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Transitions; A Look Back to 1983

In looking back over St. John’s long history, particularly its 100 years on Humberside, the parish has experienced several periods of significant transition and renewal. As discussed in last week’s Newsletter, the 2001-03 period certainly stands out, as does the 1981-83 period. St. John’s as a parish celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1981 with a variety of activities that generated considerable excitement, followed by a program of reflection study and prayer. St. John’s seemed like it was “sailing into quiet waters,” but quickly faced a critical situation regarding its future underscored by a significant deficit situation ($28,414.00) in the budget. All the important numbers were down, except the costs of running and maintaining the church. In addition, Canon Maurice Poole announced his retirement after almost 19 years at St. John’s, the longest period of service of any Incumbent in St. John’s history.

As 1983 began, there were renewed efforts to attract, engage and retain members, including newcomers’ luncheons and providing name buttons and visitors envelopes in the pews. Another initiative was to change the name of “St. John’s Couples Club” after 30 years to “Circle of Friends” to help widen its membership to include all interested people; it met on the last Saturday of each month for a home-cooked meal and an evening of entertainment and fellowship for $4.00.

Of particular significance for renewing St. John’s and better engaging and informing the congregation was reviving the parish newsletter, which had been dormant for several years. The first issue, published in February 1983, also provided an opportunity to ask members through a re-organized Telephone Committee: How can St John’s best suit your needs? Are there any specific changes, additions, groups formed etc. you would like to see? Do you need a ride to church on Sunday? Would you care for a visit from our visiting committee for shut-ins? Among the concerns mentioned more than once: length of service; can’t hear well – turn up the speakers; more for young people; more emphasis on singles; more visits; visit each other; moral support; follow up on those who left.

Attracting, engaging, and retaining church members would be the focus of a new “Membership Committee,” which also worked on advertising the church through reinstated ads with the Bloor West Villager, as well as by informing its editor of activities of interest at St. John’s. There was an article published about St. John’s Sunday School with a picture, as well as a feature article about Gary Gray, St. John’s organist, composer, and choir director.


Originally published in St. John's Newsletter on February 5th, 2023

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