St. John's West Toronto

100th Anniversary

at 288 Humbersode Avenue

Our Colours

After all, we are not a beige congregation

With these words, the days of that former colour of the church interior were numbered. The congregation had raised the money, and the painters were ready to start, but we held off for what became a time of enormous creativity. People were invited to paint squares of their favourite colours: blues, greens, yellows, even pink. After all, our final choices would be painted over them. Over the Christmas season of 2001, our congregation and our wider community had an opportunity to imagine St. John’s as a different place. We soon came to the bankruptcy of our creative abilities. We liked the process, but nobody wanted to make the final choice. Who would want to be remembered for choosing "those ugly colours." We called upon Stuart Reid, a stained glass artist and professor of colour theory at Ontario College of Art and Design, for guidance.

We held a meeting of the congregation with Stuart, and he took us through an interesting process. "What kind of feelings do you want to evoke about being in this space? What can the building tell the community about who you are and what happens here?" We are:

  • A transforming community

  • Easter people

  • Risk-oriented

  • In dialogue with our tradition

  • Engaged in the issues and questions of our day

Colours 1.jpg

Stuart took our words to heart, and we often found him in the building, checking the light, taking pictures. He came back to us with a radical proposal. Focus. The church interior spoke of many items competing for our attention. Harmonize the competing colours of wood and pipes, and bring more attention to the windows, which were somewhat lost in the competing elements of the space. Let the windows – a remarkably complete and consistent portrait of the life of Jesus – present our dialogue with tradition. Let the space be more "heart-shaped" by mirroring the curves of the ceiling in the configuration of the pews. Use Easter colours that have both a contemporary feel and are already found in the windows. We saw the proposal, digital photographs of the church interior, with the proposed colours. We squirmed and we deliberated. Purple. Yellow. Green. How risk-oriented are we really – can we walk our talk? And we decided.

We have since become known in as the Easter Church. Archbishop Finlay, with us to celebrate the renewed space, spoke in the language of symbolism. "I have always associated purple with going deeper into the heart of the matter, into myself, into the heart of God. Yellow speaks of celebration. Green is traditionally the colour of growth, growth of all kinds. A church that can live these three things is a healthy expression of Christian community."

Our congregational life is informed by worship in this purple, yellow and green space. The colours wear well. We notice the windows more. We appreciate more than ever the challenge to not make beige decisions, but to live our risk-oriented calling as a Christian faith community.

The picture below may give you an idea of how the colours work. To feel the colours working for your self, come visit us and see them!

Colours 2.jpg

Originally published on the St. John's website in 2002