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 Sales a Fine 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

Youth Programs Guide & Support

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

Remembering 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

Islington Opens It 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

Ribbons of Peace

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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