by David Nickle, Senior Advisor on Policy and Communications
It was April 23, 1922 when Rt. Rev. James Sweeny, the Anglican Bishop of Toronto, came to what would very soon be the Township of North York. He was there to dedicate a new church – St. George's Anglican Church – on the west side of Yonge Street, near Duplex Road.
Like North York, St. George's started small – serving just a small community in the Willow Dale Anglican Church Mission of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Thornhill. But as North York was incorporated, less than two months after the dedication, the congregation and church grew, and changed.
On April 23, 2022, the congregation will celebrate its 100th anniversary, just in advance of North York's own centennial celebrations this year.
It's a very different church a century later. By 1950, the small building had been replaced by a larger, more modern structure. And in the early years of the 21st century, the church sold part of their lands to a private developer and used the proceeds to build St. George's on Yonge Anglican Church, which was completed in 2011 with a new state-of-the-art organ and concert hall acoustics.
"We started out with a little wooden church the size of my bedroom, and now we have a building of some consequence," says Geraldine Sperling, who chairs the centennial celebrations committee for St. George's Anglican on Yonge.
Over the years, St. George's has become a very consequential institution in Willowdale, actively working to make the community a better place.
"We have for many years tried to serve our local community," says Geraldine. "In (pre-COVID) times we've had a very successful daycare, and there are a number of young families in the neighbourhood who require care for their children. We provide English as a Second Language workshops free of charge for newcomers to the country. We've continued through the pandemic to do that via Zoom rather than doing it in person. We also provide space for low-cost rentals for community groups."
The church also offers practice place for local schools' music programs.
"We've had kids from local schools, Victoria Park Secondary School had an orchestra that's rehearsed at St. George's. We've had concerts for the community."
During much of the pandemic, the church has been closed for those gatherings, and like many places of worship broadcasting their services for safety.
For the 100th anniversary, the celebration on April 23 – St. George's Day – will be lower-key than originally planned.
The worship service will take place in the afternoon, with the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, as the celebrant and preacher. Due to limited seating and underground parking, those planning to attend should register for the service on Eventbrite:
There will be tours of the building before the service, starting at 1:30 p.m., and overflow parking at Willowdale Presbyterian Church at 38 Ellerslie Avenue.
If you're not able to register online, just email or call the office and the Office administrator will register you.
St. George's on Yonge is at 5350 Yonge Street at Churchill Avenue. Telephone: 416-225-1922, email: firstname.lastname@example.org