National memorial service — A national memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II will be held at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, Ontario on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at 3 pm ET. The service will be livestreamed on www.anglican.ca.
Centennial year: A full year of celebration, began at St. George on Yonge Anglican Church in Willowdale, on April 25, 2021, with an inspiring worship service presided by our Area Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson.
The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted how our parish would celebrate, and like the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, we opted to postpone many of our events until it is safe to hold them.
Saturday, April 23, 2022
St. George on Yonge celebrated its 100th anniversary on April 23, 2022 with a Eucharist service. Our Primate, the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, was the celebrant and preacher. She was assisted by the Rev. Leonard Leader, Priest-in-Charge of St. George. We were fortunate to have several clergy participate in the service: the Rev. Pam Prideaux (Chaplain to the Primate), the Rev. Canon John Wilton (Gospeller), the Rev. Canon Sister Constance Joanna Gelfvert and the Rev. Steve Shaw (Communion Ministers). The service was held in person and live streamed on the church’s Facebook page.
For the 100-year celebrations, St. George invited past members to re-visit their former church home. Before the special service, tours of the church building were conducted by parish volunteers. Memorabilia from the archives were on display, including a plaque and cross from earlier church buildings, photos from the time of building the original church to the present day, and membership directories.
The service drew richly from the message of hope and redemption embodied in the Resurrection. Reflecting on this during her homily, Archbishop Nicholls said that the church lives its life in the midst of whatever is happening in the world. We are in very challenging times, emerging from a pandemic, witnessing a war in Ukraine, and seeing the fallibility of broken human beings. In the midst of all that (and it has ever been thus), the Gospel lights a spark, a light, a candle. After the pain of Good Friday and the waiting of Holy Saturday, we light the Paschal candle and tell the story of God’s creation, redemption and liberation, of brokenness and sin, and the story of Jesus Christ who was willing to walk into death to take all that pain on the cross and release it in the Resurrection, so we know that, despite all the things that are hard and hurtful and painful, that’s not the end. The Primate’s wish is that St. George on Yonge carries that hope into the next 100 years.
Missed the service? —If you were unable to join us in person, a recording of the service is available on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stgeorgeonyonge
Anyone who would like to be added to our Friends contact list should email email@example.com.
A great series of music programming is coming soon. Details to come.
Who walked in Willow Dale? | Richard Fiennes-Clinton
Friday, February 11, 2022, at 7 pm | Zoom
Local historian, Richard Fiennes-Clinton, takes us through the history of Willowdale with a focus on the Cummer, Gibson, and Shepard families, and stories and illustrations that show how much Willowdale has changed. Photographs from just before St. George on Yonge was established show how the area was still farmland. Subsequent years brought residential development which eventually turned Willowdale into the busy hub that it is today.
For those of you who missed our historical presentation, or would like to see it again, Richard has rerecorded it and put it on YouTube. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klhW36fhJTQ
Richard Fiennes-Clinton is a local historian who has operated his own tours and talks for several years, as well as working with some of the city’s museums.
Over the course of the year we will have several events commemorating our centenary. If you would like to participate, volunteer, or learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome your anecdotes, photos, and videos of your time at St. George.
St. George’s had its beginning as the Willow Dale Anglican Church Mission of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Thornhill. By 1919, people from Toronto were moving into this area to raise their families in a rural setting, and 200 homes were under construction in the area. A number of Anglicans already living here felt that St. John’s York Mills was too distant to attend!
The first fundraising campaign was launched in December 1919 with a social evening held at Willowdale Public School on Yonge Street north of Ellerslie Avenue. More than 200 people attended, and $60 was added to the building fund.
In early 1920, a petition for a separate parish was approved by the Bishop of Toronto and was duly approved by him. The new church was designated a mission of Holy Trinity, Thornhill, whose rector, the Rev. J.W. McDonald, was to guide construction of the church. At a meeting in September 1920, the title “St. George’s” was unanimously approved and adopted.
In June 1921, the site for St. George’s Church was purchased for $2,099.25 and, in the same month, a building permit was issued for “a frame one storey Mission House on the west side of Yonge Street near Duplex Road, probable cost of building $2,500.00”. In the fall of 1921, a loan from some parishioners of Grace Church-on-the-Hill allowed work to start on a building measuring 20 feet by 30 feet.
The church was erected almost entirely by volunteer labour, and was to serve an area bounded by Sheppard, Bayview, Steeles and Bathurst Avenues.
The first building — At the first vestry meeting, held in the new church on March 28, 1922, it was decided that the first Sunday service would be conducted by the Rev. McDonald of Holy Trinity Thornhill on April 2, 1922. Three weeks later, on April 23, the little church was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. James Sweeny, Bishop of Toronto, less than two months before the Township of North York came into being.
Establishment of parish groups — In an age when few people had cars and travelling was more arduous, the church became a focal point for people in the new parish of St. George’s.
In January 1923, eleven women, meeting at a private home, decided that a Women’s Guild was a very necessary element in church work, and pledged $300 per year to the work of the church. That same year, the Women’s Auxiliary began weekly meetings, the Men’s Club found club rooms adjacent to the church, the Mothers’ Friendly Club, with average attendance of 25, met twice a month, and the Choir produced a musical to raise money to buy music and hymnals. At this time, the Sunday School had an enrolment of 70 with average attendance of 50.
First incumbent — In January 1923, the Rev. Claude P. Muirhead arrived from Bowmanville to become the first incumbent of St. George’s. The congregation rented a home on Yonge Street just north of Hounslow Avenue as a rectory, for $500 a year.
Frame church extended — By early 1924, St. George’s little church building was bursting at the seams. The many organizations held most of their meetings in members’ homes, and social and fundraising events such as bazaars and strawberry socials were held in the nearby portable school rooms. And the Sunday School needed more space.
In February 1924, the wardens were authorized to purchase an adjoining lot to build a permanent church. A loan of $3,500 was granted by Toronto Synod. Until the church could be completed, it was decided to build a 20-foot extension to the existing building. The addition was built by volunteer labour for a total cost of $700.
With the addition in place, the church was divided by folding doors, one end used for worship, the other as a parish hall. The hall was put to full use by a Girls’ Auxiliary, a Scout Troop, a Cub Pack, and a Literary Club.
By 1926, the Building Fund had grown large enough to begin to plan for a Rectory.
In April 1927, the Rectory cornerstone was laid by Mr. H.C. Crowe, a major contributor to the Rectory Fund. Items sealed within the stone included a picture of the First Willowdale (St. George’s) Scout Troop, an envelope containing four silver coins of the realm, and a copy of The Enterprise, North York Township’s newspaper.
The Rectory was officially opened on September 3, 1927.
In 1927, the Choir reported on the purchase of a new organ for $325; $175 was paid, and the choir fundraised the balance of $150.
The basement, which would be used as a parish hall for several years, was dedicated by Bishop Sweeny on November 19, 1930.
Young people come together — The Guide Company and Brownie Pack were formed in 1930. They attended a church parade every month. A Rover Crew also met regularly, and the Sunday School now had three divisions. The Young Men’s Bible Class shared Sunday worship and enjoyed holiday camping trips; many of these young men later served in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II.
The Rev. C.P. Muirhead, who had shepherded the church through its formative years, retired in 1935.
Claude Secrett becomes incumbent — The Rev. L. Claude Secrett from St. Mary’s Church, Richmond Hill, became the new incumbent of St. George’s in October 1935. The Rev. Secrett was to lead the parish out of the Depression years and through the first years of World War II before taking a leave of absence to join the Canadian Armed Forces, and the Rev. Canon Alfred L. McTear was appointed locum tenens during his leave. The war delayed plans to complete the second floor above the basement. As an interim measure, the basement became a temporary church, the necessary modifications were made and the original frame church built in 1922 was demolished. The congregation worshipped in the basement church for almost ten years.
Building 3 – Second church superstructure — The temporary basement church was debt free by 1949 and the time had come to build the permanent church over the basement. A campaign to raise $80,000 was undertaken with enthusiasm and determination.
On November 26, 1949, the Rt. Rev. A.R. Beverley, Bishop of Toronto, laid the cornerstone for the new church.
The church dedicated on December 12, 1950, was described as “a strikingly modern edifice”.
One sad note marred the joy of this occasion. The Rev. Secrett was seriously ill and never served in the church building that was the culmination of his inspired ministry. He died on Christmas Day 1950.
Norman Ballard — The Rev. Norman A. Ballard was appointed rector in May 1951, but his tenure was brief and in December 1952 took a period of leave.
John Thompson — The Rev. John R. Thompson became rector in December 1952, at a time when North York was experiencing a population explosion and St. George’s was feeling its effects. The new church soon became overcrowded and Sunday School classes were overflowing, attendance reaching the 600 mark. The Martha-Mary Prayer Fellowship began to meet regularly. It was clear that St. George’s would soon need to enlarge its premises.
New parishes formed, ‘daughter churches’ — In December 1952, the Rev. Thompson agreed to a request of parishioners living in Newtonbrook East to form a new church named St. Patrick’s (on Lillian Street just south of Steeles Avenue). By the end of the decade, members living in the northwest corner of the parish established St. Theodore of Canterbury (on Cactus Avenue just south of Steeles Avenue).
Building 4 – More space for St. George’s — The parish began to look at acquiring land adjoining the church to the south in order to build a new wing. St. George’s, with the help of a bank loan, purchased the lot at the corner of Yonge Street and Churchill Avenue, for $40,375. The church found itself in a garden setting due in large part to a generous parishioner.
In 1954 a branch of the Mothers’ Union was formed.
Another fundraising campaign began in 1954 when several parishioners personally guaranteed bonds totaling $80,000 so that a mortgage could be obtained. That year, Toronto Synod granted permission to build the new wing.
New building dedicated — The cornerstone of the new building was laid on June 24, 1956, and on April 1, 1957, the Rt. Rev. Frederick Wilkinson, Bishop of Toronto, dedicated the completed new St. George’s church. Most of the furnishings were donated as memorials. With the church in place, the former worship space was renamed the L. Claude Secrett Memorial Hall. The former chancel was preserved as a chapel and in 1975 was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Allan Read, assistant bishop of Toronto, in memory of the Rev. Claude P. Muirhead, first rector of St. George’s, Willowdale, 1923–1935.
During his term as rector of St. George’s, Canon Thompson had the assistance and support of several clergy who each made their own unique contribution to the parish: the Reverends R.G. Matthews, W.H. Frere Kennedy, Arnold E. Hancock, C. Richard W. Henderson, Canon T.E. Loder, William C. Davis, Canon Trevor E. Jones, Edward Briffett, and Charles E. Storton.
Organ replaced — The original organ purchased in 1927 was replaced in 1965 with a Hammond Grand 100 Organ.
‘New’ building consecrated — During the sixties, under the Rev. Canon Thompson’s leadership, the St. George’s congregation discharged the mortgage on the new church building. On April 19, 1968, the Rt. Rev. George Snell, Bishop of Toronto, consecrated the building (the Anglican church only consecrates buildings which are debt-free).
In 1972, the Rev. Canon Thompson moved to take charge of a country parish. He and his wife, Florence, left a lasting legacy at St. George after nearly 20 years of leadership in the parish.
Jack Adam, Rector — The Rev. Canon Jack E. Adam became the sixth incumbent in November 1972.
In 1973, the Rev. R. Brian Murray joined St. George’s as Associate Priest, to share in the work of the parish. The Youth Group flourished under his guidance.
Folk singing group established “Ransomed” under the leadership of Muriel and Allan Thompson.
In 1976, the Rev. Murray left the parish and the Rev. Shafik A. Farah became honorary assistant priest. The Rev. Charles Storton continued in his role as honorary deacon assistant.
The Rev. Canon Adam led the congregation in celebrating the 60th Jubilee Year (1981–82). Special events included visits from the Most Rev. Edward Scott, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Rt. Rev. Lewis Garnsworthy, Archbishop of Toronto, and the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Parke-Taylor, area bishop of the Highlands.
During the Rev. Canon Adam’s tenure, the congregation was vibrant and grew substantially. His inspiring preaching packed the pews on Sunday mornings.
Plans were developed for a major redevelopment of the church property, including a residence for low-income seniors along Churchill Avenue, a retail complex along Yonge Street and a new church building on the ‘green park’ space. However, the plans, while fully developed with subsidies from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, were not realized.
The Rev. Charles Storton retired.
Organ replaced — The Hammond Grand 100 Organ was replaced in 1981 by an Allen digital computer organ, Model 603, used until 2010.
Canon Adam left St. George’s in June 1985 to become incumbent of Holy Trinity, Eaton Square.
Donald Beattie, Rector — The Rev. Canon J. Donald Beattie was inducted as incumbent on November 3, 1985. The Rev. Canon Beattie was active in the mission movement and led groups of parishioners to mission events. The Rev. Art Bromley was Pastoral Associate during this time, the Rev. Canon Shafik Farah was Honorary Assistant, and Laura Pummell was Lay Ministry Facilitator. For a time during his tenure, the Rev. Canon Beattie also served the parish of The Annunciation, and for a time the two parishes worshipped together, alternating between church buildings.
Robert Hartley, Interim — The Rev. Canon Beattie led the parish until 1995. The Rev. Robert Hartley joined St. George’s that year in an interim role. An Anglican priest with formal training in counselling was an excellent choice for a parish seeking to move to the next level of growth and ministry. The Rev. Hartley (“call me Bob”) was a stirring preacher, and his innovative liturgy, preaching and coaching helped the congregation to understand that the world was changing and that we needed to change with it!
John Wilton, Incumbent — The Rev. Canon John Wilton became incumbent in 1996 and led the parish in clarifying its vision of the future. To attract young families to the parish, one of his early actions was to engage Janet Kirk as Children’s Ministry Coordinator, later Lay Pastoral Associate responsible for seniors’ ministry. Enrolment in church school and youth group activities grew from 5 to 45 young people during Janet’s tenure, with engaging and meaningful Christian learning.
The Rev. Canon Wilton’s wife, Diane, started a nursery program during Sunday services, as well as a Parents and Tots program, which attracted 50 or more children and their caregivers on Friday mornings, for games, snacks, and prayers.
Canon Wilton led the parish in several processes to discover where the future might lead. Home meetings were held to draw forth parishioners’ ideas about future ministry and programs. The parishes of St. George’s, Annunciation, and St. Christopher’s worked together for two years to discern whether a merger was possible, but it was not approved by all three parishes. Along with other Willowdale parishes, St. George’s took part in the Willowdale Community Capacity Study to identify community needs and support gaps. A team of parishioners undertook an intensive visioning process, approved by a Special Vestry. This all culminated in a Ministry Proposal to the Diocese of Toronto, proposing redevelopment of St. George’s property.
At a special vestry on November 9, 2003, St. George’s made the decision to redevelop the church property by selling the land on which it sat and building a new church on the remaining land. This decision followed from the realization that the cost of the major renovations required for the existing church building (around $7.5 million) was beyond the resources of the parish unless the church was in some way able to realize the value of its lands.
June 2009 — The congregation of St. Patrick’s Church and the Rev. Fran Kovar invited St. George’s to worship with them and to share their facilities during the construction period. To all members of St. George’s “Our mission is to nurture our relationships with God in Christ, with one another, and with our community.”
This new building contains a modern and airy worship space that seats 300 flexibly in moveable pew chairs, with acoustics designed for musical performance. New sacred furniture made from trees that formerly grew on the property and a traditional Chapel with stained glass and furnishings from the previous church building bridge the past and present. A large meeting hall and several smaller meeting rooms are accessible by elevator as is the dedicated underground parking lot.
In 2010, The Rev. Canon Wilton became Priest-in-Charge at St. Augustine of Canterbury.
Steve Shaw, Interim — The Rev. Steve Shaw arrived at St. George’s in 2010 to lead the parish through the approval of redevelopment plans by the Diocese of Toronto and construction of Building #5. The final service in Building #4 (the ‘new’ church of 1956) was held on November 29, 2010, and parishioners carried out the large wooden cross that hung on the wall above the altar. This photo shows the Rev. Steve Shaw and Churchwarden Doug Heyes taking the cross out of the church building on November 28, 2009.
The cross was temporarily installed in St. Patrick’s Church (one of St. George’s ‘daughter’ churches), where members of St. George’s worshipped until mid-2011.
St. George’s Rectory was re-named St. George House and converted to offices and meeting space. From mid-2011, the parish worshipped in the Chapel at Kane’s Funeral Home, graciously hosted by the Kane family and their staff members. Parishioners ‘came home’ to the new building in late fall 2011, at first worshipping in the parish hall. The congregation celebrated Christmas services in the main worship space in December 2011, and parishioners triumphantly carried back the large wooden cross, which now stands at the front of the main worship space.
Organ replaced — The church’s most recent organ is a three-manual digital organ from Phoenix Organs in Peterborough, custom designed by our current Music Director, Michael Leach, for use in the newest church building. Music in the main worship space is also augmented by a Yamaha 6-foot grand piano.
The Rev. Shaw was ably assisted during his tenure by Assistant Curate Rev. Pam Prideaux.
In 2012, the name of the parish was officially changed from ‘St. George’s Anglican Church, Willowdale’ to ‘St. George on Yonge Anglican Church’, reflecting the new building’s location, literally at the Yonge Street sidewalk, and the hope of the 2002 Visioning Committee to see a time when the community would refer to us as ‘that church on Yonge’.
Mark Kinghan, Incumbent — In 2015, the Rev. Canon Mark Kinghan moved from St. Mary’s, Richmond Hill to St. George as incumbent. He then moved to St. Paul’s, Uxbridge in 2017.
Leonard Leader, Priest-in-Charge — The Rev. Leonard Leader also joined St. George as Assistant Curate during the Rev. Canon Kinghan’s tenure, and after the Rev. Canon Kinghan left the parish, became Priest-in-Charge. The Rev. Leader was ordained at St. George on February 6, 2016.
Toronto van attack — On April 23, 2014, the Rt. Rev. Colin Johnson said, “Tragedy has struck our city today.” At approximately 1:30 pm that day, a white rental van drove onto the sidewalk of Yonge Street and accelerated, intentionally plowing into pedestrians. 11 people died and 15 were injured. One person died outside St. George on Yonge. After the attack, St. George opened its doors to those who needed to pray, reflect, or grieve, though the front of the church was considered a crime scene for some time. The victims of this heinous act are commemorated each year on St. George’s Day.
“ … so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another.”
(Rom. 12:5 – NRSV)
“Normal times” — Pre-pandemic, on Sunday mornings, early worshippers came to an 8 am celebration of the Eucharist in traditional format. The majority of the congregation attended sung Eucharist at 10:30 am, with choir and organ. Church School was held during the 10:30 am service.
Pandemic — Since the start of the pandemic, St. George has conducted weekly virtual services on Sundays as well as Evensong on Thursdays. This tradition will continue when it is safe to congregate together again.
Centennial year — A full year of celebration, began at St. George on Yonge Anglican Church in Willowdale, on April 25, 2021, with an inspiring worship service presided by our Area Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson.
Moving forward — As of March 2022, St. George resumed in person worship at 10 am. The services are live-broadcast on Facebook.
Morning Prayer is held every Wednesday morning at 8 am over Zoom.
St. George’s Day service of thanksgiving — Held on Saturday, April 23, 2022, St. George celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special worship service. The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, was the celebrant and homilist. Along with the Rev. Leonard Leader, several returning clergy participated in the service: the Rev. Pam Prideaux (Chaplain to the Primate), the Rev. Canon John Wilton (Gospeller), the Rev. Canon Sister Constance Joanna Gelfvert and the Rev. Steve Shaw (Communion Ministers).
Death of Queen Elizabeth II — On September 8, 2022, the titular head of the Anglican Church passed away. The Diocese of Toronto released this statement:
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
The Diocese of Toronto joins the nation and the Commonwealth in grieving the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Canada’s Sovereign for over 70 years, Head of State in fourteen other countries and Head of the 56-member Commonwealth of Nations, the Queen’s life of selfless service and duty was grounded in, and nourished by, a deep and vibrant personal faith in Jesus Christ, a fact she frequently referenced in her public speaking, particularly her Christmas Messages.
Supported by her husband, the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen visited every province and territory of Canada over 22 visits, met many thousands of Canadians from all walks of life, and had a particularly warm relationship of mutual respect with the First Nations of this land. When in Toronto, the Queen would worship at St. James Cathedral, and we were always delighted to welcome her here.
For the vast majority of Canadians, she is the only monarch we have ever known, and her passing is a significant moment in our common life together. We give thanks to God for her witness to her faith and her life of duty and service to our country and the Commonwealth.
It is appropriate for individual parishes to mark the Queen’s death with the somber tolling of bells, today and/or on the day of her funeral, 96 pulls to mark each year of her life. Prayers for the Dead, for the Royal Family, and for our nation and Commonwealth, may be offered this Sunday, and if desired at a dedicated memorial service. A requiem service will be held at St. James Cathedral, which will be live streamed. Details will be announced once they have been determined.
Gracious God, we commend to you the soul of your faithful servant Elizabeth, our Queen. Receive her into your heavenly realm, and crown her with the diadem of glory, as she lays down her earthly burden of duty and is released to take up the joy of eternal praise.
We give you thanks for the witness of her long life of service, sustained by a sure and certain hope.
We pray that the comfort of your Holy Spirit will be with the Royal Family and all who mourn, until such time as we are reunited in the general resurrection of all the faithful departed in the communion of saints and in life everlasting.
This we pray through the mercy of our Risen Saviour, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.”
Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022) – On September 8, 2022, Archbishop Linda Nicholls released a statement:
“Upon the death of Her Late Majesty
Elizabeth the Second
by the Grace of God
of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories
Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith
It is with deep sorrow that we acknowledge the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022, in her 97th year of life.
Earlier this year, the Queen celebrated the Jubilee anniversary of her reign as monarch, having served with unstinting faithfulness in her responsibilities since 1952. She presided through those years with grace and dignity, rooted in her Christian faith and with love for all the people she served.
We mourn her death and commend her to eternal life as a faithful servant.
O God, from whom comes everything that is upright and true:
Accept our thanks for the gifts of heart and mind thou didst bestow on thy servant Elizabeth,
And which she showed forth among us in her words and deeds;
Deal graciously we pray thee, with those who mourn, especially the members of the Royal Family, that casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
National memorial service — A national memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II will be held at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, Ontario on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at 3 pm ET. The service will be livestreamed on www.anglican.ca.