William Cowling

I found to my surprise, soon after arriving in Toronto, that unlike many clergy who visit the sick, the Rector of the day at St. Olave’s also visited the healthy.

I had just moved on my own from the Montreal area in 1981 and had chosen to live in Swansea, so I tried out the local parish church. Shortly afterwards, the Reverend Dr. Verschoyle Wigmore offered to come round. This was most welcome for a newcomer to the area.

I greatly appreciated the fact that all the services used the Book of Common Prayer and a good proportion were Morning Prayer, at a time when many parishes were dropping the Prayer Book and moving to Holy Communion for practically all of their services.

I was also interested in reading Bible lessons (as I had some experience announcing at the university radio station). I soon found that in those days it was necessary to join the Servers Guild, so I volunteered.

I met my wife Debbie on a train at Thanksgiving weekend in 1986. When we married within a year, it was naturally at St. Olave’s. We were able to invite Dr. Giles Bryant to provide the music for the wedding service. The delicious food was catered by the parish. Later on, our daughters, Angela and Louisa, were each baptised there by the Reverend Reginald Rose, participated in Junior Church and were confirmed there by the Reverend David Burrows.

In 1994 we moved to the Kingsway, where we still live after 25 years. We did consider the two closest Anglican churches (as our house is equidistant from each}, but both seemed to be in transition in their types of services. St. Olave’s was not much further away, so we continued there.

In late 1995, Jim Shapland nominated me to replace him as the Religious Education Co-ordinator. There was considerable flexibility to experiment in designing and implementing a wider range of programming. The interim priest in charge, the Reverend Stephen Oliver, immediately approved the Short Service of Morning Prayer on Communion Sundays at 10 in the Chapel, which is still running to this day.

I believed it was important to reach out to people from outside the parish and beyond the Anglican community, to build up the participant numbers and to help save the Prayer Book. I suggested a package of up to two hours, comprising Evensong, food and a major feature with education, information and/or entertainment components. I felt that, as well as talking about the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, it was important to offer experiential learning, through Prayer Book services, as well as illustrated music features and live performances. This was a much broader definition of religious education than most parishes offer.

The members of the education committee, the advisory board and the new Rector, the Reverend Burrows, were all willing to give it a try, so the first event took place on All Saints Day in 1996. The pattern continued under his direction for nearly 20 years; then with the Reverend Jeffry Kennedy as interim priest in charge; and now with the Reverend Rob Mitchell, who has successfully expanded the programming beyond all our dreams.

So my and my family’s experience is that St. Olave’s is a warm, friendly, welcoming parish that offers deep spiritual enrichment; that values and builds on many centuries of Christian history and tradition; and that presents a broad variety of services, events and other activities which are entirely fitting for a wide range of people of the 21st century and beyond.