Little Trinity, Toronto

Little Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Little Trinity
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 August 2014, 10:30am

The building

Built in 1842, the oldest surviving church building in Toronto, it's a red-brick, Gothic Revival building with an imposing square tower at the west end, lots of crenellations and turrets and other high-Victorian whimsy. It is the work of 19th century English architect Henry Bowyer Lane, noted for several significant contributions to the architecture of Toronto. Inside it's light and airy, white-painted throughout, with a geometric patterned window at the east end. Traditional pews face the altar, which is slightly raised on a dais and surrounded on all sides by a wooden altar rail. The church is called "Little Trinity" or "Trinity East" to distinguish it from the larger Trinity Church in downtown Toronto, also designed by Henry Bowyer Lane.

The church

"Little T" describes itself as a "gathered community," meaning that worshippers come from a wide catchment area rather than within the parish itself. This is a consequence of depopulation following deindustrialisation in the 1950s, but new condo developments are springing up rapidly and the parish is reflecting on how best to respond to this population growth. It's an active community, with strong connections to a parish in southern Angola, and also local community outreach.

The neighborhood

The area is variously known as Old Town or Corktown, a little north of the newly renovated Distillery district. Little Trinity was founded by the Gooderham family, owners of the distillery, to cater to the poor of the area – specifically those who couldn't afford the pew rent at other churches. Next door to the church is the former Enoch Turner School, Toronto's first free school, founded in 1848 by local brewer and parishioner Enoch Turner.

The cast

The Revd Tim Haughton, rector and senior pastor, presided. The Revd Lee McNaughton, honorary assistant, preached. The worship band was led by Stephen Doxsee.

What was the name of the service?

Morning Service (though it was in fact a Eucharist)

How full was the building?

I'd say between half and two-thirds full. I made the schoolboy error of sitting near the front, where in traditional Anglican fashion the pews were very sparsely populated, but behind me it looked pretty well filled.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were greeted outside the door with a smile and warm handshake, and then inside another friendly usher gave us the service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?

Yes it was – it came with a cushion and a well-padded kneeler.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

A hubbub of friendly chatter.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning and welcome to Little T. It's good to have you with us."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Everything was on the 16-page weekly service sheet, other than the words of the songs, which were projected on the back wall.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano, guitar, bass, snare drum.

Did anything distract you?

A lady in the next pew was wont to clap along with the songs – the only clapper in the church as far as I could tell, and she wasn't 100 per cent in time.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

A bit of a mixture: the structure of the service faithfully followed the standard Book of Alternative Services pattern, but the music was medleys of worship songs rather than hymns, and prayer ministry was offered at the end.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

6 – The Revd Lee McNaughton seemed to lose his way a few times, and I wondered if he was trying to work from short notes when his natural style was to read from a full text. He was always audible, though, and seemed to hold the congregation's attention throughout.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

This was the last in a series on Philippians, and focused on Paul's farewell expression of thanks (4:10-23). The main theme was the temptation we have to be stoical, to get through troubles in our own strength, rather than to rely on Jesus' strength. How do we go about relying on Jesus? We need to spend time with him in prayer, in Bible study, listening to him and allowing him to speak to us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The friendliness of the people before, during and after the service. Honourable mention too to the fast, driving rhythm the drummer kept up through the final song, which sent us out energised.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I did cringe a bit at the Revd Lee McNaughton's rather banal anecdote about someone helping his wife adjust her bike saddle, used as an illustration of our inability to get by on our own strength.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

We didn't get the chance to look lost, as a couple of long-standing parishioners introduced themselves to us straight after the service, chatted for a while, and then took us down for coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I can't comment on the provenance of the coffee, and can't remember whether it was a disposable or reusable cup, but it tasted good and was accompanied by cookies and slices of watermelon and orange.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

7 – Although the style of worship wouldn't be my first choice, this is a very welcoming, friendly community that's active in service locally and internationally, so I'd be happy to be part of it.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes it did – glad to be part of Christ's body with these people.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The unusual experience of kneeling for communion at a rail that completely surrounded the altar - a very nice piece of design, well used.

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