St. Stephen-In-The-Fields is Kensington Market's kind of church. The current parish has three congregations, francophone African, English and Spanish, each with a Sunday service. They continue St. Stephen's tradition of service: 7,000 breakfasts a year are served to hungry and homeless people, and more meals are provided in the winter as part of the Out of the Cold program. But that's not the half of it.
It's hard to believe the Anglican diocese wants to evict these admirable congregations from their historic building. It's a lose-lose situation. The parish will lose its home of 147 years. The walls and windows with the names of former parishioners will no longer be their walls. The 1858 organ that still has the original paint on its pipes will no longer be playing their hymns.
The community and the city will lose the tough, compassionate energy of the parish that invented St. Stephen's Community House and The Stop, invited Kensington Jewish kids to its summer camps in the 1930s and feeds the hungry and welcomes newcomers from around the world today.
The building will lose the people who built it, rebuilt it and rebuilt it again, who have cared for it and maintained it for a century and a half. The diocesan intentions for the building are very vague, but it's hard to imagine that anyone other than the parish would serve the building so well.
In the worst-case scenario, the diocese would sell the property. They say this isn't their intention, but the future is a long time. The building has a historical designation, and city council can prevent its demolition. The current council wouldn't allow this, but a future one might. And whatever council does, a developer could appeal its decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, which has not proven very sensitive to heritage issues.
The current mantra at the OMB is "transit = intensification," and a developer might successfully argue that the College streetcar calls for 12-storey condominiums, not old one-storey underutilized churches.
Without the parish, the building is in danger of demolition at worst and neglect at best. Neglect means demolition by the inch.