Community members recently helped paint the Kingston Road United Church building hoarding while work is underway on the roof. Photo by Ginny Virginia Hobbs Huebsch.
By REV. MARTHA MARTIN
Maybe you’ve heard the saying… “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I’ve thought about that phrase often over the past few years since becoming a minister at Kingston Road United Church.
Here’s why I think God is amused that I’m able to offer spiritual leadership to a faith community that needs to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace the 100-year-old roof of their building.
First…I failed math all through high school…I had to go to summer school after grade 13 just to raise my GPA so I could get into college. So when it comes to numbers, interest and mortgage rates, investments and dividends…my eyes get cloudy. It’s hard for me to stay in the game. I am grateful for the patience of wise elders who explain things in accessible language.
Number two…almost everything I’ve done in ministry over the past three decades has been program-related and often done outside of a church building.
This includes university chaplaincy, religious camps, retreat centers and small groups in homes. Even when I was senior minister of a congregation in Halifax for four years before coming to Toronto, it was with a congregation that left their building in 2009 and worshiped in a music conservatory.
At the conservatory, they became a total pop-up church. We had to roll everything out in the concert hall every Sunday morning and then put everything back when we were done. I had no permanent office. If I had to meet someone, I did so in a cafe, or when the secretary wasn’t in her little office that we rented to her. And for me, everything worked.
I never thought much about the importance of a church building because it was not the center of my ministry. When I arrived at Kingston Road United Church in 2018, I was quite surprised at how busy everything was during the week…with choirs of all ages, Zumba classes, daycare, church groups, Friday lunches, dog walkers, music concerts… and much more. Even a bowling alley that people still use.
And I thought “this is a well-used building. A building that is part of the community. A building full of people doing things all week.
I found myself doing a complete turnaround of the church buildings. When the scaffolding was first erected around the building in preparation for the roof replacement, many of us were shocked at its sheer scale.
It looked ominous. Hostile. Prohibition. Depressing even. When I expressed this to someone I know well, she said, “Oh, I think that’s great! He tells me ‘something is happening here’”.
I was surprised by this completely different way of seeing things. Gradually, I began to open myself to this interpretation. Something was happening.
In theological language, I would say that the spirit moves in and through the community. The congregation was taking a leap of faith that said “we believe this is a precious resource for our community, and to preserve it we must spend a lot of money that we don’t yet have”.
On August 20, under the vision and leadership of KRU member Tim Dawson, many congregation and community members came out to beautify the panels surrounding the building while the project was underway.
It was a glorious day and brought much joy to all who passed by. Additionally, it was a very successful fundraiser as KRU transitions from raising funds internally to raising funds externally from community members.
And to me, the end result – the beautiful paintings all around the building – says “There’s something going on here”. The mind moves indeed.
Reverend Martha Martin is pastor at Kingston Road United Church, 975 Kingston Road.