On September 3, 1871, the first service of the Church of the Redeemer as a separate parish was led by the first Rector, the Rev'd Septimus Jones. The Bishop of Toronto, A. N. Bethune, preached to the almost 300 parishioners who attended the service to mark this important moment. Seven years later, on October 16, the cornerstone for the present Church at the corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road was laid by Archdeacon Whitaker, provost of Trinity College, acting for the Bishop. The construction of the new building was completed in 1879. This newly established parish was birthed from St. Paul's Bloor Street. Before long, Church of the Redeemer enjoyed enough growth and prosperity so that, in 1885, the parish established a mission of its own at the corner of Davenport Road and Avenue Road, now called Church of the Messiah.
The Church of the Redeemer building was designed in a Gothic revival style. During the early years of the parish, there was seating for approximately 500 people. Between 1906 and 1929, stained glass windows were installed, depicting key moments in the life of Jesus and his disciples. The window immediately behind the altar, for example, illustrates the story of the Road to Emmaus. Most of the windows were designed by N. T. Lyons, a stained glass firm known for its naturalistic, three-dimensional style.
In 1904, the Casavant organ was installed in the Church. The only other Casavant organ in the diocese of Toronto that is older is presently housed in St. James Cathedral. The Parish Hall was built on the north side of the property in 1881 and the Rectory, to the east of the Church, was erected in 1891. The Parish continued to grow in strength and numbers throughout the first century of its life. While the landscape around the Church changed from one generation to the next, moving from veritable country lanes to a bustling downtown core, the property that was Church of the Redeemer continued to remain a constant at the corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road.
By the late 1970's, Church of the Redeemer had like many other downtown churches fallen on hard times. Attendance had dropped so dramatically that by 1979 the community could no longer pay its way. On June 18, 1979, a special vestry voted to voluntarily disestablish the parish. The land and air rights surrounding the Church building were sold to the developers of the Renaissance Centre in 1980, while ownership of the Church buildings passed from the parish to the Diocese of Toronto. The funds generated by this sale enabled the Parish to renovate the interior of the Church nave,and sanctuary, and to build the third floor meeting space. The renovations were completed in 1982.
Through hard work, faith, and integrity in the Gospel, the parish community with a new incumbent, the Rev'd Tim Foley, began to grow once again. On April 20, 1986, the Parish Church of the Redeemer was re-established, and in 1989 the Diocese of Toronto returned ownership of the Redeemer to the incumbent and wardens of the parish. The community celebrated the 125th anniversary of the parish in 1996.
The 21st century opened with new life for Church of the Redeemer. Church membership grew steadily to 350 families while Outreach programs, Adult Learning initiatives, and worship services expanded to the point where there was a shortage of physical space. In 2000 the community embarked on an ambitious construction program. Earth was excavated beneath the building to make way for gathering space, meeting rooms, a kitchen and offices. Construction was completed in the fall of 2001.
Ours is a rich history marked by success and failure, disappointment and redemption, hard work and faithfulness, death and resurrection. We are learning from our past so as to enrich our future in Christ.
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