On Palm Sunday, Bishop Susan Bell did something that hasn’t happened in the Diocese of Niagara in nearly a quarter century. She consecrated a new church space, setting it apart for worship and ministry, in the name of All Saints.
More than 70 people gathered at the new church space, located at the corner of King and Queen Streets in Hamilton in a newly constructed, 24-storey condominium building.
“You are the best news we’ve had in years,” said Bishop Susan Bell during the special service.
As the first ‘mission’ established by the bishop under the new Mission Canon approved by Synod in 2022, All Saints is an innovative missional experiment gathered around a small, diverse, and evolving community.
Centred in the heart of downtown Hamilton, Canon Mike Deed, All Saints missioner, is working to build partnerships in the local community and exploring ways to open the mission’s doors to new ways of being God’s Church. The mission’s mandate is shaped by three priorities: to deepen relationship with God, to walk with its neighbours, and to work for justice. “The new building with its huge windows looking out onto the busyness of King Street,” said Canon Deed, “is another constant reminder to seek and meet God in the world and to be invitational.”
“All Saints has a long history of commitment to social justice, advocacy, and supporting those who are marginalized by society,” noted Canon Deed. The mission action plan for All Saints envisions the new ministry space to be a visible presence in downtown Hamilton, partnering with community-based programs and participating in local initiatives for the good of the neighbourhood.
While the new space has people excited for the future, over the years the people of All Saints have learned to travel light and have been careful to preserve only what is life-giving from the past life as a parish. Two stained glass windows and the century-old baptismal font, which is prominently displayed and viewable from the street, have been incorporated into the new worship space.
“Well done for conserving what is best and most important,” said Bishop Bell. “And for letting go, so that the future is not fettered by the past.” The past, the bishop urged, provides the mission with the security to build the future with confidence, buoyed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s been a long journey to this point. The people of All Saints have been waiting for a permanent worship space to call their own since 2009 after their former church, which dated back to the 1870s, was deemed structurally unsound, as a result of a rare earthquake in 1998. The building’s foundation was cracked as a result and this led to the removal of the stone spire; restoration costs were estimated at more than $6 million. Consequently, the parish voted to leave the building and build a new church to continue ministry in the neighbourhood they have served for more than a century. The church and other buildings on the property were eventually demolished in 2016.
Since that time, the people of All Saints have worshipped in a nursing home, a local Presbyterian church, and with their Anglican siblings at St. Paul’s, Westdale. During the final leg of their pilgrimage, the Good Shepherd community in Hamilton exhibited generous hospitality time and again, as timelines shifted.
“I hope that you, All Saints, have inaugurated a moment, a movement, and a season,” said Bishop Bell. “And that there will be plenty more new churches to come.”