partnerships and collaborative relationships that build peace in community. Engaging with others of different faiths leads to friendship and dialogue. We learn to love unconditionally, to heal a broken world.

Islington United Church sees interfaith activity as a fulfilment of our mission — Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. - Barbara Sheffield is Islington United Church’s Interfaith Circle co-chair.

Islington in the News

Consider God's Gifts

Christmas is a Time to Consider God's Gifts
December 20, 2018 by Rev. Maya Landell in Etobicoke Gardian
Rev. Moya Landell Invites All to Celebrate Gifts You Can’t Buy

For the last few weeks, Islington United has been marking the season of Advent, the time for getting ready to enter into the mystery of Christmas. It is a busy time of year: All the emotions of this season, the memories, the in­vitations, the joys, the challenges, the expectations, the plans, the tastes, the temptations and the gifts.

And yet in the midst of it all, there are moments where the Holy comes so close that we have to pause and notice. An unexpected visit or card full of gratitude, a creative gift that means the world, the early morning calm in the city after a snow, music that gives life to what we feel, an article or book that calls us into hope, or traditions that remind us who we are and whose we are. That's what we prepare for at Islington United Church this Christmas: Space for the holy and sacred in the midst of our lives.

The church has been so carefully decorated and lit to make room for the mystery and the sanctuary is open each day as a quiet space for people to pause and pray. On Sundays, we celebrate the "unbuyable" gifts of hope, peace, joy and love. Hope when others want us to believe all is lost. Peace that passes all understanding in the face of anxiety and fear. Joy that is contagious and carries us through tears and laughter. Love that makes room for second chances, healing, for­giveness, grace and the freedom to be fully known and accepted as you are. These are part of the gift of Christmas, made known to us through the birth of Emmanuel (God with Us). Jesus is an inbreaking of God's love into the world.
These are the gifts that go on. These are the gifts we hope to share with our families, our community and our neighbourhood. These are the gifts that cross boundaries of belief, judgment and isolation. These are the gifts that make our lives matter and call us to make a difference in the world. Gifts that provide the foundation for us to live into the call to open hearts, open minds, open doors.

As you make your plans for Christmas Eve, know that there is a place for you at Islington United. We are celebrating the mystery of Christmas with our 5 p.m. family service where all children participate in retelling this ancient story. At 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., the same service twice, we tell the story through familiar carols and words that welcome the Christ light. The 11 p.m. service wraps up the mystery, as the string players and choristers call us to candle­light communion.

And if you can't be with us in person, we will be live-streaming on our website Services and sermons are always archived for re-engaging. I know one place where my family and I will be to come close to the mystery of Christmas. I hope to see you there. Islington United Church - sharing inspiration and hope for more than 200 years. Rev. Maya Landell is lead minister at Islington United Church.


Islington in the News

Making Music at Islington

Making Music at Islington
"A Long and Rich History"
Opinion Nov. 9, 2018 by Jason Locke in

'We have a long and rich history of music making in the community,' - Jason Locke

As Islington United Church celebrates 200 years of work and ministry in Etobicoke, we find ourselves offering gratitude for all the ways the church’s music program has touched the community. As the new Minister of Music, I find myself asking this question: how do we continually honour the legacy of excellent music-making here at Islington United Church and at the same time offer innovative music programs which will connect with, and enrich the lives of, those in our church and in the wider community of Etobicoke.

Eighteen months ago, when I started working as the Minister of Music, it was apparent almost immediately that I was stepping into a program which was committed to honouring the church’s long-standing tradition of creating beautiful music both for our worship services and for the community to enjoy.

Barry Gosse, who died too early in his career, worked diligently with us from 1968-1988 to support the worship life of the church and to foster the talent of youth in the community. He was well known both in the church and in public education circles where he gave many dedicated years of service. I often hear stories today of the ways that Barry supported and inspired people in their youth to hone their musical talents.

A short time after Barry’s sudden passing, Dr. John Derksen joined the Islington staff team. John continued the legacy of developing a rich and diverse choral program but also brought leadership and finesse to the organ bench. It was under his leadership that the church saw the installation of the new Schoenstein organ in 1994.

We have a long and rich history of music making in the community.

There are lots of opportunities for children, youth and adults to participate in our programs whether it is our Junior Choir (grades 1-6), our Youth Choir (grades 7-12) or our senior choir. In addition, we have a Handbell Choir and a roster of keyboardists, guitarists, string, woodwind, brass and percussion players who offer their gifts to the community. These musicians participate in the weekly worship services and offer special concerts throughout the year.

We are always welcoming children and youth from the neighbourhood into our choirs and offer a meal after school on Thursdays at 5 p.m. before rehearsals begin at 5:45 p.m.
December always brings special music presentations and concerts to celebrate Advent and Christmas. Check out our annual Christmas concert, Christmas at Islington on December 16 at 3 p.m. You won’t want to miss our full-fledged children’s musical production of In a Galilee Far, Far Away on December 23 at 3 p.m. Each Sunday in December, our choirs will be surrounding us with sounds of the season.

You can always check out the church’s website for other events and more information about our music programs at Or, you can contact me at with specific questions about participation or, as musicians in the community, to collaborate with us. We are always looking at ways to offer new programs.
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors is central to our music making. Everyone is welcome. Jason Locke is Minister of Music at Islington United Church in Etobicoke.


Islington In The News

Rummage Sale Tradition

Rummage Sales a Fine Tradition
Embraced by Islington United Church
Opinion Oct. 11, 2018 by Val Greenfield in

Event helps make affordable, high-quality goods available to community while supporting work of church, writes Val Greenfield

Rummage sales, often organized by churches and community groups as a fundraiser, are a mainstay of life in small towns, the suburbs and large cities. Many of us have found that special treasure at one of these sales.

Originating in port cities, such sales got their name from a nautical term pertaining to the arrangement of goods in the hold of a ship. Unclaimed or damaged cargo would be sold at the dock once the ship arrived in port.

My first experience with a rummage sale was in 1958 at Queensway United Church. Money was tight for families in my neighbourhood, including my own. Our church sale provided gently used, reasonably priced goods at a fraction of the cost of new. My first purchase? A pair of red leather high-heeled shoes, which I wore to play “dress up.”

Islington United Church has had a history of rummage sales spanning decades. Our sale format includes nine themed areas, each staffed by volunteers who display and price goods during the week before the sale. All is ready for opening day!

The areas include: Clothing, Christmas, arts and crafts, books, toys and games, linens, housewares, treasures and men’s den. And, we host a food stand where volunteers and shoppers can take a break while they work and shop.

Shoppers will find a variety of quality, inexpensive clothing and household items.
Our volunteers are congregation members, friends and family, as well as youth from our church and students at Etobicoke Collegiate. It’s a great opportunity to socialize, meet new people, work hard and have some fun.

Islington in the News

Church Youth Programs

Church Youth Programs
Guide and Support
Opinion Sep 18, 2018 by Rev. Karen Eade in

'When youth have a safe space to come together with caring and consistent adults, they are set up to succeed,' writes Rev. Karen Eade

There’s no better time than September to think about the children and young people in our midst.

At Islington United Church, we know that, each year, as they grow, kids have new interests and are hungry for opportunities to spend time together and in a community that feels authentic. This year, like other faith communities in our neighbourhood, we will continue to offer opportunities for children and youth to help them grow and thrive.
With guidance, support, and responsibility, children and young people in the village of Islington can discover their potential and thrive through church programs. At Islington United Church, that means not only education, but also expanding our Thursday evening youth drop-in programs to include dinner, basketball, and a new creative arts program to convey God’s love to the world in authentic and creative ways. This new arts program will provide children and youth an opportunity to learn about who they are as they create and express themselves through printmaking, acrylics, collage and photography with a local artist.

Our music program invites young people who like to sing to practise Thursday evening with our dynamic youth choir conductor, who, last year, took the choir to Cuba for a week to learn about another culture and offer shared performances. The experience provided choir members an opportunity to share their faith with others.

Everyone who participates in these youth programs calls the church their place to be on a regular basis. When youth have a safe space to come together with caring and consistent adults, they are set up to succeed.

And, of course, Islington offers Christian education programs suitable for all children and youth — "Godly Play" for preschoolers and children to Grade 8, as well as youth-group programming for grades 5 to 8 in "Rise" and grades 9 to 12 in "Seekers." There is also a Sunday morning youth class that focuses on faith and current events. These programs nurture faith and ensure that church is a welcoming and meaningful place to be.

Sometimes it is a challenge for young people in the daily school system; everything changes once they reach middle school and again in high school. It can feel like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool: more freedom, new friends, new fashions and social times. Issues of bullying, as well as gender issues, and pressures around addressing new behaviours are part of everyday life. We know that to explore and grow is as much about finding who we are, as who we are not.

May this fall be one where we celebrate our children and youth, offer them enjoyable and healthy ways to spend time together, hold them responsible for their choices, and offer them the respect and support they need and deserve. With this vision, the children and youth in our village will continue to thrive and grow into the wonderful young adults they were created to be.

You are welcome to explore any of these programs at Islington United Church and will find more information on our website,, or contact me at

Islington in the News

Green Magic in Etobicoke

Green Magic in the Heart of Etobicoke
Giving Garden provides fresh produce to neighbours in need
Opinion Aug. 14, 2018 by Steve Towers in

Islington United Church is located in a diverse neighbourhood — culturally and economically.

People from all over the world have found a home in the Islington Village: a mix of prosperous and disadvantaged areas. To help meet the needs of some of its neighbours, 12 years ago Islington United Church expanded from providing food from its emergency pantry in the church to partnering with Daily Bread Food Bank. Bi-weekly and year-round, Daily Bread and Islington United provide a two- to three-day supply of food to more than 100 families through the Mabelle food program. The area is known as a “food desert” because many residents have to walk an hour, a four-kilometre round trip, to find an affordable grocery store.

A combination of soil and willing neighbours are producing local food for local people — some green magic, right in the heart of Etobicoke.

Since 2012, the church’s Green Team has been cultivating an organic garden on church property to solve the most persistent challenge facing this ongoing food program — a decent selection of fresh produce. Although bi-weekly food deliveries and donations are reliable, the quality, volume and consistency of the fresh produce is not. The Green Team’s mission is to grow vegetables on an open, south-facing lawn with a focus on ecologically friendly practices — producing a level of quality that anyone would be proud to put on their own dinner table.

The Giving Garden, as it is now known, has grown from a six-square-metre carrot patch to a 42-square-metre mixed garden that produces 20 deliveries of fresh vegetables, May through October. This includes lettuce, chard, kale, beans, cabbage, tomatoes and herbs. The garden is nurtured and cared for by dozens of volunteers, including church members, neighbours, Cub Scouts, ESL students, day-campers, and people who don’t mind getting their hands a bit dirty. With the 28 raised garden boxes, two potato barrels and three trellises, along with a handful of backyard satellite gardens, the operation now has the capacity to produce 300 kilograms of produce and 1,500 food packages annually.
Growing according to healthy principles, the garden incorporates chemical-free soil, organic seeds and seedlings, and rainwater, whenever possible. Four on-site composters, a double-rain barrel system, an indoor 1,200 seedling nursery, and a bee yard on the roof operated by Toronto Honeys support this expanding ecosystem. To maximize food value, taste and appearance, all vegetables are delivered within two hours of being picked to the Mabelle food program and other local food banks.

Prior to the sea of highrise buildings and houses, farms and market gardens dominated the Etobicoke landscape. Earlier still, pioneering settlers tilled soil in the surrounding area around Montgomery’s Inn to serve the community, travellers and the military. Before then, Indigenous people cultivated the “three sisters” of corn, beans and squash in camps on the banks of nearby creeks and rivers. With the Giving Garden, we again place our hands in the soil for the sake of healthy sustenance. (Steve Tower is the Green Team Lead at Islington United Church.)


Islington in the News

Residential Schools

Islington United Church
Remembers Victims of Residential Schools
Etobicoke Guardian - Thursday, June 21, 2018


Since the release of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report, Canadian settler descendants and newcomers have been challenged to change Canada's relationship with our Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action touch many aspects of Canadian life, pointing the way to a transformed relationship whether it involves church, school, business or community.

Islington United Church has embarked on a journey to learn more about Canada's dark history and explore ways to embrace the reconciliation that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) advocates.

We have had opportunities to learn about and reflect on the real experiences of children taken from their families and thrust into the strange, often abusive, world of residential schools: Children like John who reported "when I left the ... school, I could no longer speak Algonquin, and my parents could not speak ... the language that I had been taught in the school. It was almost impossible to communicate with them about the abuse I experienced at the school. I tried to talk with my parents, but, no, it didn't work ..."

In response, a Heart Garden was established in a quiet part of the church's grounds to remember and honour the children, their families, and the communities affected by the tragedy of residential schools.

KAIROS Blanket Exercise is another way that children, youth, and adults of the congregation have learned about Canada's history from the Indigenous perspective. Blankets are spread on the floor depicting the land mass of northern Turtle Island (Canada). The participants represent the First Peoples of the land, moving freely about the entire territory. As facilitators describe events of the past 500 years, participants gradually drop out signifying the impact of disease, death, and confiscation of land. Participants consistently comment on the profound impact the exercise has on their understanding of the Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationship.

Islington United is also pursuing ways to support Indigenous people in their call for policy change to restore the balance between our nations, due to the huge gaps in services offered. Every Valentine's Day, the congregation mails dozens of "Have a Heart Day" postcards to the prime minister of Canada calling for Indigenous children to have the same chance "to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and proud of their culture." Carole Bennett is a co-lead of the Right Relations Circle at Islington United Church

Islington in the News

Supporting New Lives

Islington Refugee-Support Ministry
Supports Those Starting a New Life in Canada
Etobicoke Guardian - Thursday May 24, 2018
Caring, sharing and love are the hallmarks of Islington United Church's refugee-support ministry, which has served newcomers to Canada for almost 40 years. As sponsors, the church makes a one-year commitment to be responsible in every way for a family's needs as they settle in a new homeland and face the challenges of Canadian living and culture. Since it began this work in 1979, Islington has sponsored 97 people, representing 32 groups from 13 countries, to come here to safety and a new life.

The procedure could be compared to an adoption process, making applications, planning, waiting, final preparations and welcoming with joy upon arrival. The work is supported by the entire congregation and a very busy ministry committee of some 20 people, who meet regularly, raise funds and acquire household goods and personal items so that everything can be ready for new arrivals.

Once a family arrives, our keen and motivated committee moves into high gear, helping to get children into school, parents into ESL courses, finding doctors and dentists for the family, working with the family to create an employment strategy, and making sure they get to know the community and all its services. And we celebrate achievements with them, working toward Month 13, when they will be financially independent and ready to move into Canadian life to start their new story.

Wonderful friendships are made as we go through daily living experiences.

Newcomers say that they are amazed with such a wonderful welcome and grateful to people who want to help them, but especially for the love shown. They appreciate the friendships, the family support, invitations to homes for dinner, tours of the city and special outings, and even the support by committee members to new mothers through labour. Children even created relationships with church members who acted as "grandparents."

All are proud to become Canadian citizens within three to five years; many own their own homes and now have children attending university. They have found employment as administrators, service industry workers, as well as skilled tradespeople and as teachers and engineers.

Since the arrival of Syrian refugees in 2015, the ministry committee has established the Etobicoke Network of Refugee Sponsors, to offer training to first-time refugee sponsors in best practices, through a variety of workshops and information sharing.
Visit our refugee photo gallery at the church on any Sunday morning after worship - Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.

Laurie-Beth Page was the first chair of the Refugee Support Ministry committee at Islington United Church in 1979; she continues this work as a committee member today.

Islington in the News

Opening Our Doors Wider

Islington United Church
Commits to National Affirm Program

Islington Opens Doors to Diversity and Inclusivity
Opinion Apr 26, 2018 by Carrie Chenier


Islington United Church has always been a “welcoming” church, but over the past year has worked toward a new understanding of what welcoming means. It has been preparing to become committed to Affirm, a national program of the United Church of Canada. Affirming is to be on a journey for greater justice and compassion, to be more loving. And we made that commitment earlier this month.

Affirm is the conscious commitment to inclusion and justice for people of all sexual orientation and gender identities. Affirming ministries and congregations challenge bias and discrimination based on appearance, culture, class and age. They work to end racism, promote economic justice, increase accessibility and care for Mother Earth.

Becoming an affirming congregation does not happen once a year; it’s not a flash in the pan. You just don’t hold a vote and move on to other things. It is quite the opposite, in fact. A vote to become an affirming congregation is a lifetime commitment to follow Jesus’ last and greatest commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not as easy as it may seem — for we all come with baggage, hidden or open, scars from past missteps and wounds inflicted either on purpose or inadvertently.

God has not invested congregations with the power to judge who they let in, but rather God calls us to be inclusive, making for a richer, kinder and gentler world. Voices of condemnation, exclusion and hatred blare from our varied media outlets every day — yet we can make a difference. Affirming ministries make a public statement about who they are and what they believe.

What will Affirm look like at Islington? We shall be public, intentional and explicit in our commitment to diversity and inclusivity; we have a goal to end discrimination against all peoples; we seek to make a safe space that is inclusive; we will offer study, education and dialogue such as workshops and partnerships. And, all of that means we will continue to grow in celebrating God’s gift of love.

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, a commitment to Affirm, a journey of compassion. Come and join us on June 3, at 9:30 a.m. or 11:15 a.m., when we officially celebrate our joining the Affirm United Network as we share and live into our faith so that no one needs to fear they are separated from God’s love. -  Carrie Chenier is the lead on the Affirming process at Islington United Church.

Islington in the News

Wrapped in Ribbons

Toronto's Islington Village
Gets wrapped in Ribbons of Peace
Message is to be welcoming, highlight diversity and inclusivity
News Apr 17, 2018 by Tamara Shephard
Islington United Church children and youth minister Rev. Karen Eade, last Thursday at the church, asked 10 children and youth to answer the question, ‘when I think of peace, I think of …’   Dario Ciddio, 9, and Krystal Zia, 7, and the others wrote those words and more in indelible black ink on white satin ribbons of peace.

“It was amazing. I wrote seven words,” Dario

Starting this Friday, dozens of the white satin ribbons with words including love, forgiveness and caring, will be tied to trees and poles along Dundas Street West between Kipling and Islington avenues.

The inspiration for the community art collaboration between Islington United Church, Arts Etobicoke, Mabellearts, Creative Village Studio and Montgomery’s Inn — a Roncesvalles church that tied ribbons of peace along Roncesvalles Avenue following last year’s Quebec mosque shooting that killed six and injured 19 others.

“The church held a vigil after the Quebec mosque shooting then tied ribbons of peace all along Roncesvalles Avenue to support the mosque on their street,” recalled Barbara Sheffield, a facilitator on the project. “They wanted to send a message to the community, ‘we are protecting the community.’”

The intention of the community-building project, using art as a catalyst, is to “build a strong sense of belonging,” Sheffield said.

“We wanted to involve kids because they are our future if we’re going to have a world of peace.”

Those who attend Montgomery’s Inn Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays in April may also create a ribbon.

The project’s message – to be welcoming – also highlights the values of inclusivity and diversity, said Wendy Rading, Arts Etobicoke’s program manager and Ribbons of Peace facilitator.

Rading expressed excitement at the community groups’ collaboration, and hoped for more in the future.

“It’s very visually impactful. It could be the start of really integrating community projects,” Rading said of Ribbons of Peace.

“It’s such a neat neighbourhood with a mixture of people who’ve lived a long time in Etobicoke and those new to Canada. There is so much potential to work together.”
Sheffield said she hopes the ribbons remain on the trees and poles until Canada Day.

Islington In The News

Celebrating 200 Years

Islington United Church:
A Strong Sense of Mission for 200 years

Opinion Mar 29, 2018 by Carole Bennett in

Islington United Church is celebrating 200 years of serving the people of central Etobicoke. By 1818, British settlers who were known to be Methodists had taken up land surrendered by the Mississaugas First Nation in Crown Treaty 13.

These early Methodists met for worship in their homes and by 1823 joined the Toronto circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church as the “Mimico Charge.” Two circuit pastors travelling on horseback (“saddlebag preachers”) would make the circuit of 30 preaching points covering 300 miles in nine townships every three to four months. 

By 1843, there were enough members to build a small church on the east side of the Islington Burying Grounds on Dundas Street (inside what is now the Fox and Fiddle restaurant). One pastor of the 1870s was James Woodsworth who married Miss Esther Josephine Shaver of the congregation. Their oldest son, James Shaver Woodsworth, was born on Applewood Farm in Etobicoke. He went on to become an ordained Methodist minister and later the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the forerunner of the New Democratic Party.

By 1885, the congregation had grown large enough to leave the circuit to call its own minister and construct a larger building. A red brick church complete with bell tower was dedicated in 1887 and a manse (residence) for the minister followed in 1889. Both were located on the south side of Dundas Street, east of Cordova Avenue. As the village (and Toronto) grew so did the church and after the Second World War construction began on the modern Gothic cathedral that is the congregation’s current home where dynamic worship, wonderful music, and programs for every age and stage of life abound.

Islington United has always had a strong sense of mission — helping in the community and beyond. A missionary report of 1849 provides the first record of donations to mission by the 42 donors in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Mimico (Islington) — £14, 9s, 6½d (about $2,400 today). During the Great Depression, church members collected and shipped bundles of clothing and food along with money to help people in Saskatchewan.

Today, Islington United continues to serve the community with the Mabelle Food Program, Out of the Cold meals, interfaith activities, and 40 years of refugee sponsorship. Come and visit us during Doors Open Toronto, presented by Great Gulf, on May 26 and 27, or any Sunday morning for worship — Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. - Carole Bennett is lead, social justice network, Islington United Church.


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