From left to right, at an Earth Day event by St. Cuthburt's Church, event organizer Lorna Krawchuk sits at a panel beside Toronto District School Board trustee Gerri Gershon, MPP for Beaches-East York Arthur Potts and spokesperson for the Anglican Church of Canada Ryan Weston. Panel members answered questions about environmentalism.

Church takes down-to-earth approach to the environment

St. Cuthbert's celebrates Earth Hour with fair, speeches and candlelight sermon

St. Cuthbert’s Church has put a new spin on Earth Hour.

The church held its first-ever environment fair, dubbed Creation Care 2017, last Saturday as part of its ongoing efforts to champion environmental issues.

“This church has been in the community longer than this place has been a town. (We are doing this) to be relevant to our neighbourhood, to be helpful,” said Lorna Krawchuk, who co-ordinated the fair and is a former city councillor.

St. Cuthbert’s is one of many churches to commit to environmental awareness and action as part of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Creation Matters program.

The fair began with a morning sermon led by the church’s reverend, Ian LaFleur, who also gave the event its name.

“All of creation is a gift,” he said. “Life flourishes when we take care of it.”

The congregation also heard an address from Ryan Weston, a spokesperson for the Anglican Church of Canada.

“We know that increased ecological challenges are coming. We know that there will be struggles and challenges ahead,” he said. “But we also know that we are called to face these.”

Around 20 vendors ran information booths on environmentally friendly products and services, including electric cars, local and fair-trade foods, solar power and even eco-funerals.

Later in the day, MPP for Beaches-East York Arthur Potts, city councillor Josh Matlow and Toronto District School Board trustee Gerri Gershon made speeches and answered questions about environmentalism in government.

city councillor Josh Matlow
Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow answers questions about environmentalism in government at St. Cuthbert’s Church. (Alexa Battler / TORONTO OBSERVER)

“(I am here) to remind people of the good initiatives that we’re taking to protect the environment, but also how much more we have to do together,” Matlow said. “If we don’t discuss our priorities then people don’t know what they can do as individuals to contribute.”

St. Cuthbert’s has undergone an energy audit to tighten up its power usage. The church keeps the heat low and the lights off whenever possible. Its stained-glass windows were reinforced with another sheet of glass to keep heat from escaping, and their lights are gradually being replaced by LED alternatives.

Rain bins, green bins and careful recycling (including clothing drives twice per year) keep garbage minimal. Participants grow over 13 types of vegetables and 10 types of herbs in their gardens, which are then served in the church.

From left to right, Rev. Ian LaFlueur, Kathi Davies, Nancy Wahlroth, Lorraine Green LaFleur and Bob Davies stand at a table with information about the vegetable garden, herb garden and pollinator garden at the environmental fair for St. Chuthburt's Church.
From left to right, Rev. Ian LaFleur, Kathy Davies, Nancy Wahlroth, Lorraine Green LaFleur and Bob Davies offer information about the vegetable, herb and pollinator gardens at St. Cuthbert’s Church during the fair. (Alexa Battler / TORONTO OBSERVER)

Last year, in response to global declines in bee populations, the church added a pollinator garden, with four different types of flowers native to East York.

“For a long time, we’ve really struggled with (the question) what does that mean to love your neighbour? Now we are entering into this idea that neighbour should include endangered species,” LaFleur said.

To end the day, the massive white oak tree outside of the church was officially recognized as an Ontario Heritage Tree. Forests Ontario has been recognizing trees that have unique features, historical relevance, or artistic significance since 2009. For Canada’s 150th anniversary, Forests Ontario will be recognizing 150 notable trees.

St. Cuthbert’s tree was the first.

Steve Housell, president of Forests Ontario, said the tree is a “landmark of St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church and the Leaside community, one that has resided over generations of community and church events.” 

Premiere Kathleen Wynne was among the special guests at the ceremony.

From left to right, president of Forests Ontario Steve Housell watches event coordinator Lorna Krawchuk address the crowd while Premiere Kathleen Wynne admires the great white oak.
From left to right, president of Forests Ontario Steve Housell watches event co-ordinator Lorna Krawchuk address the crowd while Premier Kathleen Wynne admires the great white oak outside St. Cuthbert’s Church. (Alexa Battler / TORONTO OBSERVER)

“It’s individual families and individuals who are the stewards of the environment when it comes down to it. We can pass policies at the government level but people have to take action,” she said. “It’s at that level that we really have environmental activism.”

Another sermon was held by candlelight during Earth Hour.

“We’re here tonight to acknowledge the profound interdependence of all life on Earth,” guest speaker Rev. Canon John Hill said during a reflection, “for better or for worse.”