Answers to some common questions:
Is it okay to come if I’m not “a Mennonite”? Of course! Our members were raised in many different faiths, or no faith at all; they hail from five continents and speak at least 10 mother tongues. We welcome anyone, regardless of background or where you’re at in your relationship with God, from “curious” to “committed.”
Can I feel comfortable bringing small children? Absolutely. We have lots of young families and don’t mind a bit of noise. A box of “quiet toys” is kept in the back west corner of the sanctuary if you need something to occupy a little one; you can also use that area to walk and bounce. There’s a supervised nursery on the second floor (it has a window overlooking the sanctuary). Our main floor “cry room” has been removed temporarily during renovations, but after this summer there will be an area behind glass at the rear of the sanctuary where you can take a fussy baby.
Where can I park? TUMC’s lot is tucked away behind a row of houses on Queen Street. You will find the entry lane adjacent to the streetcar yard several houses west of the church (it looks like a driveway). The small lot fills up quickly. You may also park free in green-machine areas on Queen until 1 p.m. Sundays. Or try adjacent residential streets.
How about transit? The 501 Queen streetcar is your best bet. It rumbles right by. Or take the 92 Woodbine South bus to Queen and walk 400 metres west to Lark Street.
I use a wheelchair – is TUMC accessible? Yes! While we are undergoing renovations, there is a temporary ramp at the Lark St. stairs. When the renovations are completed this summer, there will again be a level entry on the north side, as well as an accessible washroom on the main floor. A small elevator goes down one floor to the kitchen, regular washrooms and Sunday school rooms, or up to the second and third floors. Wheel-Trans can drop off/pick up easily on Lark St. Accessible buses stop at Queen St. and Kingston, about a block and a half away. Our building has a flexible arrangement of chairs so you may sit anywhere you like (just ask an usher to remove a chair for you). We have large-print hymnals available for those with impaired vision, and will soon have headphones available to assist those with hearing impairments. We are working on improving our accessibility and welcome your comments.
What should I wear? Whatever you like. On the same Sunday, you’ll see some in suit and tie, others in T-shirt and shorts.
Do I need to memorize anything? No. Any prayer or litany the congregation takes part in is printed in the bulletin.
What kind of music will I hear? TUMC is gifted with many wonderful music-makers, professional and amateur. We like four-part harmony accompanied by piano, but we also love drums, guitar, saxophone, flute, brass, strings, etc. – and music ranging from chant to African call-and-response. Occasionally we put together a choir or smaller ensembles. Whether you like to sing, play or just listen, you’re welcome to enjoy.
What’s the ‘joys and concerns’ thing all about? As a community of faith, we believe it’s important to care, support, trust and pray for one another. So our services usually include an opportunity to briefly share our joyful moments and our struggles, to ask for prayer for ourselves or others, and to encourage one another in our spiritual growth. We try to do this sensitively, of course – some things are best discussed in confidence with a pastor, a small group or the church’s Caring Team.
What’s with that double offering? The “plates” are for cheques and cash that support the church’s budget and many services and programs beyond our walls. The bags are for loose change, which goes toward special projects chosen and administered by the Sunday school leaders and kids –– usually something tangible like sending school supplies to needy children in another country. It’s worth noting that many members now give through automatic banking.
What about the Eucharist/Communion? Mennonites don’t observe the “Lord’s Supper” every Sunday. But we do so frequently throughout the year, as both memorial of Jesus’ sacrifice for us and a celebration of our unity with him and fellow believers. At TUMC, we practise open Communion, meaning that anyone who wishes to take part as a sign of a mature commitment to Jesus Christ is welcome. Typically, after Christ’s words instituting Communion are spoken, we gather in small circles around tables, each with a leader, and pass around the elements: a small piece of bread torn from a common loaf, and a small cup of wine or grape juice (your choice). If you are uncomfortable for any reason about taking part, you are welcome to simply observe.
Why isn’t the pastor preaching today? Believing in “the priesthood of all believers”, Mennonites have a strong tradition of volunteer preachers. Members of our preaching team, men and women chosen through a congregational process, often have formal biblical training, and work together to ensure we have a high quality of Christian teaching and a variety of voices to shape our church’s vision and theology.
What special events do you celebrate? All the common Christian festivals: the seasons of Advent and Lent; Christmas, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost. We also celebrate baptisms and church membership ceremonies; baby dedications; mission/service themes; an annual carol sing; a retreat Sunday at a camp on the Bruce Peninsula; Thanksgiving, Eternity Sunday (remembering loved ones who have died); Mennonite World Fellowship Sunday and many others. Occasionally, we hold a joint bilingual service with our Spanish-speaking sister congregation: the Toronto Mennonite New Life Church, which shares our building.
In the past, I have not always felt welcomed by churches I’ve attended. Will TUMC be different? We recognize that there are many people who have conflicted church backgrounds. This has been true especially for people who are LGBT, people of racialized and ethnic groups, and people of differing abilities. We consciously strive to overcome barriers to full inclusion of all of God’s children. Way back in 2002, TUMC passed a resolution that our worship, church life and church membership should be open to all persons. We agreed that all members should be encouraged to exercise their gifts in the church through activities including preaching, caring, teaching, leading worship, mentoring youth, and serving on committees, subject to the congregation’s discernment.
I’ve been coming for a while; how do I get “in the loop”? Contact any of the pastors about prayer requests, spiritual counselling, baptism/church membership, or upcoming Faith Exploration classes. Contact the church office administrator (firstname.lastname@example.org) about getting a name tag, receiving weekly email announcements, adding your name to the phone directory, putting your photo on the bulletin board, or obtaining a mail folder in the lobby (which will also ensure you receive copies of the Place of Meeting newsletter, congregational reports, etc.). Contact committee chairs (listed under SERVE> AT TUMC) about volunteering to be involved in some aspect of the church’s worship, community or service. And check under BELONG for information about small community groups and other ways you can find friends and fellowship at TUMC.
How is the church run? Who makes decisions? We elect or appoint people to various committees and the church board (you’ll find more about those under the SERVE tab). But the big decisions are made by the congregation as a whole, meeting two to three times a year. An annual meeting in February sets the Spending Plan for the year. Anyone who regularly attends TUMC may take part. On rare occasions, votes may be taken, but generally we follow a consensus process for decision-making based on who is present, regardless of their membership status. Now and then, when there are particular issues that need some time to process, we’ll hold a simple lunch after the service (dubbed Soup & Sophia, after the Greek word for “wisdom”), where we gather informally around tables to share our thoughts and perspectives. Newcomers and visitors are welcome to enjoy some homemade soup and join in the discussion!
What does the “united” in the church’s name refer to? It’s a historic holdover that has nothing to do with the United Church of Canada. After WWI, several thousand Mennonites fleeing persecution in Russia immigrated to Ontario and, wanting to work together, organized themselves as United Mennonite congregations. In 1944 that was formalized as the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of Ontario – later superseded in a merger with other Mennonite groups to form Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. Many Ontario churches founded in that era, like TUMC (1948), have retained the “united” in their names.