The GC43 Pilgrims encounter thought-provoking sculptures in Toronto, on their way to connect with a variety of groups and organizations.

The GC43 Pilgrims pose for a group photo while visiting the General Council Office in Toronto.
Credit: Courtesy of the GC43 Pilgrims

The GC43 youth pilgrims made their way across Canada this summer, with the goal of visiting every United Church conference, including a stop at the 43rd General Council meeting in Oshawa, ON. Read all the blog posts from their journey and see more pictures on their Facebook page and Instagram feed.

On August 4 we flew in from Sudbury to Toronto. When we first got into Toronto we were greeted by Alana Martin. She took us right to the church we were staying at which was Thornhill United Church. When we got there, lunch was made and ready for us.

Our first day in Toronto Conference was Monday, August 6, and the pilgrims took the public transit from the church and walked through the Yorkville area with Jeffrey Dale from Toronto Conference.

We learned about some of the history of Yorkville. Yorkville is a very rich and trendy place in Toronto. We saw a couple statues there such as “Emily Carr and Friends” by Joe Fafard, which shows Emily with her horse, her monkey, and her dog. This was a piece of community art and we reflected on community and how we were as a community.

After reflecting, we walked to Emmanuel College through Queens Park, we learned about Canadian literary critic and literary theoristNorthrop Frye, who was first a United Church of Canada minister who taught at Emmanuel College. The GC43 Pilgrims saw his statue sitting on a bench reading some books. We also learned about the “Crucified Woman” sculpted by Almuth Lutkenhaus. This sculpture helped to change the United Church theology. She was outside of a church, and the minister brought her into the church on Good Friday. The people of the church did not accept it.

We went to Kensington Market for lunch and another sculpture that we had learned about, “The Homeless Jesus” by Timothy P. Schmalz, was near the market. A few years ago the Pope came to Toronto and blessed this sculpture.

During the process of seeing all the sculptures, we took some time to answer some questions. Such as what inspires us, what has changed our perspective, and what one thing we would do in the world to change it.  

After answering our questions, we walked through the PATH network of walkways which run under Toronto’s main streets. We walked all the way down to the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium from the Eaton Centre. On Tuesday morning, Jeffrey took us to the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. We had a presentation there, but afterwards we realized that we went to the wrong place. We went to Toronto Urban Native Ministry. We learned a little about the space and how they refuse to take government grants and what they do as a community to make Toronto a better place. We also ran into the GO Project while we were there.

Then we headed to the General Council office and ate lunch with Nora Sanders, the General Secretary. Amy Crawford gave us a tour around the office. Sarah Williams and Beth Baskin gave us a presentation on how the United Church General Council office works. Once the presentation was over, we rushed to the airport. That was our Toronto Conference experience!

— by Melodie Stenson, GC43 Pilgrim from Toronto Conference

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