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 all, regardless of 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. If your little one is getting too boisterous, there’s a collection of “quiet toys” in the library/play area in the lobby, which has a window so you can watch and hear the service while supervising. There’s also a supervised (except for July and August) nursery on the second floor, which has a window to the sanctuary. On most Sundays, except in summer, children through Grade 2 can head downstairs after the “children’s time” during the service to enjoy activities planned for them. (During the summer, ask an usher for an activity bag for kids to borrow during the service.) TUMC has a Safe Church Policy meant to ensure that all church activities are safe and welcoming places for children and teens. A brief summary is posted in the building and the full version is available here.
Where can I park? TUMC’s lot is tucked away behind 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 gravel 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 have a disability – is TUMC accessible? Yes! There is a level entry with an easy-open button at the northeast corner, and 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 meeting space has flexible seating so you may sit anywhere you like. We have large-print hymnals and hearing assistive devices available. Just ask an usher for whatever you need.
What should I wear? Come as you are. On the same Sunday, you’ll see some in suit and tie, others in T-shirt and shorts.
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 LGBTQ, 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 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. TUMC is a member of the Supportive Congregations Network and has pledged to be a “safe space” for LGBTQ people.
Do I need to memorize anything? No. Any prayer or litany the congregation takes part in is printed in the bulletin or projected on a screen.
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. For reasons of comfort and privacy, sharing time is omitted from recordings made of our worship services.
How do you handle donations? Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have ended the practice of gathering an offering each Sunday. Many members now give through automatic banking or e-transfer (to email@example.com). If you wish to make a cash or cheque donation, there is a “donation station” at the back of the meeting room.
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.
I’ve been coming for a while; how do I get “in the loop”? Contact a pastor about prayer requests, spiritual counselling, baptism/church membership, or upcoming Faith Exploration classes. On Facebook, TUMC has both a public page and a ”closed” group to which members can contribute freely, managed by an administrator; to join the group, simply visit the page and request membership. 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.). You can also ask the administrator to be put on the list to receive Canadian Mennonite, our biweekly denominational magazine (subscriptions are free!). 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, usually meeting 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, members-only 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.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
We often use acronyms or shortened names in our announcements… sometimes forgetting to explain their meaning. If you need more explanations, please ask Marieke.
TUMC (Toronto United Mennonite Church) acronyms and phrases include:
* BYOB: Beyond Youth Opportunities for Bonding is a loosely organized fellowship group for post-high school adults
* CE or C.E.: Christian Education (for all ages); sometimes called Sunday School (SS or S.S.)
* Elijah Committee: During the Covid-19 pandemic, this group tracks and interprets public health guidelines to make recommendations on our gathering practices.
* GERMS: A tongue-in-cheek name for our Junior Youth group (grades 6-8); stands for Great Evening Recreation for Mennonite Students, although gatherings can happen anytime!
* MTYC: Ministry Team for Youth & Children
* On the Way Café: an adult faith formation discussion held on Sundays at 10 a.m.; currently suspended.
* PCRC: Pastor/Congregation Relations Committee, a resource for pastoral staff and care for the relationship between the staff and the congregation
* Soup & Sophia: Lunch after the worship service, to discuss some topic and discern wisdom (‘sophia’ = ‘σοφια’ = ‘wisdom’)
* SS or S.S.: Sunday School (for all ages); sometimes called Christian Education (CE or C.E.)
* TUMC: Toronto United Mennonite Church
* TUMY: Senior youth (high school)
* Venture Club: Special activities for children in grades 1-5
* VT: Voices Together, a purple hard-cover hymnal and associated worship resources introduced to Mennonite churches across North America in 2021.
Acronyms and shortened names from outside TUMC include:
* AMBS: Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary: in Elkhart, Indiana
* A.H.: Aurora House: This ministry of TUMC provides community-based housing and support for people who have been trafficked and exploited, empowering them to thrive in society. TUMC supports A.H. in various ways.
* BMC: Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests
* CGUC: Conrad Grebel University College, a Mennonite college affiliated with the University of Waterloo
* CMU: Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
* CPT: Community Peacemaker Teams, whose mission is “Building partnerships to transform violence and oppression”; founded by Mennonites, the organization works in various places of conflict around the world.
* Fraser Lake: Fraser Lake Overnight Camp, near Bancroft, is affiliated with Willowgrove
* GEEZ: is the full name of a magazine, not an acronym; see the magazine rack
* GTA: Greater Toronto Area
* Hidden Acres: Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp, between Kitchener-Waterloo and Stratford
* IMS: Institute of Mennonite Studies, affiliated with AMBS
* IVEP: MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program
* KAIROS: an ecumenical movement for ecological justice and human rights; MCC is a member
* LGBTQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning
* MC Canada: Mennonite Church Canada: our national church organization
* MCC: Mennonite Central Committee, “a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches, shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice”
* MCEC: Mennonite Church Eastern Canada: our regional church organization
* MCHC: Mennonite Centre Heritage Club holds activities at SCOC (the St. Clair O’Connor Community)
* MDS: Mennonite Disaster Service, “a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches dedicated to responding to natural and man-made disasters in Canada and the United States”
* MEDA: Mennonite Economic Development Associates, an international economic development organization whose mission is to create business solutions to poverty
* MNLCT: Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto, which primarily provides immigration settlement services. MNLCT is an ownership partner for 1774 Queen St. E., but also has offices elsewhere. MNLCT is also a partner of Aurora House
* MWC: Mennonite World Conference, a global affiliation of Anabaptist churches; holds global assemblies every six years
* NAIITS: North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies
* NRSV: the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is our default translation, although other translations may be used in services
* Pax Christi: Pax Christi Chorale is a Toronto choral group founded by Mennonites offering several concerts each year
* PiE [1 of 2]: Pastors in Exile is “an Anabaptist-rooted movement that is passionate about connecting young people in Waterloo Region with vibrant faith experiences outside and inside of church walls”.
* PIE [2 of 2]: being Public, Intentional and Explicit in supporting the LGBTQ2SIA+ community
* RJC: Rosthern Junior College in a Mennonite school that offers grade 10-12 courses in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. It “seeks to nurture the development of each student’s identity and potential in preparation for a life of faith, service and peacemaking”
* SALT: Serving And Learning Together is MCC’s overseas program for young volunteers
* SCOC: the St. Clair O’Connor Community, a not-for-profit organization at the corner of St. Clair and O’Connor, which provides intergenerational housing and long-term care; also the venue for the Mennonite Centre Heritage Club (MCHC); SCOC’s founders include TUMC
* SLMC: Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, near Sauble Beach
* SOOP: Service Opportunities with Our Partners is an MCC short-term North American volunteer program
* TMF: Toronto Mennonite Festival, which raises funds for MCC; supported by TUMC and other Mennonite churches in the GTA; formerly the “MCC Black Creek Pioneer Village Relief Sale”; held the third Saturday of September
* TMNLC: Toronto Mennonite New Life Church is an ownership partner for 1774 Queen St. E., and worships in Spanish on the 3rd floor
* TMTC: Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, “a graduate teaching and research centre of Conrad Grebel University College (CGUC)”, is located at the Toronto School of Theology on Queen’s Park Crescent
* TOOLS: TorontO Opportunities for Learning and Service, a program of MCC Ontario
* UofT: University of Toronto
* Willowgrove: Willowgrove Day Camp, near Whitchurch-Stouffville, was founded by Mennonites in the GTA. Here is a map; here is their web site.
* YABs: ‘Young AnaBaptists,’ an organization of Mennonite World Conference. The third week of June is promoted as “YABs Fellowship Week” to create a sense of community among Mennonite youth and young adults, worldwide.