St. Andrew’s exploring options for sanctuary transformation

St. Andrew’s is looking to create a sacred space that can support a variety of faith and community practices. A model of the transformed sanctuary designed by artist/designer Doreen Balabanoff emphasizes the play of colour and light and supports a more expansive vision for community collaboration and partnership. (Submitted Photo)

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on King St. is taking steps towards providing a sacred space that represents a larger and more inclusive community vision.

Revenered Lynn Donovan said like many church congregations in the 21st century, the congregation, while focussed on its vision, still struggles with size and resources. In a world that is changing and will continue to change,  the congregation is looking to transform its sanctuary in order to accommodate a wider range of activities and faith practices. At the same time it’s looking for like-minded partners who can imagine themselves sharing the space. 

“Trends indicate at least 30 per cent of churches in Canada will close by 2030. St. Andrew’s could very well be included in that figure,” Rev. Donovan said. “Therefore, the congregation is hoping to craft a more sustainable vision fuelled by unique partnerships because it wants to continue to participate in community efforts to bring healing, beauty, and justice to the world around us. “

In support of this possibility, Ontario College of Art and Design Professor and artist Doreen Balabanoff was invited to spend time in the building and with the congregation in worship before hosting a workshop that invited members to share with her what was at the heart of sacred practice for them.

She heard them use words that reflected a broader understanding of sacred practice—one that was not distinguished by a particular denomination or that was even uniquely Christian—words like wonder and Mystery.  She listened to a “longing for natural light” and a desire to be connected to the “sanctuary of earth and sea and sky”. 

Ms. Balabanoff recognized that the congregation’s vision, informed by their Celtic roots, their Indigenous friends and their love of the planet, invited a very different sacred space. Her recommendation included the removal of the stained glass at eye level in order to let in natural light and in order to create a space that was not so distinctly Christian—a space that represented the broader theological vision of the present congregation. As the congregation takes steps towards realizing this vision it will be in touch with donor families to consider how to repurpose these windows with grace and respect.

If this initiative has awakened your curiosity, if you have a vision for the healing and restoration of the planet, if you have a commitment to a conversation about how we can live together with compassion and imagination, please contact Rev. Donovan at