Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. – Ephesians 2:20-21 (NLT)
The Willowdale Seventh-day Adventist Church came together in 1952 and quickly became a pillar of the North York community. Thanks to its church building, as well as the hospital, and the school that it built, Willowdale’s impact is still very visible today.
On November 1952, Dr. Robert Steele first gauged if people wished to have a church in northern Toronto by gathering signatures. By the end of that month, there was already enough enthusiasm to form a pre-nominating committee and then a nominating committee. From that point on, it only took a few weeks to get a group of ministry leaders and board members together. The first board members met almost right away on December 8. It’s during this meeting that the name of Willowdale Seventh-day Adventist Church was chosen. By December 20, not even two months after the first collection of signatures, officials voted the names of the first 32 members of the Willowdale church, thus sealing the official establishment of our community of faith.
From a Simple Church to a Hospital and a School in 5 Years
The Willowdale Seventh-day Adventist Church first met at 5325 Yonge Street, in a 250-seat United Church. A little more than seven months after the first meetings, the church bought that property for $45,000, only to sell it two years later for $60,000. It might sound like a foolish and rash move but it proved to be one of the decisions that cemented our place in the neighborhood. Indeed, two of the founding members, Dr. Gordon Arnott and Dr. Erwin Crawford, had a strong desire to raise a ministry of healing in the area and were able to buy a large piece of land to raise a hospital only a block away from the original church. They were able to get that property for only $35,000, or about half the receipt from the sale of the first building.
The decision to buy this land yielded a lot more blessings than one could have ever foreseen with human eyes. Indeed, the Willowdale church quickly realized that there was enough property to build a school and a church next to the hospital. As a result, on September 3, 1955, the church voted to build both, raising the school first. The members of our congregation held their first worship service in the new school during the summer of 1956. The church officially opened on December 20, 1957, five years after the official establishment of the first members of our congregation.
Over the years, the Willowdale Seventh-day Adventist Church underwent several expansions. The first one took place in 1987. It increased storage, enlarged cloakrooms, added office spaces, a mother’s room, and increased seating capacity. Another major project took place in 1987 and saw the addition of the kitchen, Youth Chapel, elevators, library, Pathfinder offices, and Choir room among other things. Today, the church continues to grow and play a major role in our community. We operate the Helping Hands Community Store, which gives gently used or new clothes for free to families with children from 0-14. We also assist with the North York food bank and have a strong relationship with the Bathurst-Finch Hub.