The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

By Barry Parker, Rector

Posted on November 18, 2015

It is an old cultural proverb but all I remember is my Mother constantly reminding me about change. “Yeah, yeah, Mom, I get it”, thinking all the while that it was irrelevant. Well, 50 years later here I am saying it to others and living it at St. Paul's. The more things change and the more they stay the same is both a challenge and good news for us at St. Paul's.

The challenge comes to embody the Good News in the use of our physical space. Paraphrasing the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby:

“Buildings in themselves promise nothing, but they point in their shape to the source of help: Immanuel, God with us. We will only endure – this building will only be what it should be – if we are built on Jesus. There is no compromise with that message. Without it this is a museum of interesting social anthropology. With Jesus as its focus and centre it is a channel of the breaking in of the kingdom of God. For (St. Paul’s) to live up to the beauty of its architecture, it must be a place not of tidiness or conformity, but of transformation and daily conversion…It is to be a place where the encounter with God turns a traveling crowd of pilgrims into the people who meet God in Christ. It is to be a place which accepts our motley variety and untidiness, because it is full of human beings who are all sinners; but in which those who come in as sinners find forgiveness, and go out with new heart and hope to transform a world in which otherwise darkness seems to extinguish light, fear surrounds and despair-filled suffering encompasses the weakest and the poorest. It is through Jesus that this happens.”

How do we change without change?

Our space is important to us, and so is our stewardship. It is time for us, just as we have done with our financial stewardship, to seriously engage the management of our space. From the decreasing lighting in the main church due to condo development around us, to overcrowding at the 9:30 a.m. service so that often folks are sitting out in front of the washrooms, to the increasing challenges with sound in the large church, to flow throughout – especially on a Sunday, to flexible use of all of our space, to accessibility for wheelchairs and walkers...the list goes on and on. We have renovated portions of St. Paul’s and now it is time to address the whole. After years of consultation, deliberations and conversations, we are implementing the following initial space alterations as we begin to create a worship space for tomorrow, by starting this Sunday. St. Paul's Bloor Street Five Spaces

Beginning this Sunday, we will move to the following general areas that are easily understood to enhance our use and effectiveness – all to practice better space stewardship. This will be a 12 month pilot project. In the coming months we will explore not only our experience but also our understanding and theology of space and worship.

Worship: The Sanctuary will contain all of our Sunday worship services: 8:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m. (The Bridge) and 11 a.m.

Movement: The Atrium and Foyer will provide us with better ‘people flow’ throughout Sunday morning.

Prayer: The St. Paul’s Chapel will be set aside and committed to be a place of continuous prayer and quiet.

Connecting: In the Great Hall we have a visiting and refreshment space that is open continuously throughout the morning.

Formation: Cody Hall will continue to be our place of formation – Children's Ministry upstairs, Christian basics courses in the Hall and Youth Ministry on the lower level.

We are undertaking some minor changes in the coming months to the Worship Space to allow us the flexibility to proclaim the Gospel and enhance our gathered worship. These will include a diagonal cut back of the front four pews, mirroring the diagonal cut at back by the Font, enhanced sound and lighting, pew cushions, directional signage, and ceiling fans.

“The more things change the more they stay the same.” Yes, things are changing. However, what isn't changing is our commitment to love God with all our heart, body, mind and souls and to love our neighbours as ourselves.