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The Fire, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Fire, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Independent in the charismatic Christian tradition. They are
a member of the
Partners in Harvest family of churches.
Their building near Pearson International Airport is their principal
and largest venue. I would guess it is of mid-1960s construction
and may have served at one time as a warehouse. In addition
to the large central auditorium there are a coffee shop, bookstore,
and various meeting rooms. On one side of the auditorium there
are a large number of flags from various nations hanging from
the ceiling. On the other is a mural of Noah's ark complete
with creatures. There is an enormous stage front and centre
of the auditorium that has an intricate lighting system such
as what you'd find in a professional theatre. The stage is flanked
by two enormous screens on which words for worship songs, along
with images of those at the front, were projected.
Founded in 1987, they originally met in the home of the founding
pastor's mother near the airport (hence their original name
Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, which they changed in
2010 to reflect more accurately the many churches they have
planted in Canada as well as internationally). Later they met
in a school, and they acquired their present building in 1995.
They call themselves a "global revival centre." Quoting
from their website, their members "experience the fullness
of God's love, the power of his Holy Spirit and his healing"
in order to "equip you to receive everything he has for
you" by means of "an ongoing program of schools, conferences,
cell groups and much more." The revival movement that has
come to be called the Toronto Blessing, characterised by ecstatic
worship including falling in the Spirit, speaking in tongues,
"holy laughter", shaking, crying, etc., was said to
have had its start here in 1994.
They are located on Attwell Drive near Highways 401, 409 and
427, very near the airport. The area is strictly commercial;
there is no residential housing nearby, although there are several
hotels and a Seventh Day Adventist church.
Steve Long, senior leader, led the service. There were several
guest speakers, including John Bootsma, airport lead campus
pastor; Donna Holbrook, Canadian director of the International
Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a non-denominational faith ministry;
Majed El Shafie, a human rights advocate and founder of One
Free World International, a group that advocates for religious
minorities globally; Martin Forget, a member of the Conservative
Party of Canada; Aubrey Eisenberg, of B'nai Brith International,
the well-known worldwide Jewish community service organization
that is a leader in the fight against antisemitism and anti-Israel
bias; DJ Schneeweiss, Consul General of Israel in Toronto; and
Mark Adler, MP for York Centre.
The date & time:
October 6, 2013, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Morning Worship: A Day of Prayer for Peace for Jerusalem.
This is an event that was begun in 2004 by two Pentecostal evangelists
and is celebrated around the world each year on a date in October
to coincide with the Jewish high holy days.
How full was the building?
The large auditorium seats roughly 2000 people and it was about
three-fifths full. I was seated about half way between the front
and back of the auditorium, perhaps 60 metres from the stage.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. I was welcomed as I entered the auditorium by a lady with
a beautiful smile. She asked if I was visiting and handed me
a bulletin. Part way through the service we were asked to shake
hands with a couple of neighbours. I did and discovered that
the people seated directly in front of us had travelled from
a community even farther away than the 48kms we had travelled
to attend this church. But even more astonishingly, they told
us that this is their home church and that they make the long
trek on a weekly basis.
Was your pew comfortable?
We were seated on waiting room style chairs that, while they
had no arms, had a little bit of extra cushioning in them. Unfortunately
the little bit extra was not enough as the clock began to advance
well into the second hour.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was very noisy. The rock worship band, which seemed to consist
mostly of a very loud drum, was hammering away as we entered
the auditorium. A young man was singing loudly over the microphone
and people were talking to each other in anything but muted
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, one and all, and welcome to morning worship."
What books did the congregation use during the
None. All worship songs were projected onto the two giant screens.
What musical instruments
Guitars, bass, tambourine and drums were the instruments I could
hear. I was not near enough the front to see if there were others.
They were all played very loudly loud enough that it
was difficult to hear many people singing. Some just gave up
and let the band "perform".
Did anything distract
While I thought the band very good indeed, and obviously enthusiastic
about their work, the most distracting thing was the volume
at which the music was played. It didn't leave a lot of room
for corporate worship, as the worship team just seemed to take
over the sound in the building. The twelve or so minutes that
were allotted to the repetitive singing of each song was a little
much for me as well. Another really distracting thing was the
incessant chatter during the worship service. It was especially
disturbing when some continued to talk with one another during
prayer. Another horrible feature of the room was that there
was a large, tall platform that housed the video and sound equipment;
this occupied pretty much the middle of the auditorium. I could
not understand why it was not much closer to the stage below
eye level of the congregation.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was in a rock style: the pieces included (by words
of first line) "You are the everlasting God", "Christ
cornerstone", "Forever I'll be for you", and
"Up from the ashes." Although unfamiliar initially,
they were all very pleasing and singable. However, after singing
each at least 10 times they became a little too familiar. The
Canadian National Anthem as well as the Israeli National Anthem
were sung. The worship also included a dancer who swirled flags
around as well as an artist who produced paintings on the stage
while the singing was taking place.
Exactly how long was the
Collectively, over one hour.
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
10 The guests all spoke in turn, and all were excellent.
Majed El Shafie's talk on human rights with regard to religious
persecution was especially outstanding and was peppered with
passion, compassion and great humour. The Israeli consul general
also spoke very well.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The talks centred on Israel and the case for supporting Israel.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The talks by Majed El Shafie and DJ Schneeweiss were thoughtful
and thought-provoking. The friendliness of those who spoke to
us was wonderful as well.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The chatter that occurred during prayer time and the band drowning
out other people's voices.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Mr Ronnie stopped off at the coffee bar, but I didn't. After
two hours and thirteen minutes I'd had enough of sitting, I'm
afraid. I left. I did notice, though, that they provided visitors
with a gift package consisting of a book called Grace and
Forgiveness written by the founding pastors, a booklet
outlining services and groups of the church, and a card to fill
in and turn into them should you desire further contact
all packaged in a pretty red bag. A nice touch, I thought.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Mr Ronnie, who loves a strong cup of coffee, thought this coffee
awful. There were cookies for sale, but he didn't buy any.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 This service was, I expect, outside the norm. I don't
know how likely these special guests are to return for other
services. The volume of the band was overwhelming, and that
would make me feel like not going much.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The speakers were wonderful and it was fantastic to learn
about more organisations that are fighting against persecution
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderful talk of Majed El Shafie and learning more about
his organisation, One Free World.
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