It was two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon before Christmas at the Cathedral Church of St. James in downtown Toronto. A large crowd of men and women had congregated in the narthex, the lobby just inside the front doors. Following some community announcements, the vicar led us in prayer.
As the glass doors were opened, everyone made their way into the west aisle of the cathedral. Emptied of pews except for a few in front of a chapel at the far end, the space was set up with stations to meet a variety of needs. At the entrance, hot drinks, sandwiches and fresh fruit were on offer. Farther down the aisle, two barbers were ready to cut hair. Beyond that was a station where a couple of nurses could provide foot care. Across the aisle was a table laden with hand-knit socks, hats, mittens and scarves. Behind it, a parishioner was busy knitting more.
At another table, people could select a Christmas card to send to family or friends. The cathedral would ensure it was mailed. For the more adventuresome, there was an opportunity to sign up for a winter camping trip. Several photo albums revealed how much fun those expeditions could be. Off in the distance, a man who had come in played the piano as others gathered around to sing songs of the season.
Throughout the entire place, there was a beautiful spirit of welcome and warmth, service and gratitude, faith and friendship. David, the vicar, moved among the people with ease. He knows so many of them by name and by circumstance. They know him and they appreciate the care he and the volunteers provide. “Tuesday Drop-In” at the cathedral provides safe haven, practical help and pastoral support that enables them to go on from one week to the next.
All I heard and saw that afternoon moved me to think of how much joy such ministry brings to the heart of our blessed Lord. It reminded me of the teaching of the great St. John Chrysostom with respect to reverencing the Body of Christ. “In the first sense, the Body of Christ does not need clothing but worship from a pure heart. In the second sense, it does need clothing and all the care we can give it.”
For “Tuesday Drop-In” at St. James and ministries of similar kind in parish churches all across the country, I rejoice and I pray for God’s blessings on all who are so devoted to them, week in and week out.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.