Danforth Mennonite Church is a small, urban congregation on the Danforth in Toronto. In late June, we met in person and virtually to celebrate 115 years as a congregation. It was also a special time to recognize our congregational transition following the retirement of our long-time pastor, Tim Reimer. Our interim pastor, Stephen Reist, led us in this time of reflection.
Together we formed a human timeline at the back of the sanctuary and told stories of our arrival and participation at Danforth, from the 1940s to present. Special highlights from the decades were shared, including: a vibrant Mennonite Voluntary Service unit; the beginnings of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church; music over the decades; community Vacation Bible School; “Welcome the Stranger” refugee programming; a building renovation project in the early 1990s; and, most recently, “Sowing for Peace,” a Toronto-based ministry to cultivate a peace culture in a multicultural context to Koreans and other Canadians.
Strong themes emerged in our time of reflection, showing Danforth as a place of diversity, caring and acceptance. Our Anabaptist values resonate with people here, and we are committed to reaching out to the community, worshipping together and making music together.
At the conclusion of our storytelling, we gathered around the “present” in our timeline. It was placed strategically at the historic doors exiting the sanctuary, where Pastor Reist brought our time together to a close with these words:
“And so here we are together in the present . . . a particular group of God’s people in this particular time and this particular place. As we look back at who we were together, what has brought this community of faith together today, and what we value about our community, we are grateful to God for God’s many gifts and the gift of community. Having taken inventory of who we are, we can face the future, trusting in God and listening for the Spirit’s movement.
“We acknowledge the fragility of what we have, times of uncertainty, the threats to our community that sometimes loom large. However, we also notice and acknowledge the opportunities around us to serve and love. . . . Our loving, caring community and familiarity with one another is precious to us. What do we do with it?
“We could turn inward and strive to preserve the family at any cost for as long as possible. Or we could find ways to use that superpower to serve others. Adapting our traditions and practices to be welcoming is risky and uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to grow. God invites us to invest our talent of being a loving community. . . .
“This door can represent the future, full of possibilities. We take our gifts, our history, our uncertainties, and an unknowable future as we walk with one another into that future, trusting in the goodness and faithfulness of God.
“As we leave now, let us prayerfully walk through this door, symbolically into the future together with God.”
Danforth Mennonite Church congregants from the 1990s to the present are pictured at the church’s 115th-anniversary celebration in late June.