Leaside United Church (LUC) is a familiar landmark in the neighbourhood across from Trace Manes Park and known for its spring and fall “Awesome Sales.” But more awesome activities are taking place there these days in the form of renovations to upgrade the dated facilities for use by both the congregation and the many members of the community who frequent the church weekly.
The first stage of the renovations was unveiled early in December. The new kitchen, next to the Hearth Room and used for Sunday Coffee Hour and various church and community events, is more than twice the size of the former kitchenette. It boasts new cupboards, counters and energy-efficient stainless steel appliances, including a commercial dishwasher that completes a cycle in under four minutes and an induction range, as well as a larger flower preparation area.
Members of the congregation are impressed by the size and functionality of the new kitchen, commenting on its brightness and spacious layout, making it a pleasure to work there. The supply minister, Rev. Warren McDougall, noted that the new space would give people “a real boost right before Christmas.”
This renovation is part of an improvement project made possible by the amalgamation of LUC with Presteign-Woodbine United Church (PWUC), which was located in the St. Clair and O’Connor area of East York. The PWUC congregation had been dwindling for several years, and the remaining active members found themselves overburdened by all the responsibilities of running a church council and several committees. They considered a number of viable alternatives such as amalgamation, redeveloping their property or creating a new type of mission in the area.
In the spring of 2016, when LUC was thinking about fundraising for needed upgrades, the head of council, Graham Lute, was approached by the PWUC head of council, Tom Carter, about the possibility of amalgamation. Their initial meeting followed with a dinner involving key representatives from both congregations, during which they shared personal and spiritual experiences as well as their visions for their churches. Soon, it was decided that the best solution for PWUC would be amalgamation with LUC because of their similarities in terms of mission, core values and outreach initiatives, as well as their proximity and the close personal connections between the two groups.
By the beginning of 2017, the regulars from PWUC were already attending services at LUC and joining in all of the activities and committees long before the official date of amalgamation on June 10. The amalgamation resulted in a financial opportunity, thanks mostly to the sale of the PWUC property, to enhance the congregation’s missional goals and upgrade the facilities physically and for greater accessibility, in order to encourage greater use of the building for members and the community.
As Graham Lute says, the relationships that started as “good acquaintances have over time become really good friends,” and now they are embarking on a new adventure together.
Anne Raby, a member of the Renovation Committee, adds that “change is a constant, but our church has used it in a positive manner and we look forward to serving the Leaside and East York communities for years to come.”
Our next article will highlight the congregation’s philosophical and physical priorities for the improvements and more details about the upcoming changes.
Volunteers working in the new kitchen: Dick Cowan, Anne Raby, Inga Theberge, Wendy Turley and Dorothy Cowan.