Reverend Rob Mitchell

For those of us who have moved several times, defining ‘home’ can be complicated. I grew up in Saskatoon, went to seminary at Wycliffe College, and have since lived in Peterborough, Cookstown, and several different neighbourhoods of Toronto. But even though Saskatoon was my childhood home, my family’s roots are elsewhere including Calgary and here in Toronto. My grandmother moved from Collingwood to west Toronto as a young woman and lived on various streets just east of High Park including Triller Avenue and Indian Road. She eventually owned a home on Fern Avenue, and would be married, in the 1940s, at the Old Mill. And so, if you asked me “where is home?” I’d have several different answers.
Caroline’s and my journey to our current home – the St. Olave’s Rectory – began much earlier than it may seem. In fact, the first time I stepped foot in St. Olave’s beautiful building was around the year 2000. I was studying theology at Wycliffe and had applied for a Prayer Book Society student bursary. The interviews for the bursary were held in the Wardens’ Vestry and I recall, on that brief walk through the Nave, marvelling at the arches and windows. Many years later I was invited by Paul Scrivener to attend a workshop in the Ethel Brown Room on the future of Prayer Book parishes. Part of the day included a service in the Chapel, and I recall being struck by the beauty of that place. The lovely woodwork, the beautiful windows, the quiet simplicity. The Chapel remains, to this day, one of my favourite places in our church building. The next time I would enter the building would be with Caroline, on a summer Sunday in 2015. It was a low-key Sunday, and we came and left quietly, incognito. And so, by the spring of 2016, when I was invited to interview for the position of Rector, I was entering St. Olave’s for the fourth time in my life. About 16 years had passed since my first visit, but there I was, once again, being interviewed in the Wardens’ Vestry! 

And now, more than four years later, as the Rector and a resident of this parish, I’ve been asked to reflect on what it is I love about St. Olave’s. As I think about this question, I am reminded of a sermon preached a few years ago by the Rev’d Dr. Schuyler Brown, where he described St. Olave’s as a “miracle.” In the midst of a largely secular culture and against all the forces of modernization, St. Olave’s has remained quietly confident in its identity. We are a church that values the traditions, beauty and timeless words of the Book of Common Prayer. We are a loving congregation that welcomes anyone who feels called to worship with us. We are a congregation that has demonstrated enormous generosity, commitment, and selfless offerings of time, talent and treasure, especially during the last 10 months. And we are a church that is committed to teaching the same faith in Christ that we have received from our forebears. Calling St. Olave’s a miracle is not a boast. It is simply recognition of the fact that we are a very special place. 

And even more than all of that, St Olave’s is home. From having moved so many times in my life, I have learned that home is not just one place, but can be anywhere you feel you belong. And as a place full of welcoming people, and as a place that shares my values, my priorities, and my faith, I dare say that I belong here. For this miracle that is St. Olave’s, I thank God every day.