Church of the Holy Trinity: Loving justice in the heart of the city
“The needs are great, and this grant helped to keep us going, and develop more community partnerships,” says the Rev. Pam Trondson, priest-in-charge at Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto. Holy Trinity was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) this past February to expand the Unity Kitchen Street Level Hub outreach project, which grew out of the pandemic but continues to play a vital role in poverty reduction and food security in Toronto’s Downtown East neighbourhood.
Trondson, who came to Holy Trinity in December 2022, after having served at Christ Church Scarborough, says her heart has always been in “social justice mode” and her passion is to “link the church to organizations and advocate.” She has found a good fit at Holy Trinity, where the call to “challenge oppression wherever it may be found” is deeply embedded in the church’s 175-year history of being a home to the marginalized and disenfranchised.
In terms of location, Trondson explains the church is uniquely situated in downtown Toronto’s triangle of wealth and power. “We have Toronto Eaton Centre on one side, City Hall on the other, and just south of us is bank alley. The amount of space around us that a resident or passerby must pay to be in is overwhelming. There are very few places where you’re allowed to simply sit and be.”
Elizabeth Cummings, Unity Kitchen’s Program Coordinator says the outreach program started with the first COVID-19 lockdown. “Previously, the church had been open to the community on weekday afternoons for people to hang out and drink coffee. When the lockdowns hit, a lot of programs shut down and people were wandering, trying to keep warm.” A volunteer-led meal program was launched and quickly grew to six days a week.
“We were eventually able to hire a chef to prepare more homestyle food and we were able to bring somebody on for logistics and kitchen support,” says Cummings. The call to serve has been unending as the pandemic gave rise to a cost-of-living crisis, and exacerbated Toronto’s pre-existing housing crisis—officially declared an emergency by Toronto’s City Council this past May. “COVID-19 funding has been winding down, and there is no commensurate program to support the cost-of-living crisis,” says Trondson, emphasizing that this creates a financial burden on the church to support core operational needs.
As the church continues to grow programs and build partnerships, while striving for the financial sustainability that is needed to serve the poor and marginalized on this scale, Trondson works to keep the congregation spiritually centred. “God is challenging those who are privileged to be open to those who are not privileged. And we live with the messiness of that: asking questions and trying to encourage people to keep an open mind.”
Trondson says she feels a kinship to Miss Frizzell of the infamous Magic School Bus. “She wants her students to learn, and those on the bus all have different experiences of learning. But she encourages them to ‘Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.’ We’re a bit like that, living in the learning and the messiness.” Hopefully, she says, Holy Trinity’s learning outcome will continue to be “to love God and love people.”
The grant to Church of the Holy Trinity is one of 32 awarded so far in 2023 for Community Ministries, totaling approximately $292,000. To become an AFC member or to support grants to Community Ministries across Canada visit www.anglicanfoundation.org/donate.