In the heart of one of the most upscale of Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods sits a haven for the homeless, the hungry and the haunted: the Anglican Church of the Redeemer. In its longstanding commitment to the Marks of Mission, it has become a magnet for the city’s dispossessed.
Redeemer’s core outreach is a hospitality initiative called, simply, the Lunch Program, which started in 1992, says the Rev. Canon Andrew Asbil, Redeemer’s incumbent priest.
By the late 1990s the lunch program had burst its boundaries to offer breakfast, nursing services, foot care, counselling by clergy and friendly conversation with volunteers. “In 1998, the program was serving 50 to 60 visitors a day and space was very tight,” says Asbil.
So the parish embarked on an ambitious effort to excavate the footprint of the church and build new facilities for the lunch program and the entire parish in an expanded basement. The project was completed in 2001. “Today, we feed 120 people a day, five days a week, 44 weeks a year,” Asbil says.
As well as lunch, the church offers a breakfast of toast, cereal and hard-boiled eggs, all facilitated by a full-time co-ordinator and 75 interfaith volunteers.
“All of us have experienced poverty,” says Asbil. “We are all trying to find a place called home and to find God’s grace and be transformed by it.”