“Tragedy has struck our city today.”
These were the words of Archbishop Colin Johnson, archbishop of the dioceses of Toronto and Moosonee and metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, in a statement released Monday, April 23.
Around 1:30 pm that day, in the North York area of Toronto, a white rental van drove onto the sidewalk of busy Yonge Street and accelerated.
Witnesses reported watching the van intentionally plow into the crowds of pedestrians who were outside enjoying the warm spring weather, in a rampage that lasted 26 minutes before police apprehended the driver.
At least 10 people have been declared dead, with 15 more being treated for injuries.
The alleged driver of the vehicle, Alek Minassian, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, according to the Toronto Star.
“I weep for those who have died. I join in prayer for those who are physically injured or suffering emotionally from having witnessed such carnage, and for having lost loved ones,” said Johnson in his statement. “It is hard to comprehend such violence.”
Vigils were held Monday night at Church of the Incarnation and Church of the Redeemer Toronto. Throughout the city, a number of Anglican churches have opened their doors, offering prayer and pastoral care.
These Anglican churches along the Yonge corridor are open for prayer & pastoral care today:
St. George on Yonge, 5350 Yonge (west entrance)
St. Clement, Eglinton, 59 Briar Hill Ave.
Christ Church, Deer Park, 1570 Yonge
Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor St. W.
St. James Cathedral
— Anglican Diocese of Toronto (@anglicandioTO) April 24, 2018
— The Redeemer, T.O. (@TheRedeemerTO) April 24, 2018
Holding our worship space open for prayer and reflection this evening, from 7:00 to 9:00. In the aftermath of the tragedy on Yonge Street yesterday morning, we offer our prayers of support for the victims, families, first responders, and all affected. #torontostrong pic.twitter.com/7ft09AqxuR
— All Saints Kingsway (@SaintsKingsway) April 24, 2018
At the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada, Primate Fred Hiltz led a time of reflection at noon Tuesday, with a prayer, hymn and Scripture reading, with Church House staff.
In a statement released before the gathering, Hiltz characterized the tragedy as “an attack that can only be described as an act of terrorism,” stating, “So often it is somewhere else—New York, Boston, Paris, London, Brussels, Frankfurt, Jerusalem, Yemen … Yesterday it happened here at home.”
Hiltz said, “as people of faith our first response is to uphold all those affected by this tragedy in prayer,” including those who died and were injured, the families of those affected, medical teams and first responders, and faith leaders providing support.
“As Toronto weeps, we know so many others weep with us. As we turn to God for consolation, we know so many others turn with us and we are grateful,” the statement said. “To that day when violence shall no longer be heard and seen in our streets we look with hope; and for its coming let us pledge our best efforts so that the safety of all people, the freedom of our neighbourhoods, the peace of our cities can be secured.”
Johnson’s statement recalled the lesson of the previous Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, which celebrates “Jesus as the one who cares for all his people in times of anguish,” and quoted from the day’s reading, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” a verse from Psalm 23.
“In the midst of such trauma, in the fear and confusion, anger and heartache, may we know that God is with us, with mercy and justice, healing and compassion. As the events unfold may we find ways to comfort one another in grief and support each [other] in our resolve to be a community of freedom, unity and peace.”