Church of the Redeemer

There is a tiny church on Bloor St in downtown Toronto, dwarfed by the high-rises around it.  My attention is always drawn to it whenever I’m in the area, and yet I don’t know why exactly it’s held such appeal to me over the years. Perhaps because it’s an anachronism at this bustling city intersection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I first moved to Toronto out of university, I had a large client in this area and passed by this church every day in the cold of winter.  It seemed fitting that it was on a cold winter day that I finally answered the call of this heritage building and stopped in to visit.

Up until now, I didn’t even know its name – The Church of the Redeemer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The original church didn’t have the 3 doors we see today.  In this old photo from 1885, evidence of the church’s rural beginnings are apparent, as well as its single front door.  I don’t know when the entrance was eventually changed.

Church of the redeemer - 1885
From tayloronhistory.com

I was surprised by how small the church was on the inside.  Only after my visit did I learn that the back portion of the building had been sold many years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What touched my heart in this simple and unpretentious church were the plaques that lined the walls, of soldiers from the congregation who had fallen during the 2 World Wars.

WWI casualties lined one side of the church, with WWII casualties on the other.

These two wars have now been consigned to the history books, and yet these plaques seemed to be shouting out to me.  I’ve seen plaques like these in other old churches, but  that day I was deeply moved by them.

Two plaques, hung side-by-side, and I assume they were brothers.  I appreciate that this has been a scenario planned out over and over through war after war, but it is a loss no parent should have to endure.

We pay them homage to remember their loss.

There were only 2 of us in the church that day.  A woman sat unmoving in the back row staring straight ahead of her, seemingly oblivious to me.  She contributed to the heavy, sad mood that seemed to permeate the building.

Long shadows were cast on the floor from the sunlight streaming through the door windows.  To the side in the small aisle, a shovel and bucket of road salt stood ready for the next snowfall.

While I stood quietly in this oasis of solitary contemplation, the busy city traffic continued to whiz by.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s interesting how a building can impart a mood.  On this particular day, I had been feeling light and happy – having just been dismissed unexpectedly from jury duty – but the Church of the Redeemer was a melancholy place.

I did not linger long.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

 

 

 

101 comments

    • It seems to me that there are many small churches around the city nestled in-between large buildings. I suspect that church parishes are quite good at lobbying to save their building. Cashing in on the wealth of the property doesn’t help the parish if they no longer have a place to gather.
      … but that’s just my theory.

      Like

  1. Thank you Joanna, for faithfully coming by my blog – the last 3 weeks are now a blur – too many things happened (mixed: good and bad), but now I’m feeling better physically I can allow myself to catch up with “normal” life.
    This church is such a contrast, when looking to the outside and coming inside. In a way, one has to embrace two different worlds at the same time. I wonder, when entering this church in the old setting, it had a different atmosphere. Wished the city planners had not allowed these high rise building to surround this church. It’s significance is being drowned out by the stature of the height, glass, steel, and noise of traffic. That’s my melancholy (a bit dramatized).

    Like

    • Oh dear – I hope you are bouncing back and life becomes more even keel again. It’s interesting how so many bloggers I follow have reported turbulence in their life over the past month – myself included. In some ways I feel like ‘it’s only early February?!’

      Like

  2. I’ve walked by this church for years but have never ventured inside. I had considered it as a possibility when I was thinking of returning to Church in the Fall as it has a reputation of being very progressive.
    I finally decided to return to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian on King St. near Roy Thomson Hall. If you have the chance it is well worth a visit. Besides being the Church of the 48th Highlanders (their museum is in the basement and open on Wednesdays), they are also famous for their music – both the choir and the many concerts. Mini concerts go on most Fridays at noon and I encourage you to visit the next time you are downtown. It is a very large church and I think you would find that the mood is a bit lighter.
    St. James Cathedral at the corner of King & Church is also very interesting especially as it relates to Toronto’s history.

    Like

    • Thanks Margie. I have visited both St Andrew’s and St James – they are lovely churches.
      I didn’t know however about the museum in the basement of St Andrew’s, or the Friday noon ‘concerts’. Both of those are worth another visit!

      Like

  3. Interesting how the city pressed in on all four sides of this church over time . . . thanks for sharing the church’s picture in its original setting.

    When the mood of a building is subduing my joie de vivre . . . I head for the door too!

    Like

    • I think churches have had much better luck at being saved. I suspect the parishioners are better organized to lobby against the demolition.
      I too find them so interesting in that juxtaposition with the new.

      Like

  4. It makes my soul so happy to see this little church towered by all this modern architecture. So much of the old is gone now in North America. I don’t want to lose the past, its history, or pieces of it. Good or bad we need to see it to appreciate it and learn from it. This building makes me happy.

    Like

  5. Joanne I always smile seeing that little church when we are in Toronto. I have never gone inside and I’m not so sure I will given your description of the mood that ensued. the plaques of the lost brothers must surely contribute to that .What a tragedy.

    Like

  6. It’s like that sometimes isn’t it? I’m glad you didn’t linger and get dragged out of your light mood. It’s a beautiful place, but it does have a mood in your photos.
    I found the introduction to this post quite nice and entirely relatable. Over the summer, I took photos of our ‘the lil church on the circle’ — I have been strolled, ice skated, cycled, walked, run, and driven by that thing all my life, and I really never LOOKED at it. When I finally did, I learned it had a name, had beautiful doors, and here I am, months later, talking about it still as ‘the lil church on the circle’.
    So much depth in this post today. A great addition to doors.

    Like

  7. Was it lack of light that made the mood melancholy? Lack of people? Presence of ghosts?
    You recreated the feeling but I think it was through the photos and the sense of isolation I felt on behalf of the church surrounded by all the modern buildings. It made me feel lonely and small and really what churches were built to do was to make people feel hopeful and expansive, don’t you think?

    Like

    • Oh – that’s brilliant. I simply feel the emotion without necessarily understanding the why. I like your explanation a lot … feeling lonely and small describes it very well, especially with this solitary woman at the back of the church looking so unhappy

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve always wanted to go inside this iconic church – so glad you did and shared the photos! So interesting that you found the mood so melancholy – maybe it misses the fields that once surrounded it.

    Like

    • I also found a photo from the mid 1960s and surprisingly, it was still the tallest building around. What’s even more remarkable is how much the city has changed just in the last 40-50 years!

      Like

  9. The doors on the church are lovely, but seeing the old photo of how it used to look is amazing. So weird to think of this little church as being out in the country, considering where it is today.

    Like

  10. War is probably the saddest thing on earth, so I understand your reaction.I feel amazed that this church has stood so long, and has not yet been bulldozed to make room for another skyscraper. I hope it stays right where it’s at.

    Like

    • There are actually a number of small churches like this one in Toronto that are snuggled tightly among high-rises. Somehow they’ve managed to survive – kudos to the committees and petitioners who made it happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was a student at Victoria University, University of Toronto so I walked by that church every day for four years. I’ve always loved the look of it but, like Donna, had never been inside. Thanks for the tour, Joanne.

    Like

    • This is one of the joys I’m having at being retired. All those little things that I never had time for when I was working, I can now do …. like a spur-of-the-moment decision to satisfy my curiosity and see if the doors of the church are open.

      Like

  12. I love that the little church stands in such stark contrast to the surrounding buildings. Your photos are lovely and that old one is super. Your description inside recreated the atmosphere so well, I felt like I was there beside you.

    Like

  13. Amazing how much the city grew around it in the last 130 years or so.
    I get that same sad feeling you describe and I wonder if it isn’t more to do with the season and the light?
    Maybe if you go back in the spring…

    Like

    • Sobering is a really good word for it. I think that as time marches on, we lose the significance of how difficult and traumatic those years were. For whatever reason, it slapped me hard when I started to look at those plaques.

      Like

  14. I have driven passed Church of the Redeemer countless times….but never stopped. Thank you for taking us inside. It is a very striking building both inside and out.

    Like

    • It’s one of those interesting little landmarks that helped me get around the sea of high rises when I first moved to Toronto. I’m glad it was recognizable to you too. I’m glad I finally took the time to stop and look at it.

      Like

  15. I am glad it has survived and still a church. The old photo is extraordinary. How different Toronto was then. You have captured the sense of melancholy here Jo. The plaques are heart-breaking. How many families went through, and indeed are still going through, having to live with loss of this kind.

    Like

    • I really like seeing comparisons of buildings before and now. Sitting in the middle of farmland, it would have been quite an impressive building.

      These plaques do break my heart and I think that’s why I’m always deeply disturbed at any ‘glorification’ of serving. I know there are people out there who would pillory me for a comment like this, but quite frankly I think it’s morally wrong to glorify war and any of its components. Let’s recognize it for what it really is … it’s horrible, it’s sad, it destroys lives, and breaks families. And I think that’s what these plaques are saying to me.

      {deep breath} ok – rant over 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea what’s back there now. I didn’t know until I got home and started researching this little church that I realized the back end wasn’t part of the church anymore. Now that I know that, I may have to check it out the next time I’m in the neighbourhood.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Those two plaques just stab the heart, don’t they? As a parent, it makes me want to weep, Joanne. I’m all teary as I write this comment. The melancholy of the church comes through your words. I did enjoy the two images – the place surrounded by high-rises and the rural version. What a contrast. Lovely post, my friend.

    Like

    • Thanks Diana … that I wasn’t the only one feeling rather teary. There is a picture of my grandmother standing with my father after he enlisted, before he left for Europe. It wasn’t until my own sons reached their 20s that I came to realize that the look on her face was a combination of profound sadness and deep fear.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Diana – that I wasn’t the only one who got all teary eyed.

      There is a picture of my grandmother standing with my father after he enlisted, just before he left for Europe. It wasn’t until my own sons reached their 20s that I came to realize that the expression on her face was a combination of profound sadness and deep fear.

      Like

  17. I like the churches that manage to survive in the midst of high-rise office towers. I really like the picture of the sun streaming through at angles from the door. It does add to the mood you describe, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the snow shovel on duty.

    Like

  18. This post reminded me of seeing the church (I think it’s a church) tucked in by the Eaton Centre (or whatever it’s called these days). Do you know the story of that one? I remember walking out one of the entrances and being very surprised to see this old building and courtyard right next to this complex.

    Like

    • I love seeing old photos like this and comparing them to now. It’s fascinating that areas I consider ‘downtown’ today, were once farmland. I shouldn’t be surprised … quiet country roads where I used to ride my bike just a dozen years ago are now busy subdivisions. It is nice though when a bit of the history can be retained and churches often fall in that category.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s