Grace Church on-the-Hill strives to be a place of grace, and a welcoming community of faith growing closer to God through the countless and unique talents of its members in worship and in service. 

In their own words, here are some of the Faces of Grace...

Jaydon Reckley

Hi! I'm sure you most of you know me but for the few that don't, my name is Jaydon Reckley. I say this because I have been at Grace Church for eight years. I first came to this church when I moved to Canada in August 2010. I came here because my mom decided to pick this church. I don't really know why she picked it but, I'm glad we did because I love it here. The people at this church and the community here is so welcoming and full of wonderful people that make me want to stick around for the coffee hour.

I still remember being in the Sunday School room and sitting in a circle while Francesca read stories and did a puppet tableau. I immediately became involved with the community, not because I wanted to, but because my mom wanted me to. It's ok because if she hadn't, I wouldn't be part of our great and amazing choir here at GCOTH. Being in the choir has been such fun, and also a learning experience. It has allowed me to travel to different parts of Ontario and Quebec and even across the ocean to Europe. I have been able to make very good friendships with the other youth in our choir by participating in choir and youth group. Being in the choir has allowed me to grow and improve at something that I like to do, which is singing. This made it possible for me to sing for myself and the congregation on Sundays and special events like the Christmas Pageant.

During my time here, I have participated in almost every church event from the basement sales & food drives to the brunches & pancake dinner, albeit on both sides of the table! Having an involvement in the church has been good for me because it helped me build and get a better sense of community and teamwork. It has helped me make better connections with people and taught me how to make meaningful ones as well.

Grace matters to me because the people here care about me and matter to me as well. Thank you, Peter for being so welcoming to both me and my mom and thank you to Stephen & Sarah for helping me get better at singing. Thank you everyone for eight wonderful years here and I'm so grateful to have done this Face of Grace.

Vivian Kirby

Hi. Many of you may know me as part of the choir, many more of you may know me as Elaine Rowe’s daughter – it’s hard to mistake that.

I joined the choir here when I was 10 years old, and it’s been a major part of my life ever since. It was and remains part of my identity that I am a chorister at Grace Church. I made some amazing friends here as a child, who I am still in contact with and some of whom I still sing with here.

I was trying to think of some good stories to tell and one of the ones I came up with was from the 2007 England trip the choir took. I remember when Sarah Hamilton, my sister and I evaded the lights out call – we managed to be somewhere else when they were rounding us up for a too early bed time – and we went into the chapel that we were allowed to practice in, and we took out our music and we practiced. Mrs. Graham found us – actually, I’m an adult now, I guess I’m allowed to call her Melva – Melva came in and found us, I don’t know, 45 minutes after lights out. I can just imagine what was going through her head. She’s looking at us (she had been very strict about this light out time) and she’s going they should be in their rooms. But they’re practicing. Can I send them to bed when they’re practicing? I’m not sure where else I would have found friends who would evade lights out with to practice.

Something I’ve taken out of the choir here is that I know everyone is on my side here. It’s an amazing community, and growing here and doing solos in the choir, or even just singing in the choir, I knew that even if I made a mistake and missed a solo or went really sharp or even just kind of dropped the end of the solo, everyone was on my side and it was ok to do that. It was great if I didn’t, but it was ok to do that because I knew that all of you were out there and you wanted me to well. That is something that I have taken with me out into life and given me confidence to do what I’m doing and talk to people and just know that people here and in most places, they want you to do well. That’s something I learned here. So, thank you all for that.

It also helped me when I went to University, I found other communities in other churches which I never would have reached out to if I hadn’t found such an amazing community here. I sang in the St. George Cathedral choir in Kingston, and then in the University of King’s College choir in Halifax, and it was amazing, and it sustained me. When I came back here, either over break or when I graduated and came back for good (maybe) I got re-enveloped into the choir. Sarah saw me sitting in the pews during the before-service rehearsal, and she came down and said, “you’re coming up here, you’re singing”, and I just got re-enveloped and it was amazing and exactly what I needed.

I don’t want to go on too long, so I’m going to say that this is an amazing community. It challenges me, it forgives my mistakes, and it always makes me feel loved and welcome, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

Amelia Cockerham

Hi, I’m Amelia. You’ve probably seen me up with the choir, or just around the church. I first came to Grace when I was seven, and in Grade Two. Now, I’m graduating high school in a few weeks and turn 18 on Tuesday. Apart from my participation in the choir, I’ve also helped with the annual attic sale and am a counselor at the choir camp. Even though today is my last in the choir, I’ll be back at the end of the summer to work at choir camp before I move to England for my first year of university. 

Being a part of Grace for the past 10 years has had a great and positive impact in me. When I first joined the choir, I was a quiet little seven year old. Since then, I have grown and matured very much. Being in the choir has helped me grow as a person and has helped me connect with myself and others through music. It has also provided me with many amazing opportunities. I’ve gotten to travel to Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, New York and most recently Dublin and Oxford. In my time at Grace, I’ve made many important connections with people whom I consider both friends and mentors. Many of my closest friends are those whom I’ve met in the choir, and I hope to stay friends for a very long time. Although I’m sad to be leaving the choir and Grace, I’m very thankful for the community that has been provided for me here.

Dave Osborne

My name is David Osborne.  I have been here for a while. It was September of 1980 when a friend from my second grade class, Garth Chalmers, told me about the choir here at Grace Church on-the-Hill.   Sing for an hour and a half on Tuesday, then two hours on Thursday, preparing for Sunday services, and you got some pocket money for it? Seemed just too good to be true.  I suppose I liked it, because here I am now thirty-eight years later.  The choir has given me connections with so many great people throughout the years.  When I started, one of the senior members was David Bradfield.  I may not see him much anymore, but we all know the work that his mum, Helen, does here and when I see her, I remember the work she did as the first choir mother during my time here. Last year, we had 2 baptisms here, for the children of two former choristers in the same service.  Interesting coincidence.

I’ve probably attended more than 1000 weddings and funerals here and I really do feel blessed to be a part of such important days for so many people.  That, to me as a musician, is why Grace Matters.  We have a varied and vibrant community here.  There are parishioners I know, and those I do not, but music seems to touch everybody in some way, and sometimes people really need that.  I still tear up when I hear Edward Elgar’s “Nimrod” played on the organ, as it reminds me of my Dad’s service here, just over 5 years ago.

We, here, today are all very fortunate to have such knowledgeable and caring music directors with Stephen and Sarah.  It wasn’t that long ago that we really didn’t have any children singing. Now, well, have a look.  We are thriving again, and that is how it should be.  It is so wonderful, how they have rejuvenated the choir and its role here.  We are very lucky to have you both here steering the ship, Stephen and Sarah. Grace is a better place for having you in it.

I could stand here for hours.  Thirty-eight years creates a lot of memories.  But I won’t.  I’ll simply say that Grace Matters because we matter.  Grace Matters because you matter, Grace Matters because, Ted, Peter and Ian mattered. Grace Matters because Nancy, Jamie, Fiona, Mary-Catherine, Graham, Linda and Mark matter.  Grace matters because Helen, Julian, Reg, Francesca, Barbara and Lilo matter.  We all play our parts.  We all matter and that is why Grace Matters to me.  I’m lucky to be surrounded by great people here.  We are all lucky to have each other. It is because of us, that Grace will continue to matter.

Bob Davies

Grace Church on the Hill can be defined in many different ways: as a beautiful stone church on the hill designed by one of Toronto's preeminent architects Eden Smith, as a fine venue for sacred music and other concerts, as an active place of community and as a living breathing testament to God's work.

Grace Church on the Hill is also meaningful to each of us in different ways. For me it is meaningful as a place to heal as well as a place to give - often both at the same time.

No matter how we define it or which meaning we attribute to it Grace Church on the Hill wouldn't exist without parishioners; there would be no parish without parishioners.  There would be no worship, Sunday school, choir, bible study, food bank, outreach, pastoral care or brunch without parishioners.

That is why this month we are taking this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your generous contributions that make this the enriching place that it is.

 To paraphrase a well loved saying - we give thanks for the gifts of the people to the glory of God.

Samuel and Vathsala Thomas

Thanks to Rev. Canon Peter and Francesca for giving us this opportunity to give our testimony and how Grace Church matters to us.

I am Vathsala Thomas and my husband is Samuel Thomas.  We have agreed that I would talk for both of us.  Me and my husband came to Canada from India in 1980 with our beautiful daughter Alice and our charming son John.

Now, I am a retired teacher. I taught senior level Mathematics, for the Toronto District School Board.  I have studied Master of Theology in Tyndale University half way.  But I am sure one day I will finish it but don’t know when. My husband Sam is a retired quality control engineer for Magna International, Toronto.

I am a president of a nonprofit charity organization called Thanjavur Christians in Canada Association.  Haggai 1:7-8 says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. So, our association’s first goal is to partner with poor people to build their ruined churches in India.  So far by the grace of God we have partnered and built five churches now we are planning to go to the sixth one.

God ranks the care of orphans among the highest expression of our faith.  Since 2002 we are helping a Lutheran church orphanage in Thanjavur, India.  Where more than 100 ladies of different ages challenged physically and or mentally live under the care of 6 devoted sisters with some workers.  We are also doing some charity works in Toronto. 

We both are Christians by birth.   The time when we came to Canada we went to Advent Lutheran Church which was closer to our apartment.  At the same time, we also helped to establish a Tamil Christian church in Toronto.   After a while we moved from there and looked for a church which is closer to our home. We found Agincourt Pentecostal Church.

Our daughter Alice’s family moved to [the Forest Hill neighbourhood] and they found Grace Church-on the-Hill, which is closer to their home.  Our grandson William likes music. He found interest with the choir.   So, they started to come here and they are very happy here.   In 2014, my husband Sam got sick very seriously and we believed only because of our and our well-wishers’ prayers he got out of it.  All the glory to the Almighty.  By that time, we heard that Grace Church also prayed for Sam’s recovery.  Thank you all for your prayers.   Our son John and his wife Harpreet asked us to stay with them until Sam is fully recovered so we stayed with our son’s family which is closer to Grace Church.  So, we started to come here.

The first time when we walked into the church our Rev. Canon Peter welcomed us very warmly and all the members of the church recognized us as if they had known us earlier.  We didn’t feel that we walked into a place of strangers.  That encouraged us very much.

Thanks to our Rev. Canon Peter’s devoted service and his friendly nature is a real attraction. 

Thanks to Rev. Irina Dubinski’s teaching, and all of Irina’s Spirituality and support between Sundays are amazing and inspiring.

Thanks to Rev. Canon Judy for her teaching.

Second, our Choir leaders, Stephen and Sarah.   We both couldn’t get the chance to sing in a choir.  We have immigrated to Canada from India, because of the transition time we couldn’t help our children’s music area.   In our family, our son in law, Alex Tessier, is very good in music and instruments. We thank God that we have one musically talented person in our family.  At the same time, I continued to pray that all our grandchildren should participate in the choir and sing for God’s glory by their music and instruments, which has been started to accomplish by our grandsons William and Lucas.  Soon, God willing, with the help of Sarah and Stephen all our grandchildren will be singing in the choir.  Thanks to Stephen and Sarah for your devoted service and encouragement to all.  

Third, Francesca’s children ministry which attracts our grandchildren Jacques, Sara and Kaylin very much. That’s why we can concentrate the service without worry.  Every Saturday before they go to bed the girls remind us that next day is the church day - they don’t want to say  Sunday - and get up very early in the morning.   We are happy that they are encouraged to participate in church activities.  Francesca’s talent of coordinating many events very diligently and successfully is great.  Thanks Francesca and all the volunteers for their sincere works.

The bible study is one of our favorite events.   Again, the [Aboriginal] HIPPY program, Tai Chi, outreach projects, and all other events are wonderful.   The bible says that each one is blessed with different talents.  In a church our individual talents would be used to edify the faith of others.   We always believe that church is the community of believers who confess the true and living God, Jesus Christ.   

Grace Church has all the aspects that we can expect in a church.   There are so many opportunities and open gates to get involved in this parish and the life of the community.  Now we are in our home which is almost 40 kms. away from the church.  So, we couldn’t attend all the activities that the church is offering.  Though we couldn’t participate as we want, our prayers are always with all the events and with all the community works of Grace Church.  Because Grace matters to us.

Thanks be to God.   Thank you all.

Maria Ling

My name is Maria Ling and I’m from Singapore.

I’m a Singaporean Methodist. Later, I joined the United Methodist Church when we moved to the US. In every place we’ve lived, we’ve always gone to a Methodist or United Methodist church. When we arrived in Toronto in June 2012, I could not find a Methodist church.

Anyway, let me tell you something about myself. I’m a pastor by calling, gifting and training. All other times I’m the only child of my parents, the only wife of one husband and the only (biological) mother of David, Evan and Zoe.

My husband, Swee Hong Lim, and I are missionaries and because of that, we’ve lived and worked in many cross-cultural situations. We’re here in Toronto because he came here to teach at Emmanuel College. Prior to this, we were in Waco, Texas because he was teaching at Baylor University. Before that, I was back in Singapore for 2 years while he had been back to teach at Trinity Theological College for four years. In the noughties, I was pastoring a United Methodist church for 7 years in Quakertown, NJ, as well as completing the MDiv at Drew Theological School. In the ‘90s, we were doing graduate studies at Perkins School of Theology in Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. During that time, my husband served as Music Director of a UMC in Arlington, TX. We were also both on staff at Wesley Methodist Church, Singapore from the ‘80s to the ‘90s. So, you can tell we’re pretty much devotees of John and Charles Wesley.

Well, I’m a 4th generation Methodist and very proud of that so it’s taken me a while to call myself an Anglican even though I’ve been worshipping in an Anglican church since arriving in Toronto. But let me assure you, despite my heritage, background and my present association, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

When we arrived in Toronto in mid-2012, I was invited by a friend to go to St Barnabas Anglican Church. Even though it was in the general area where we were living at that time, I still wanted to look for a church within walking distance. I went to two churches. I am sure they are wonderful churches but for some reason, I did not find a welcome at either of them. At one of them, there was no greeter. I sat alone and no one spoke to me during the Sharing of the Peace. After the service ended, there were some refreshments at the back of the church but yet again I was left by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person who waits to be approached. In fact, I’m the kind of person who will try to make eye contact and who would be willing to speak first. On another Sunday, I visited another church. During the whole time I was there in worship with them, only the lady I sat next to shook my hand and smiled at me during the Sharing of the Peace. When the service ended, I wanted to speak to the pastor (they had 2 there). I couldn’t tell who the pastors were. So I hung around at the end and when a lady went to the door, I tried to make eye contact with her. I went to her and asked her, “Are you the pastor?” She replied in the affirmative and I introduced myself. Nothing. Soon, I had to move on as the people started to leave and wanted to exit. Till today, both churches have not contacted me even though I signed their guest books. We lived in the area for 4 years and no one from either of those churches ever tried to reach out to us. So, I went to St Barnabas Anglican Church on the Danforth.

You may wonder what brought me to Grace Church on-the-Hill. In June 2016, we moved to this area and because I’m committed to being part of a faith community where I’m located, I started to look for a nearby church. I had been told about Grace Church but I did not come here initially. It was closer to walk to another church. I went regularly for three months but there was not one service of Holy Communion. I filled in the offering envelope every week but no one from the church called me or emailed me even though I indicated that I wanted to make contact. I did meet the Associate Pastor but when he found out who my husband was, he was more interested to contact him.

In September 2015, I started working as the parish administrator at St Barnabas Anglican Church. I would chat regularly with the Honorary Assistant, Fr David Hoopes OHC.  In 2016, I told him we were moving and he strongly encouraged me to visit Grace Church. He also told me that Peter Walker would be a good person to talk to about my hopes to seek ordination in the Anglican Church.

So, in September 2016, I came to Grace Church and almost from the start told Pastor Peter that the pastor here (meaning me) needed pastoring (by the Canon) and secondly, that I believe in being in ministry in the neighbourhood I live in – I can’t help being a missionary!

Right from the first Sunday I walked in, there was a warm welcome and a smile. Francesca learned my name and later sent me an email, Don came to welcome me and after the service, well, who can avoid the Canon? Not only that, when I walked out of the church that first Sunday to go to Loblaws to get some groceries, I met a woman walking home. We started conversing because we had been handed flyers about resisting the building of a taller building in the Village. Helen Bradfield and I continued to meet each other outside church and always on the TTC! And because I live and worship in this area, I’ve also bumped into Margaret and Scott around our means of transportation! But there are many more I’ve gotten to know and connect with, too many to mention all the names now. What’s different about Grace is unless I choose to avoid people, there’ll always be someone who will stop and chat or even wave from the other side of the church. Then it’s a matter of spending time to get to know each other better on our spiritual sojourn here on earth.

God’s presence is palpable here and we cannot help but share this reality within and without the walls of this building. The spirit of gracious hospitality is strong here. Are we ready to welcome more people into our fold? I think the answer is obvious because you’ve welcomed me.

Lena Blackburn

Good morning everyone, my name is Lena Blackburn. Before I give my testimony, I would like to say I may have a serious face, but looks are deceiving. I am very friendly, and I also have an accent! I am retired and I keep myself busy by working part-time.

My entire family immigrated from Grenada "AKA Island of Spice" which is situated in the Windward Islands. There are three island states; Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and of course our beautiful white sandy beaches. Please note Grenada is pronounced "Grena[ay]da". (not Grana[ah]da).

We have been living in Toronto for over 42 years. I have two adult children. Some of you may have met my daughter Ashley; who is now living and working in Beijing, China teaching English.

I also, have one sister and two brothers. Some of you may have noticed my Mom and sister at church with me. I convinced my Mom and sister how great the choir sings and the hymns are just like when we were back in Grenada. Finally, they attended and were amazed! They love the choir.

When I first came to Grace Church, I could not find the entrance. Every door I pulled was locked and I approached a lady with a little girl as they were running down Lonsdale Road and I asked, "Are you familiar with this church?" She replied, "Yes!" I said, "Can you show me the entrance to the church?" and she said, "Follow me". It was 10:05 am and there was no greeter at the entrance. If I had not met this lady I was about to go back home.

I have been attending Grace Church for just over 17 months and I felt very welcomed here from the very first day I arrived! I met Don Cranston who shared the peace with me that day and at the end of the service Don said to me, "Are you new? Are you looking for a Church?" I said "Yes." Don said, "Come and meet Reverend Peter Walker." As I was introduced, Peter said to me, "Welcome to Grace Church! We would love to have you! Are you going to return?" I was so nervous but I smiled and said, "Most likely". Peter then said, "What you see is what you get. If you don't see it is because we don't have it". Peter called out to Delcina, "Please take Lena for coffee." I left with her but I was still nervous!

I visited another church but realized it was not the right fit for me. My inner voice said to me, "I sent you to Grace Church this is where you belong."

I came back to Grace Church the third Sunday after my first visit and Peter said to me, "You are back! Thanks for coming!" I smiled and said, "I am here for good!"

If my Dad was alive today he would have said to me, "Forward march to Grace Church and don't look back".

I had been a long-standing member at another Church in Toronto since we immigrated to Canada. My Dad was a Warden. In the latter part of my time there I was involved in the Outreach Program i.e. preparing meals for the Out of the Cold program on most Sundays. I enjoyed preparing and cooking meals for this program because I was giving back to the people in the community that could not afford a meal. This also meant that I was not able to attend church on these Sundays. I was also a lesson reader and did the Prayers of the People.

As the saying goes when one door closes, God always opens either a window or a door. I thank God every day for directing me to Grace Church it is a blessing for me to be here.

I contribute my baking skills to Café Grace and help with cleaning up whenever I can. I also help at some of the social events, such as brunches and I have supported the Café Grace a few times.

I speak about the love I have for Grace Church to my family and friends, what this Church has brought to me, "Happiness and Peace of Mind".

My Anglican faith has always been important to me. I was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican Church in Grenada. As a child, I went to church every Sunday twice a day. My grandparents were the post of the church. We attended service in the morning and Sunday school in the afternoon...such wonderful times.

So, what does Grace Church mean to me? For me, it's about the beautiful music from the choir, the sermon and of course the people; the clergy Peter and Irina; they are a blessing to Grace Church. It really takes me back to my childhood memories of going to church.

Thank you and blessings to all.

Izabella

Good morning and a happy Mother's Day to all those loving and caring moms out there! It's great to see everyone here today! Allow me to start my testimony by introducing myself. I am Izabella, and I have been a chorister in the Grace Church Children's Choir for quite some time now.

 

I first joined the choir in September of 2015 making this the near end of second year being a part of this choir.I have never really said this too much, but being a part of this community means a whole lot to me. Many components make up what we have here at Grace; coming here every Tuesday for weekly rehearsals, singing songs of praise during Sunday service and being a part of something huge, like our Jonah musical. It was a wonderful opportunity to have dancing, acting and singing all in one. Every one of those combined make something that I may never experience anywhere else; which makes me so proud that I was given this opportunity. Currently, my brother Denzel and I are now in the choir. He joined just last September, and I am sure he is glad that he did. My mom is a volunteer here as well. She's a small part of that big team of helpers that clean up after us every time we eat. It's typical of her, as she does the same thing for us two at home!

Anyways, that just shows even more how important Grace is to us. Grace Church is like another home to us; and though it is a far home away from home, we still feel welcomed by all the warm-hearted parishioners. And it brings a great joy to my heart that I get to share my talent with the community. This is why we must support Grace Church because there are blessings in knowing God's word, blessings in hearing inspiration from music, blessing in the ministry for children, youth, adults, and seniors; and most of all, the blessing in the fellowship for one another. At Grace, we can rest from our weekly activity and just spend time for spiritual upliftment and in fellowship with one another. It has been a great privilege to come here at Grace Church, because through my mentors Stephen, Sarah and the choir family, they helped me develop my talent to use for God's service and to the wider community as well. This is my testimony.

Thank you very much.

Shirley

I’m Shirley and I’ve been singing in the choir for over 4 years now. I first knew about Grace because my sister, Carina, came to the daycare next door. This is where a big part of my life started.

Before coming to Grace, I wasn’t familiar with Christianity and my family didn’t have that background. On my first day of church, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know to how to read the music, much less the psalms. But very quickly, I began to fit in. I learned how to create beautiful music with the help of my friends, and our talented conductors, Sarah and Stephen. I discovered a passion for singing. Just thinking about coming to rehearsals every Tuesday and services every Sunday makes me smile so hard that my cheeks hurt.

I love everything about Grace. I love coming to the lock-ins on Friday nights, playing the role of Angel Gabriel in the Christmas pageant and coming to choir camp in the summer.

Choir tours are one of my favourite parts of being in the choir. I travel a lot, but going on tours with Grace has opened my senses to more parts of the world; to Quebec, Ottawa and the UK. Those were all really amazing experiences.

I wanted to spread my love for Grace Church to my friends and family. When my sister was little, she’s come to special events at Grace with me. She got a feel of what being in the choir was like, and as soon as she was old enough to join the Junior Choir, she did.

Some of you may still remember Emma, my exchange partner from France. Her first day here was at choir camp, even before school started. She loved it! I think we should congratulate ourselves for giving her a great impression on how amazing Canada is. And it’s not just Emma. At Grace, we’ve introduced many new people to not only our community, but also our country.

Grace marks so many new beginnings. Grace introduced me to singing, to friendships that are really special, and to a community that is welcoming, and loving, just like one big family, with a crazy number of mums and dads. At Grace, my sister has grown from a tiny little baby to a Junior Chorister. For me, Grace has been there to support me on my journey from a little girl to a young adult. Grace has shaped who I am today and I’m very thankful for that. So thank you. I’m looking forward for more years to come.

Copywrite 2019 Grace Church on-the-Hill

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