By Debbie Matheson
From its founding in the growing neighbourhood of Dunbar Heights in 1925, St Philip’s Anglican Church has served not just as a place of worship and service, but as a centre of fellowship for the whole community.
The first building, constructed by parishioners, functioned as Dunbar’s community centre. There were dinners, dances, theatricals, sports teams, community meetings, tennis courts on the property, and twice-weekly bowling leagues. Today, that original church is the gym where community groups meet, voters assess candidates, the DRA gathers, and shoppers enjoy our sales. We have hosted Crown and Tom Thumb preschools for over 70 years. The current church and rectory were built during WWII, a time of uncertainty. Later, the Fireside Wing was built to meet the needs of returning servicemen and their families, the rector at the time recalling the stress of his own re-entry into civilian life after WWI.
Along with attention to individuals’ needs, engagement with the whole community continues as a major theme for St. Philip’s. Outreach volunteers have sponsored refugees to Canada, most recently a Syrian family of eight. Neighbourhood Ministry volunteers weekly give out food, clothing, and support to vulnerable people on west-side streets.
During the pandemic, St. Philip’s never missed a Sunday, pivoting quickly to recorded and live-streamed online worship. We even gathered on lawn chairs in Caldecott Park to keep people connected and lift their spirits.
In 2021, online fundraising events were created, the church reopened, community groups reconvened, and hope continued. When Omicron arose, we checked vaccination passports at the door, and sadly cancelled the sold-out live reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
For 2022, ever hopeful, we plan the return of the online Flower Basket Sale in April, a Book Sale in June, a Christmas Fair, and a new “Everything but the Closet” Sale in late May. Watch for news on our website and the Dunbar Neighbours list serv.
Sadly, in the spring of 2021 our rector Stuart Hallam and his family returned home to the UK. Stuart had made many connections and friends in Dunbar; his talents in community building were recognized in a thank-you from DRA President Bruce Gilmour in the spring 2021 newsletter. A chapter had ended.
St. Philip’s is resilient, however, with a committed parish family. In October, we welcomed with open arms our new rector, Reverend Lorne Manweiler. A new chapter has begun.