The Donors: Congregation of Toronto's Deer Park United Church
The Gift: More than $3-million
The Cause: Emmanuel College and other charities
A couple of years ago, the congregation at Deer Park United Church in downtown Toronto faced a painful decision. Membership had fallen steadily for years and the congregation could no longer afford to maintain their 100-year old church. They decided to sell the building and worship at a nearby Presbyterian church.
"This was much like a grief process for us," said Robert Muncaster, a Toronto lawyer and a member of the church executive. "We lost something here. And part of how you try to deal with grief is legacy and things continuing."
Selling the building wasn't easy because of its designation as a heritage property. It eventually sold this year for just under $4-million. After setting aside some proceeds to help finance the worship in their new surroundings, the congregation gave away the rest.
Their largest gift, $1.5-million, went to the University of Toronto's Emmanuel College, a theological school affiliated with the United Church. The money will be used to establish a professorship in music and a scholarship to support doctoral-level research.
Another $700,000 went to KAIROS, a church-based organization that works on social justice issues. The congregation felt an obligation to KAIROS because it had been based at Deer Park for more than 20 years. Other gifts included $500,000 to a resource centre in Regent Park, a low-income Toronto neighbourhood; $320,000 to the United Church's international development program; and $100,000 to two summer camps to help wipe out their deficits.
That wasn't all. The congregation donated the church's organ, worth about $1-million, to Holy Trinity Anglican located next to the Eaton Centre; the hymn books went to a church that couldn't afford new ones; and the grand piano went to another needy congregation. Even the church's 100-place setting of hand-painted bone china was donated, to a food program in an at-risk neighbourhood.
"We're a 'giving away' congregation," said Fred Graham, who is also on the executive. While selling the building was difficult for everyone, he added, "very much good has come of this."