This church started with people!
At the beginning of the Second World War the neighbourhood was just being developed. Young families in this part of North Toronto petitioned the United Church of Canada to start a Sunday School for their kids. They didn't even want a building to start with -- just a way to help their kids find a sense of hope in the midst of the chaos around them.
A small building went up quickly, however, once the decision was made. The first service was held in a sanctuary still without pews or an organ on September 8th 1940.
Small by choice
In the same year, a large synagogue was built a few blocks away, and the character of the population changed. It quickly became clear that Forest Hill would become a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. Plans to replace the small initial chapel with a large ornate building were scrapped, and Forest Hill United has remained a small and intimate space to reflect on what it means to be a Christian community in the midst of a society that sees life very differently.
We've discovered that we like being small. Not that we don't want to invite others to join us (we'd be glad to do that!) -- but because we're small, we can know everybody's name. We recognize visitors easily. We know when somebody's sick. We like to pitch in and work together. Our church year is brimming with Dinners and Coffee Houses and Rummage Sales and Special Events where we can have fun together. We'd love to grow -- even double in size - but we don't ever want to grow so big that we lose the intimacy.
Multicultural on Purpose
Over the past 10 years the membership of the congregation has become increasingly multi-cultural. Our membership includes people from Africa and the Carribean, China and the Philippines, whites and blacks and in-betweens. We are pleased to celebrate Black History Month in February and Asian Heritage Month in May each year, in addition to following the regular church calendar. There's something for everybody here, and we come because we like the mix of cultures.
What we Believe
We don't all believe the same thing! We don't expect to ... and we enjoy being part of an environment where we can approach the Divine without feeling like someone's looking over our shoulders.
Our minister likes to ask questions. He says the journey is more important than the destination. When you read his sermons, they're peppered with question marks ... and even though he sometimes has strong opinions, we always know that he really wants us to think about our lives, and about how God is touching us right now.
If you want to know what our minister thinks, read some of his sermons on this website -- but if you don't agree, then talk to him about it. He likes the dialogue. What's most important to us is that we feel like our lives are taken seriously -- what we think, or wonder, or struggle with, matters to God. We can feel free to bring our whole selves into worship, and into this community of friends.
Programs for Everyone
From September to June we offer Church School for the kids. Our teacher Ann Fraser is a certified Early Childhood Educator. She uses the The Whole People of God Curriculum which is built around the same Bible readings that are used in Worship Week by Week.
We also have childcare for kids under four, cared for by Angela Nightengale, who's also ECE trained. She offers care every Sunday so that parents can relax and connect with God in the ways they need.
Our Youth Group, under the leaders of Morgan Jurmaleitis, meets on the first and third Sundays during the church service, as well as for social events.
Our growing choir rehearses every Sunday morning, from September to June at 9:30.
Various different short-term study groups have gathered around specific issues such as environmental stewardship, the Book of Genesis, & "Easter: Fact, Fiction, Faith." Another group gathers for dessert and coffee every other Thursday to talk with Rev. Steve about whatever issues may be coming in in the following week's sermon.
Our Congregational Life Committee plans a variety of dinners, coffee houses, day trips, and concerts that draw people together and help us have fun together. They make apple pies together, challenge men to auction off baking to send kids to camp, and plan programs to help us get to know each other.