Letters from Toronto

Letters from Toronto

We asked Andrew and Rachel Colman to send us an update on how their transition to Toronto has gone, as Andrew settles into his theological studies at Trinity College.

Hello everyone, from Toronto

It is official, the life as a student has begun. Classes are whirling around me and deadlines are whooshing past. Rachel and I have found a place in Trinity-Bellwoods, not far from the University of Toronto downtown campus. We are in the basement of the home of an absolutely wonderful couple with two kids. Jessica is a contemporary dancer and Arthur is a musician gone computer programmer. Trinity-Bellwoods has a rhythm of life much the same as Winnipeg’s Wolseley neighbourhood. It is slower than most of the rest of the city, and it seems to be where the hipsters have found themselves. We’ve ended up at a church in possibly the only slower part of the city: Parkdale. Parkdale feels a lot like California, in that they are part of Toronto, but not really. The church is called Epiphany and St. Mark’s, and it is a living church with a real presence in its community. With ministries such as a water ministry for many of the homeless that take refuge on the steps of the church during the day, to being part a weekly soup kitchen much like Agape Table, it feels a bit like home in a lot of ways. There is also a new monastic community connected to the church called the Jeremiah Community. It is strange how worlds collide; the Jeremiah Community has a four o’clock service with a very pared down liturgy that has a focus on contemplative worship. God is good.

As for the whirling of classes, I have enrolled in five courses all of which i am really quite enjoying. Include are the stock classes like Intro to New Testament, Survey of Early Christian thinkers, and Congregational Studies. One course that seems to be really drawing me in is called Principles and Practices of Liturgy. This course is a Tuesday evening three hour lecture that runs the full three years, and is just a series of lectures that have been compiled by the Dean on topics that need to be covered but don’t necessarily need their own full course. The first class was simply on the history, spirituality, and use of morning prayer and evensong in the Book of Common Prayer. Wonderful.

The other class that has stolen my heart is Basics of Biblical Hebrew. While trying to select my courses I thought i might like to study Greek, and then I thought I might also like to take one on the psalms. While both of these are good things to take, they brought up an interesting question: while in school should I be going deep or wide? Should I go wide and take intro Greek, psalms, introduction to Islam, and Algebra? Or should I go deep and take Greek 101, Greek 201, open a gyro shop, and then convert to Eastern Orthodoxy? I took this question to David Needlands, the dean and my program advisor, and asked “David should I learn wide or deep in my three years here?” After a bit of a dialogue the answer he came up with was Hebrew. I am so glad, as I love it! After prying French out from the recesses of my mind in France this summer, and learning passable Italian in a couple months that allowed me to actually communicate with my family in Italy, my mind was primed to learn a language. Why not pick the one that is furthest from the ones I already know? It is concrete learning in a world of theology where almost nothing is concrete: that’s a blessing.

Both Rachel’s parents and my parents have been out to visit. They have seen our place and approve, which has helped with it feeling like home. It also helped us miss Winnipeg a lot more!

Toronto is a great place, and we really really like it. We are also learning how great a place Winnipeg is and that we really love it.

We miss you all, all of you!

Andrew

rachel and andrew

I’m sitting in our little basement apartment as I write this. We have lived in Trinity-Bellwoods almost a month now, and are beginning to call Toronto home. When we arrived here after spending six weeks in Europe, it kind of felt like our travels and explorations of new cities just didn’t stop, but perhaps that made the transition easier. There is so much to discover in this city, but we begin with the places around our home, our church, the university, and the music school where I teach.

By the grace of God, I managed to have two jobs set up before we even landed in Toronto. I met my church community where I am directing the musical activities in June when I came for an interview. They were immediately delighted to invite me, and that was a great encouragement. I am entrusted with the task of choosing music and leading the choir through the services of the community. I count it a privilege to bring to them the rich collection of music I have from my years at saint benedict’s table. The church here has been changing shape for about a year now, and the community has come together in that process, and seems ready for new things. The leadership takes advantage of that as much as possible, and I look forward to developing the music of the church with the choir, and hopefully with some other instrumentalists – eventually! Most of the congregation is of Trinidadian descent, so I look forward to including their heritage in the music of the church community. The church is also connected with a new monastic community called the Jeremiah Community. There is a depth and richness that these people bring into the congregation, an awareness of the issues in the surrounding community and around the world, and I’ve really appreciated the soup and Bible studies on Wednesday evenings, having conversations with people of all kinds of backgrounds and at all points of their lives. Their Sunday 4pm services feel a lot more like home to us! I have also expressed interest in bringing some different repertoire into the community chapels at Andrew’s school, where they are used to only organ music, and am incredibly excited for what that might bring.

I have also started teaching about twenty piano students through a school in the Greek area of the city. It feels weird to be the ‘bread-winner’ but doing music things to make that happen. I’m still looking for another puzzle piece to complete my employment trifecta–I have to remind myself often that the right opportunity will come. By God’s grace, we have come this far. He has given us so many opportunities to grow and get involved here, and I think this is only the beginning. We miss our community in Winnipeg so much, though. While some days I am brimming over in excitement, some days I feel deeply the sacrifice of having left home.

It seems that most of Winnipeg, though, finds itself in Toronto at some point–so please–if you’re in the area, we would love to see you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all as you celebrate the 10th anniversary (almost a teenager, guys!). Celebrate well, and often – as we’ve all been taught so well!

Rachel

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