Thin Places In Toronto?

Last time I led a retreat in Canada I invited retreatants, who had visited 'thin places' such as Iona and Lindisfarne in another country, to make a list of Canada's thin places, where the gap between earth and heaven is thin. They mentioned a few Indian sacred places, and one place in Quebec where people felt they had been visited by the Virgin Mary's mother. That was all. No one imagined fast and fashionable Toronto as a thin place.

This week-end I encountered places in Toronto that are starting to thin. I met a group who call themselves 'The Carrying Place', after the trail of this name, starting by the river Humber, that links different regions and was used by the Indian, British and French peoples. The name comes from the Mohawk term toron-ten, meaning 'the place where the trees grow over the water', an important landmark on Lake Simcoe through which the trail passed. The Carrying Place group seek to re-hallow ancient sites.

One of these is Toronto island. On Saturday we took a ferry to this island whose different parts include residents, tourist facilities, nature, and the Lakeside church. There we had a retreat . This included stories of how Ireland was transformed from a place beholden to idols in to a land of saints, scholars and 'desert' places of prayer.The vision is to make, with permission, this little-used church a place of regular retreat and prayer.

My hosts were Deborah and Duke Vipperman. He is pastor of Resurrection Church. Following an evening event at St. Olave's church I preached at the morning service at Resurrection church. Ten years ago this was at a low ebb. Now it is vibrant with multi-cultural expressions of Christ. One example especially appeals to me. A member named Chris is a musician who grew up in India. He holds public events such as Yeshua Satsang, where, with Indian instruments like sitar tabla and harmonium they offer their hearts in praise of the Sat Guru (the True Teacher) with bhajans and kirtans in Indian style. Skeptics and believers are welcomed.

Now it is Victoria Day - a public holiday. ('Who is Victoria?' I hear someone in Britain ask - the clue is she was a queen). All is closed. I crash out. But tonight I am honoured to meet with tutors in the doctorate of ministry school for a holiday meal and to share insights on the new monasticism.

Posted at 11:42am on 24th May 2010
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