This is a belated entry on my visit to Sanctuary in Toronto two weeks ago. I decided that on my travels I will do some church hopping and try out new types of worship. I always liked the idea of the mystery worshipper on the ship of fools.
My first stop was Toronto. Looking for a church in google (searching for the keywords ‘toronto’ ’emerging’ ‘church’) led me to George Fox’ interview with Len Sweet about emerging church. Len tells about a book by Greg Paul “God in the Alley”, about the Toronto church ‘Sanctuary’ that focuses on people that live and work on the street. I then found Yuling’s blogpost about a visit to Sanctuary and knew that I had to go there.
Sanctuary’s Sunday service starts conveniently at five in the afternoon and I made my way there during the Gay Pride parade. The building does not look much like a church and at first I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place at all. I kept following a guy into the building and we ended up in a large room with tall glass windows.
The freestanding wooden cross in the room was almost the only thing reminding of a church. People were sitting in three circles with a simple table in the middle with bread and wine. At the open side of the circles were some musical instruments: a keyboard, a guy with some bongo drums, and someone with an electric violin. There were no ‘greeters’ or anything formal; on each seat was a copied book with songs. Immediately after I found a place some people sitting close by welcomed me and started asking where from and where to. It was a very relaxed mingling and chatting.
At some point Greg, who was sitting at the keyboard, suggested that we start with some favourite songs and someone yelled out a number and people started singing. More numbers were called as we went along. After a while Greg suggested that this should be the song for the wine and would someone bless it … then people walked up and started taking wine either from the glass in the middle or from smaller cups … the same happened with the bread – someone from the congregation said thanks and then every one who felt like it walked up and took a piece of the loaf.
People prayed between songs, for some songs people got up and danced. After an hour or so we had a break and you could get cup-cakes and water from a separate table. People walked around and chatted to each other. The second part was a bible teaching, somewhat evangelical and very down to earth and personal at the same time — which I found a surprising combination. It lasted for almost an hour. The service ended at around 7ish with people staying for a chat and the rest of the cup-cakes.
I planned to go back two days later for their drop-in evening but unfortunately did not manage it because work took over. Managed to get Greg’s book before I had to leave Toronto.