Saturday, May 19, 2018

inSPIREd Sunday

May 2018 - Toronto ON

This was one of the best church visits we've ever had! We went back to Kensington Market for lunch and I had a list of things to find.

What else is there to see in Kensington Market?

St. Stephen-in-the-Fields

I didn't really think about the church itself, my goal was the Homeless Jesus.

Click here to see three other Homeless Jesus that we have seen.
I was a little sad to see the graffiti on the outside even though it does blend in with the neighbourhood.
It has services in English, Spanish and French for Caribbean, Latino and African congregations.
They also do a Sunday breakfast programme, which provides food for between 100 and 150 people every week.

St. Stephen’s is one of the many downtown churches that have embraced the mission of caring for the hungry, the naked and the poor.
Note the boarded up windows in front.

A fine example of Gothic Revival architecture in the style of early English parish churches, St. Stephen-in-the-Fields, named for its original rural setting, represents the work of two of Ontario's most important 19th-century architects. The church was designed by Thomas Fuller who later gained renown in fashioning Canada's first parliament buildings and was erected in 1858 by local landowner Robert Denison. Gutted by fire in 1865, it was rebuilt to plans submitted by the prominent church architect Henry Langley. The restored structure which retains most of the design features of the earlier building is distinguished by its polychromatic masonry, solid buttressing and open bell core. Expanded, then renovated several times, notably in 1985-86, St. Stephen's remains a landmark within the surrounding community.

In 1815, George Taylor Denison, a loyal member of the British militia, purchased Park Lot 17 and half of Park Lot 18, creating a 156-acre estate for himself and his family. That year he built a Georgian style home in the middle of this land and called it Belle Vue. In 1853, the Belle Vue estate was inherited by his youngest son, Robert Brittain Denison. Robert was also a loyal member of the British militia. In 1866, for instance, he commanded a provisional battalion during the Fenian raids. In 1858, he donated the land and funds necessary to erect the Anglican Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields, which still stands at the corner of College Street and Bellevue Avenue. This church takes its name from the fact that it was located in an open field when it was first built. By 1854, Denison had his land subdivided into smaller lots for development and within 30 years Kensington became a middle-class Victorian suburb for immigrants, who were mostly from the British Isles. The street names of the area still reflect this era: Denison Avenue, Oxford Street, Wales Avenue, Fitzroy Terrace and Kensington Avenue. Source

A man was opening the doors and I stepped in immediately with John following cautiously.

A miniature of Jesus The Panhandler.

He welcomed us and gave us some history.

The original 1858 interior was plain, neat and comfortable. The nave, built to accommodate four hundred people, was 72 feet long by 34 feet wide. The main entrance was on the west through a small porch and one entrance was at the northeast corner of the nave. The chancel was not overly large, being 36 feet by 20. There was a door on the south side of the chancel, by which the clergy entered from the vestry.


The roof was of one span; the curved ribs and other timbers were stained and varnished. And although it cannot be substantiated, there is a story that Canon Ward’s grandfather had a hand in the staining. Thomas Fuller designed all arrangements in the strictest Ecclesiastical tradition. The acoustics were excellent and its economical heating was favourably received. It has been noted that only two stoves were necessary when the temperature outside was 55 to 60 degrees (Fahrenheit).

This will explain the boarded up windows.

In the 1980’s, financial difficulties forced the sale of the rectory, hall, and adjoining lands. Proceeds were used to make badly needed repairs to the structure, and gut the interior of the church. The interior was divided in two so that one half of the building could be leased and the rental revenue used to keep the church operating in the other half. After seven years, the tenant left, and the space was converted into a hall for church activities and community use. Today, the layout of the church is unconventional but highly functional for a small parish. The main entrance to the worship space is on College Street, and the old traditional entrance on Bellevue Avenue leads to the church hall and meeting rooms.

Relocated windows

The man then asked if we would like to hear the organ!!

George H. Ryder was born in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, on May 9, 1838, the son of Thomas Philander and Sarah Perry Albee Ryder. His father, a Harvard graduate, was a school teacher; however, there is little evidence that George received any formal education past the age of 14 when, in 1852, his father died of epilepsy.

By 1870 he had formed his own company which built 185 organs between 1871 and 1896, many of which are still being played in churches from Maine to California and Canada.

Occasional bits of graffiti can be found in the form of “cat cartoons” penciled by Ryder himself inside some of his organs. After giving up his business in 1896, Ryder continued to consult and concertize, occasionally dabbling in organ building projects. By 1920 Ryder was hailed as “the oldest living organ builder in the country.” He died, just short of his 84th birthday on April 16, 1922. 

The organ was originally designed as a two-manual instrument of about twenty-seven ranks. The mechanical-action instrument was built for the New Richmond Methodist Church (constructed in 1889) on McCaul Street. The turn of the century brought an influx of European Jewish immigrants to the area. They purchased the church, and in 1906 the organ was moved to St. Stephen’s and installed here by the reputable Toronto firm of Breckles and Matthews.

St Stephens organ circa 1966The 1966 photo shows the Chancel and Sanctuary as they were then. The organ case remains in original configuration, and the console is just visible to the right by the door that led to the vestry and parish hall beyond.

Another highlight for me was when the organist pointed out the 1928 three manual Casavant console.

This lonely Homeless Jesus is ignored by most people as they walk by, just as most of us do the same to our homeless on our streets.

Done by sculptor Timothy Schmalz who also did the other Homeless Jesus we have seen.

In September 2013, they installed (temporarily, as thought then) a fibreglass resin cast of the statue, which quickly became an important and much-loved part of the community. In November, the statue was stolen, to considerable international media attention, and was then returned four days later with a note of apology. But in January, as the church struggled to provide food at the city’s emergency warming centre during the extremely harsh weather, the cold proved to be too much for the resin cast, and it shattered.

It was clear that the statue meant a great deal to many people in the neighbourhood, and perhaps especially to the most marginalized, who had never before seen a depiction of Jesus as one of them, a statement that they themselves were of infinite importance and value. After a successful fundraising campaign, and with the support of The Anglican Foundation and many generous donors, a new sculpture was made.

The statue, titled “Whatsoever You Do,” offers a visual representation of charity. The title is a reference to Jesus’s statement, “Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do it for me.”


  1. It's beautiful inside. The graffiti outside is a shame.

  2. ...there are places for graffiti, but a church isn't one of them!

  3. What an eventful and unusual history this church (and statue!) have had!
    Thanks especially for the beautiful video.
    I recently saw a Homeless Jesus in the garden of Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee.

  4. Beautiful, the inside is just that, the outside fools you. Never knew that is where the Homeless Jesus came from

  5. Great looking church. It's sad that churches get attacked with graffiti.


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