By REV. LUCY REID
If you’ve been down to the east end of Queen Street East in the last few months you’ll have seen a construction fence up all around St Aidan’s church, and heavy vehicles working on it.
Maybe you’ve had to put up with the sound of their reversing beeps if you live nearby. Maybe you’ve wondered if we’ve sold the church and it’s going to be turned into something else.
Well we haven’t sold it, but it is being transformed in significant ways.
After standing for more than a century on the corner of Queen and Silver Birch it needs a major overhaul and modernization, so that it can continue to be a place that people come to for worship, community, spiritual refreshment, and learning. And so that it can continue to be a place from which people go out into the world around them to meet its needs and be of service.
Built on the slope that runs down towards the lake, the church was full of stairs accessing the different levels. Many parts of it were not accessible to those with mobility challenges. So an elevator and platform lift are being installed, and a ramped entrance. Where there were only side doors to the building before, a new glass front entrance will be added facing Queen Street East, leading into a welcoming foyer and reception area, with clear sightlines all the way down the aisle to the altar and choir stalls at the far end.
The space in the sanctuary and in the lower level will be flexible, allowing for use of different kinds on different occasions: worship services, concerts, community events, kids’ and youth programs.
We’ll continue to open our doors to those without homes or living close to the edge, offering meals, shelter, companionship and support. And the building will be more environmentally sound, with better insulation, removal of toxic materials, and more efficient heating and lighting.
It’s perhaps advantageous that this renovation is being done during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we had to close the church anyway. And like many who want to see our communities build back better after the pandemic, addressing the urgent social and environmental needs facing us, we at St Aidan’s want to build back better too.
We want to face outwards not inwards. We want to be a neighbourhood church where everyone feels at home, no matter where they are on their faith journey. We want to be engaged in the issues that cry out for attention, whether local, civic, national or global. And we want to be an engaged, diverse, welcoming face of God in this little corner of the city.
Building back better is something we will all need to do. We need to build back with more justice, more equity, more care for the vulnerable and unheard. May our church’s rebuilding symbolize a process we all take part in.
The Rev. Canon Lucy Reid is from the Church of St Aidan in the Beach.