All Saints and St. Matthias unite as one

By Judith van Berkom – 

An atmosphere of excitement dominated the congregation and choirs of All Saints and St. Matthias as they prepared to worship together at All Saints Anglican in Westboro for the first time on Sunday, February 14. They’ve come full circle — St Matthias Anglican Church having been formed in 1880 as a mission church of All Saints on Richmond Road, holding their first service in 1887, and laying the cornerstone of their church building on Parkdale in 1939.

Julie Cross, a member of All Saints’ choir says she is “excited about the merger.” She says working with Deidre Piper from St. Matthias – choirmaster, organist and composer in her own right – “is like taking a master’s lesson every time we practice.”

“She knows that our voices are older and that we’ll have to be brought along. We have to learn breathing techniques again. But we’ll be brought up to a higher standard,” says Julie.

Close to retirement, Deirdre has committed to working together with Edith Troup, choir director at All Saints, for six months.

“It’s exciting for us,” says Glenn Fox, senior warden of All Saints. “Our choir dwindled over the years; they came with a strong choir. We had some concerns – they [St. Matthias] were quite formal; we definitely are not. How was this going to work?”

The wardens of both churches met several times over the past months, and Glenn says he is confident that it will work out just fine.

In the merger, Glenn explains, both priests, Chris Dunn of All Saints – who is also the Archdeacon of Ottawa West – and John Wilker-Blakley from St. Matthias, will be actively engaged as the church moves forward. John, a former curate of All Saints, has committed for one year and will work on outreach programs in the community east of Westboro. “They chose us,” says Glenn, as opposed to All Saints actively searching a few years ago for another church (First United) to share their space and costs.

All Saints is in good repair. Ten years ago an engineering report informed what repairs needed to be done on the building. Most of the recommendations have been carried out, including a new roof and new heating system and the building is wheelchair accessible. St. Matthias, in contrast, required too much work to bring it up to current building standards. An extensive study done before the closure looked at different options for the buildings, but in the end, the congregation decided to retain their remaining resources for work in the community and join with All Saints.

Chris Dunn describes their first official service together as “a time of wonderful energy.”

“I will still worry about a number of logistical matters, and parking is always an issue, but the two congregations are mixing together very well. There are a lot of people at the coffee hour following the service and the level of conversation is great,” says Chris.

“These are exciting times, and times of adjustment,” he adds. “Following our first two services we have had the opportunity to provide tours to those coming over from St. Matthias.  This is important because the layout of our building is quite strange. It was certainly interesting to see the surprise on people’s faces when they saw my office and found the 150 puppets.”

The puppets are used for the children’s story at the beginning of the service; stories relate to the day and/or the scripture readings.

Photo slide show courtesy of Larry Chop:

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