Our official history began with a commissioning service in January 8, 1987, with regular services starting that September 27, 1987. We met in the library of St. Ignatius of Loyola High School.
We slowly grew in numbers, and in 1988 we were deemed a parish in the Diocese of Niagara (a regional body linking all Anglican churches in the area). At that point, we received our name, the Church of the Incarnation. Incarnation refers to seeing God in the world around us and especially in the humanity of Jesus.
By 1992, we’d outgrown the school’s library and moved into the cafeteria, and in August 1995, moved our office from our priest’s home into rented commercial space. We opened the doors of our church building, our home amongst the trees, in January 2000.
Find out more about our history - the first ten years - in our Looking Back, Together archival series.
Since then, we have continued to grow as a parish, both in numbers and in spirit.
The Foundation Year, 1987
During this 10th anniversary year, we are reviewing the events that make up our story. In this article, we look at 1987, the year it all started to happen.
The Diocese of Niagara hired Robin Graves in 1985 to determine whether to start a parish here, and his work came together on January 8, 1987, when Bishop John Bothwell officiated at the commissioning service for the Glen Abbey ministry. About 100 people were there, including people who had attended house meetings with Robin over the previous year.
Although 50 people were at the Easter service, just a handful of people were "regulars" at the almost-weekly services even after they moved to Loyola High School - where we continue to worship today - later that spring. A few of them began planning for regular services, a few joined the diocesan-led Property Support group considering potential building sites. Robin continued to write for the local newspaper, Abbey's Own, and visibility increased with our involvement at Glen Abbey's Summerfest, operating a food booth with the Community Church, and later the promotion of regular services.
On September 27, 40 people came together for the first regular service in the library of Loyola H.S. About 20 families were represented. Audrey Conard came on board almost immediately as a student intern and parish structure began forming with one large church school class, an overflowing nursery and the use of envelopes.
The location required required everyone to pitch in, especially with "setting up and closing down". Although there was no music, people took an active part in readings, prayers of the people, chalice bearer - and "blowing out the candles" (for the children, of course!) Sign-up Sunday took place almost immediately. Many of our traditions - no procession, use of the BAS, pottery vessels- evolved during those first months.
By year-end, there were 35 households of 115 adults and children on our parish list! Average attendance was 50. Current members from that time include the Blackbourn, Brewer, Elliot, Siebert, Valeriote and Yassin families.
Christmas Eve was amazing! We went all out with red ribbon, poinsettias and twinkling lights to turn the library into an oasis of festive beauty and peace. We had our Christmas gift: The Diocese removed any doubt of their commitment by buying property on our behalf at the corner of Dorval and Old Abbey Lane. And Robin became a new father!
The Organization Year, 1988
During this 10th Anniversary year, we are reviewing the events that make up our story. In this article we look at 1988, a year of first experiences.
1988 started off with a bang, when Bishop John Bothwell visited us and pronounced our name. He also told us that Nissa Basbaum would be joining her husband Robin Graves in what would become a joint ministry. Not large enough to be a parish, the Diocese intended to treat us like one anyway. Soon after, we had our first Vestry and elected our first Parish Council.
We had a Good Friday service with the United Church—Herb said, "Penny and I will make the hot cross buns." All 120 of them. Lyndon Hounsel was a student that year and, with fiancée Chris Hutchison, provided music for the first time at services. We celebrated Pentecost with birthday cake and releasing balloons into the air. In November, children were allowed to share in the Eucharist for the first time.
We were at Summerfest once again that year, selling hot dogs with other Glen Abbey churches. We did a household survey with the United Church too, in hopes of raising our profile—but this was a year of little growth. We got our own bank account, and created a "Futures" group to look at our mission and plans for the future. In November, we produced our first newsletter.
We took on a formalized Church school curriculum, and the older students created a special banner for Christmas. We tried running a nursery jointly with the United Church and began the adult study that runs to this day.
This was a year of making traditions. We created a social committee that organized our first pancake supper—at St. Jude's; that was the year we flooded the toilets, causing a short that set off fire alarms and brought fire trucks to the door! We had men's breakfasts, the first potluck supper for adults, and the first annual BBQ/pool party at the Sieberts. We organized a trip to Mennonite country, made Advent wreaths (stealing extra branches from the Sieberts' neighbour under cover of darkness!) and a parish trip/picnic to a Christmas tree farm. A fledgling youth group held a movie night in December.
By year-end, there were 50 households and 172 adults and children on our parish list! Average attendance was 52—only 2 more than the previous year! New members that year included the Birchalls, Davis', Miskellys, and the Olomans.
The Stressed-out Year, 1989
At January's Vestry, we elected our 2nd Parish Council; once again Herb Siebert is the only remaining member from that group. We also decided to renovate the rectory basement to create office/meeting space. This used a great deal of parish labour and created the first stresses and strains in our relationships.
Meanwhile the Futures group was continuing to meet, with some members impatient at the lack of movement towards building.
We created a Fundraising Committee that undertook a bake sale at the Town Centre II opening (the famous pretzel fiasco—we over ordered and had to hawk them at St. Simon's, St. Jude's and to numerous friends and relatives!), Tupperware sales, our first profitable Summerfest ($700 raised), an attempt to create a cookbook, an art sale and a bake table at the Abbey Lane Craft sale.
We continued with the normal Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, Christmas Eve services, but more energy circulated around service issues: inclusive language, informality, how we did baptism, the noise of children. Carol Overing was our student that year.
Our senior church school class created Lent and Easter banners, we ran TV awareness workshops, we helped St. Jude's host youth synod.
We liked getting together socially: St. Jude's let us back for another pancake supper, we had another spring pot-luck, an open house at the new rectory offices, a picnic at Crawford Lake, a pool party, hiked the Niagara Gorge, made wreaths, and picnicked at the Christmas tree farm again. The youth group met in spring and fall, but fizzled out towards the end of the year.
Unlike most parishes, we had babies not funerals and so created Casseroles
for Crazy days to give new parents some relief.
We were more serious about advertising that year, participating in mall community days, delivering flyers in Glen Abbey and finally erected our sign on the property. By year-end we had 60 homes and 205 adults and children. Attendance was stalled at 52, the same as 1988. New members that year included the Novokowskys, Thompsons, Johnstons, and Richelle Papin. Unfortunately, we also lost some old friends. We had our first wedding: Christa Wessel and Russ Cheeseman.
The Year of Stagnation, 1990
At January's Vestry, we elected our 3rd Parish Council; of that group, Dave Brewer, Greg Johnston, Bob Miskelly, Penny Siebert and Marlene Thompson are still with the parish. At vestry we decided to hire a music coordinator, Debbie Oloman started that position in February.
Our Good Friday service was an interactive one with the United Church. Bishop Clarence Mitchell celebrated our first confirmation, for Melanie Davis. We held an outdoor service/picnic at Blue Springs Scout Reserve, and the senior church school prepared a Remembrance Day service. Our musicians participated in St. Jude's Advent carol service.
Adult study consisted of 4-5 regulars, and our senior church school class created a crèche out of popsicle sticks that was an important part of our Christmas celebrations for many years.
Social events were popular but less frequent: a pancake supper at St. Jude's, spring potluck, and fall wine and cheese party. In December, we made advent wreaths, and cut trees/picnicked at a Christmas tree farm.
We finally received our charitable tax number and made a conscious effort to include outreach in our annual budget. The music group sang at a seniors home, the first of their many outreach activities.
While we were more concerned about rectory maintenance rather than future issues, Parish Council participated in a planning day facilitated by
Stephen Hopkins that helped clarify our vision and sort out some concerns. We participated in Bishop Walter Asbil's election that year, and began learning about Focus II, a diocesan fund-raising campaign.
Marlene Thompson coordinated fundraising: a bake table at Hopedale Mall, Summerfest (we made $800!), bake table at the Abbey Lane Craft sale. Marlene arranged for the fabric sign which we still use today, as well as our first photocopier. We asked parishioners to make a concerted effort to maintain givings over the summer-and they did!
Issues of growth were important and we made a concerted effort to get articles in the newspaper every 2 weeks and deliver flyers, especially in the new area west of 3rd Line. To help newcomers feel comfortable, we created welcome booklets, the forerunner of our Today's Special, instituted newcomers' evenings, and tried the first of many attempts to use name tags. Despite our efforts, by year-end we had 52 homes and 201 adults and children and our attendance was 50-all slightly decreased from the previous year. New members that year included the Lillys, Saunders, and Wessel/Cheesemans.
The Year of Transition, 1991
At January's Vestry, we elected our 4th Parish Council; of that group, Dave Brewer, Greg Johnston, Bob Miskelly, Lynn Novokowsky, Penny Siebert, and Alex and Marlene Thompson, are still members of the parish. Vestry set up a Task Force that year to look at our planning options. As part of that process, we began to investigate what people wanted in a church building, as well as visiting traditional and non-traditional sites.
Bishop John Bothwell visited us prior to his retirement that year; he had been an important supporter from our earliest days. Instead of alternating services each week, our priests Robin Graves and Nissa Basbaum became regular fixtures as they each took parenting leave after the birth of their daughter. For the first time, we experienced Good Friday on our own, but enjoyed a Mother's Day service and supper with St. Simon's.
Adult study consisted of 6 regulars, and for the first time we ran informal church school classes after the official Pentecost year-end.
Social events included a pancake supper at St. Jude's, spring potluck, a BBQ and pool party, fall wine and cheese party and our first Halloween outdoor party. We didn't go to the Christmas tree farm this year. The baby-sitting co-op and beer making groups made their debut in 1991, and we tried to organize an Oakville-wide youth group.
The music group had an active outreach focus: playing at Bronte Harbour Park, Syl Apps and Orillia Mental hospital. Parish Council contributed $500 for guitars, so members could work with Syl Apps youth, and we collected Christmas gifts for that facility for the first time.
The parish participated fully in Focus II, a diocesan fund-raising campaign and pledges were significantly higher than anticipated.
The Birthday Fund was initiated to encourage members to donate to the church as to give thanks for their or their loved ones' birthdays, we held our first church property cleanup and the rectory was air-conditioned. Fundraising included cheese sales, a bake table at Hopedale Mall, Food City tapes, Summerfest and the Abbey Lane Craft sale. We briefly considered getting into the catering business.
We were still concerned about growth and set up our first advertising group. We continued to distribute flyers and hold newcomers' evenings, but despite the fact that Glen Abbey was almost finished, we were not growing significantly. By year-end we had 60 homes and 191 adults and children, more families but fewer people than the previous year. New families, however, must have been more consistent-our Sunday attendance shot from 50 to 65! New members that year included the Fleggs, Samuels, Sinclairs, and Smalls.
The Year of Hopes & Disappointment, 1992
At January’s vestry, we elected our 5th Parish Council; of that group, Tom Birchall, Melanie Davis, Arly Flegg, Lynn Novokowsky, Roy Saunders, Penny Siebert and Alex Thompson are still with the parish. At vestry, we decided to investigate moving to a commercial storefront. Relocation was approved that spring, but city code renovations eventually made it economically unfeasible. Parish council considered whether to close the Incarnation at that point, but renewed our commitment to looking for alternatives and formalized the planning process. We moved into the larger cafeteria for worship, and a visitor gave us our first donation to the building fund. A highlight of the year was Bishop Walter Asbil’s first visit in December, when he announced that we were finally considered a parish and spoke of the diocese’ commitment to our future building.
The senior youth group organized an environmental service in March and our Harvest Thanksgiving service, the church school performed a dramatization for Good Friday and for the Bishop’s lunch, and we welcomed guest speakers about our prisons and about PWRDF. Our music coordinator left in February and volunteers filled that role until December, when Ann Turner joined us.
Our church school coordinator stepped down after 5 years, and adult study began studying each week’s elocutionary readings. Social events included a pancake supper (first time at Loyola), spring potluck, BBQ & pool party, fall wine/cheese and an outdoor Halloween party.
The bishop’s visit provided an excuse for our first Christmas lunch. The youth group and social committee re-formed, and the craft group was created that fall.
Our budget included outreach donations; in addition, the music group continued to provide leadership that enabled our participation in a benefit dance we organized with St. Simon’s Church for the Rape Crisis Centre and coordinated gifts for Syl Apps detention centre for teens. By year-end, we had set up a formal outreach group.
Fundraising included: cheese sales, Waterfront festival buttons, Summerfest, the Abbey Lane Craft sale.
On the diocesan level, we helped with the children’s festival, attended youth synod and the diocesan synod.
By year-end, we had 64 homes and 202 adults and children, a small increase over the previous year, but our average attendance shot up from 65 to 87! New members that year included the Briggs, Moffats, Prescotts, and Seiler/Ryder families.
The Year of Recommitment, 1993
At January’s vestry, we elected our 6th Parish Council; of that group, Tom Birchall, Melanie Davis, Arly Flegg, Roy Saunders, Penny Siebert, and Alex Thompson are still in the parish. Vestry approved the direction of the planning group, including the creation of a formal building fund. In January, we felt lucky to be analyzed by students from the Center for Church and Community Ministries in Chicago. Their visit provided an opportunity for reflection about who we were that proved useful later that fall when the parish got together in house meetings to discuss and create a mission statement and core values that would help clarify our planning process.
Worship services continued to involve the young people on Good Friday and Christmas; other services took on an outreach slant with guest speakers on AIDS and native issues. Advent services incorporated a
native wreath-lighting liturgy. Gerry Gregg became our new music coordinator in November, just in time for Christmas preparations.
Church school grew from 2 to 5 classes and picked up the native spirituality theme, as did the adult study. A parent support group, with the odd name Will there be ice cream cones in heaven?, looked at ways to further Christian education in our homes.
Social events included our pancake supper, spring potluck, BBQ and pool party, fall wine and cheese party, outdoor Halloween party and Christmas lunch. The morning social made its debut, and the craft group was busy making Easter eggs (raised $1600!) and crafts for the Abbey Lane sale. The youth group had its first overnight at the convent in 1993.
The outreach group initially looked at food banks, then at native issues. They organized a benefit dance for the Parent Child Centre and coordinated Christmas gifts for Syl Apps detention centre and Hand in Hand family support centre.
On the diocesan level, we participated in the first regional council meetings and Tom Birchall became our representative for the next 3 years. We helped with a Children’s Ash Wednesday event and attended synod.
We re-formed an organized fundraising group, and continued cheese and Regal orders on a monthly level. For the first time, we did not participate in Summerfest that year. We had to replace our photocopier, and did a lot of work on the rectory, including building a back deck.
New members included the Dowdall/Hutchisons, Reinhards, Hardacres, Kennedys, John Marshall, Keith Nunn, the Savellis, Tyrers and Williams/Bosshards. Despite many new faces, there was little growth. By year-end, we had 65 homes and 192 adults and children, average Sunday attendance moving from 87 to 92 members.
The Year of Activity and Transition, 1994
At January’s vestry, we elected our 7th Parish Council; of that group, Tom Birchall, Di Hardacre, Ken Moffat, Penny Siebert, Alex Thompson and David Tyrer are still in the parish. At vestry, we approved a mission statement and core values; the Long Range Planning Group continued their work throughout the year, culminating in house meetings to discuss options in the fall.
This was the year of our second & and most recent confirmation, that of Elise Johnston. In February, locked doors at Loyola caused us to move our Sunday service to the Moffats'. Good Friday featured Di Hardacre and Chris Hutchison-Hounsell as mimes, and the children performed a shadow play for Easter. In October, we welcomed Andrew Asbil as our new priest. With Andrew came the introduction of a Children's Focus at the beginning or services, and Sandy Copland, a Wycliffe student.
Church school consisted of 5 classes and adult study had 8 regulars that looked at parables, fables and the birth narrative. We also ran a parent support group to help take spiritual issues into our homes.
Social events included our pancake supper, spring potluck, BBQ and pool party, a farewell for departing priests Robin and Nissa, outdoor Halloween party and Christmas luncheon. The morning socials started up again and continued meeting in the summer. The craft group made Easter eggs and gave significant contributions to outreach and the building fund. The baby-sitting co-op had 10 members, and we put together our first baseball team!
Our budget included outreach donations; in addition, we donated clothing to a family support centre, food to the food bank and gifts for Syl Apps detention centre for teens.
We passed a budget that included a challenging 35% increase in givings, and ran our first stewardship campaign. We sold the rectory that fall. A revived fundraising group was kept busy: cheese and Regal sales, a garage sale, Waterfront festival buttons, Food City tapes, Summerfest, Loblaws BBQ sales, the Abbey Lane Craft sale, and for the first time, the Orpheus Choir concert.
On the diocesan level, we helped organize a children's Ash Wednesday event, attended youth synod and the diocesan synod. Tom Birchall was treasurer of Regional council.
New members that year included the Bold/Hughes, Christies, Foleys, Pearl Gabriel, the Anne/Mark Hughes, Owen/Simkins, and Enid Yassin. We began developing an advertising strategy and went carolling with flyers in West Oak Trails. By year-end, we had 71 homes and 237 adults and children, and our average attendance went to 99!
The Year of Busyness and Goodbyes, 1995
At January's vestry, we elected our 8th Parish Council; of that group, Tom Birchall, Bill Cloke, Carol Cooper, Pat Davis, Di and Simon Hardacre, Ken Moffat, Caroline Owen, Chrissie and Penny Siebert, Alex and Marlene Thompson, and David Tyrer are still in the parish. Vestry approved the decision to build a permanent, 250 seat, multipurpose church building; we held a planning day in the spring to talk about visions for the building, later that year, we decided to build on our Abbey Lane/Dorval site. In the fall, we made presentations to the Synod Council.
In the winter, a worship group was created and planned Palm Sunday in a tent in the cafeteria, Good Friday's journey with Jesus, our first outdoor service on the property, Creation service at Lion's Valley Park, Carol service, liturgy of the greens to set up the worship space for Christmas. lan Grieve joined us as honorary assistant in February, and Richard Moorse came as a student that fall.
Church school grew. We had 4 classes; adult study had 10 regulars. We reformed the social committee: social events included our pancake supper, spring pot-luck, lunch at the June service on the property, BBQ and pool party, our first golf day, a fall wine/cheese, Halloween party and Christmas lunch. The junior youth group was formed, the craft group made Easter eggs, we fielded another baseball team.
The outreach group was recreated in January, and began to explore sponsorship of a refugee family. In addition to budget allocations, the parish also provided Christmas presents for the teens at Syl Apps and underwrote the cost of bringing many seniors to the fall concert.
On the diocesan level, we participated in youth synod and diocesan synod, helped organize an Ash Wednesday program for children. We also sent an unprecedented 8 leaders and attendees to NYC!
We moved the church office out of Andrew's basement in July and into rented commercial office space. Fundraising this year included Tupperware and kids clothing sales, our first talent auction, chocolate sales, a garage sale, Waterfront festival buttons, a jewellery sale, Summerfest, our first Canadian Open parking on the property, Abbey Lane craft sale and the Orpheus Choir concert.
This was a year that we saw 9 dedicated families/members move away, but we were blessed with newcomers including the Barnard/Bristols, Bowdens, Brands, Bill Cloke, Kati Cloke, the Coles, the Grieves, Michele Lefebvre, the Macdougalls, Ann MacNaughton, Neil MacNaughton, and the Morsons. By year-end, we had 72 homes and 250 adults and children, average Sunday attendance moving to 100 members.
The Year of Unparalleled Growth, 1996
At January's vestry, we elected our 9h Parish Council; of that group Bill Cloke, Carol Cooper, Pat Davis, Simon Hardacre, Graham Hughes, Mark Hughes, Greg Johnston, Trudy Lilly, Lisa Seller, Chrissie and Penny Siebert, Nancy Williams and Marlene Thompson are still in the parish.
Worship was highlighted by a Lenten series, Liturgy through the Ages, an interactive Good Friday service with dancing, outdoor services on our property, at our pool party and in Lion's Valley park, and our Jeopardy service. This year saw the introduction of the Incarnation band, a young children's choir, and servers.
Church school had 5 classes, family communion classes were offered. We added a second, 6:15am adult study and both studies continued meeting throughout the summer.
Social events included a pancake supper, spring potluck, June lunch on the property, golf day, BBQ and pool party, fall party, Halloween party and Christmas lunch. The senior and junior youth groups went on retreat together. The baby-sitting co-op, craft group, baseball team, morning social were all active. A new group for young adults was formed.
Outreach was a significant focus. When our refugee family were declined, we held a special Vestry to confirm our commitment to this type of outreach. Shortly thereafter, we agreed to sponsor the Calvin family. In addition to budget allocations, the parish provided Christmas presents for teens at Syl Apps and tickets for many seniors to the fall concert. Mission Impossible raised 6 shopping carts-full for the foodbank.
On the diocesan level, we participated in youth synod and diocesan synod, helped organize a children's Ash Wednesday program. We also sent 12 leaders and attendees to NYC! Synod Council approved the building of our new parish home, extending funding of $1.4 million. Various groups began working hard in the planning process.
Once again, we ran a successful stewardship campaign. Fundraising included a talent auction, garage sale, Summerfest, Canadian Open parking on the property, Abbey Lane craft sale and the Orpheus concert.
We had amazing growth, with the help of a new Marketing and Evangelism group. We began regular flyer drops, Try Us Out services, regular newspaper reporting; we created a vision statement, new logo and new welcome package. New families included the Ashes, Bairds, Bland, Borrell, Burke, Daley, Decariellnnes, Dentons, Cara Fletcher, the Haney/Argues, Hewers, Heys, Hovey, Howarths, Jennifer Lanois, the Caroline/Bruce Litties, Natalie/Sandy MacNaughton, McGills, OSheas, Prodger/Wiltons, Ricketts, Roberts, Megan Royle, the Speire, Stevens, and Ann Turner. By year-end, we had an amazing 94 homes and 314 adults and children, average Sunday attendance moving to 126 members!
** Written circa 1997