History

The St. Seraphim of Sarov parish in Toronto was born in 2000, when the influx to Canada of Russian-speaking immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet republics, as well as from Israel, had reached its peak.
The existing Orthodox churches of the city, half-empty just a few years ago, were suddenly filled with new parishioners, most of whom were newcomers to the Church, but they were determined to change their lives and to come unto Christ. The urgent need for new parishes became obvious, especially in the north part of Toronto, where most of our compatriots chose to settle down.
Numerous appeals from believers to the Canadian Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America, supported by the priesthood and parishioners of the Christ the Savior Cathedral, the oldest Russian Orthodox church in Toronto, were met by the Diocesan management with understanding, and a blessing was given to establish a new parish of the Orthodox Church in America in the North York area of Toronto. The parish was named after a saint venerated throughout the Christian world, St. Seraphim of Sarov.
For the first two years, the parish survived thanks to the generous support of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Toronto, which donated everything the new parish needed for worship, including valuable icons and a large sum of money. Orthodox Church in America also gave a considerable grant for parish development.
A significant role in the establishment of the parish was played by Nicholas Ignatieff, one of the representatives of earlier Russian emigration, a descendant of the famous Ignatieff family. Using his broadest connections and highest authority, he, under his personal guarantee, persuaded an Anglican church not far from Yonge and Steeles to grant tenancy to the St. Seraphim of Sarov parish.
The convenient location in the heart of a Russian Toronto neighbourhood made the parish viable; it grew quickly and by 2006, contrary to the predictions of skeptics, became the second largest Russian-speaking Orthodox parish in Toronto.
The Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska established in the parish organized a Christmas matinee for children every year, provided the faithful with Christian literature, icons, and other items necessary for prayer, and arranged pilgrimages. By the efforts of the brothers there were courses for catechumens, talks on Orthodox culture, and lectures on iconography conducted every Sunday.
A distinctive feature of the St. Seraphim of Sarov parish from the first days of its existence was the friendly, joyous atmosphere. Most parishioners were well-educated people with extensive life experience. Many came from major cities: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Moscow, Kharkov, Riga, Odessa, Jerusalem, and so on. The congregation included many scientists, even some world-renowned ones, artists, and musicians. People were impressed by the lack of ostentatious piety, rigour, hypocrisy, and rudeness in maintaining the proper conduct in church. Moreover, the Christian spirit of the parish and the absence of squabbling, gossip, and petty quibbles quickly attracted to the parish representatives of the "old emigration" as well. Among them stood out the beloved by all, now deceased, Fedor and Euphrosynya Taranets, godchildren of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, sister of the last Russian Tsar Nikolay.
Any good deed is not without temptation, and the weakness of our human nature makes us vulnerable. On February 13 (26) 2012, on Forgiveness Sunday, disaster struck. Nestor (Mihaylechko), the long-term rector of the parish, drove away the diocesan bishop and announced his secession from the canonical Orthodox Church, hoping to lead the whole parish into the newly created schism.
But the Lord disposed differently. Despite the lack of information, many parish members, including almost all readers and altar servers, the choir director and almost all choir members, were able to understand the situation and asked the diocese to appoint a new rector so the canonical parish activities could continue. Their requests were heard, and the parish was entrusted to the pastoral care of priest Alexis Vassioushkin who at the time was serving as a second priest in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Toronto. The former rector of the parish was banned from serving, and later, by the decision of the ecclesiastical court, deprived of his priesthood, as notified in a letter sent by the ruling archbishop Irenaeus, the Bishop of Quebec. From that moment on, according to the canons of the Orthodox Church, all sacraments performed by Nestor are devoid of grace and invalid.
From the very beginning of the new era in the history of the parish, the faithful parishioners faced considerable difficulties. It was found that while preparing his departure, Fr. Nestor, supported by a narrow circle of people close to him, had registered an independent organization (corporation), to which the lease of the church premises was transferred. Hence the canonical parish was literally turned out on the streets.
But, thanks to God's help and the dedicated efforts of the parishioners, the activity of the canonical parish has not stopped and just in time for Easter a beautiful building was found, an old Anglican chapel in the heart of Richmond Hill. Easter 2012 was the day of the true rebirth of the parish.
Currently, every Sunday Divine Liturgy is served in the parish and other services performed. After the service the congregation takes shared meals and talks about spiritual and everyday topics. The Christmas matinees for children have been revived, and Mardi Gras is celebrated every time on the last Sunday before Lent. Now there are services in the first week of Lent and on the Passion Week before Easter as well, which were not celebrated in the "well-off" times of the parish. The patronal festival celebrated in the first days of August has acquired a particular importance in the life of the parish. On these days, the ruling bishop of the Archdiocese of Canada comes to visit our parish. In 2012, Bishop Irenaeus brought a fragment of the relics of our patron saint, St. Seraphim, and in 2013, relics of the great saint of Russia and America, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Our parishioners, members of the charitable association Blagovest, organize parish picnics and tea parties, and participate in various town events. In the summer of 2013, a summer camp for children was organized for the first time.
We have no doubt that the parish, located in the northern part of the Greater Toronto Area, has a huge potential for development. But in order to bring it to life, we need the participation of all those who can help. Compared to 2000, times have changed, and today we can only rely on moral, but not financial support from other parishes and from the Archdiocese, so we have to pay for everything from our own budget. Besides monetary donations, the parish can use many other types of assistance as well.
Do you cook? – You can make and bring food for a shared meal that we have after services.
Do you sew? - We need vestments for altar servers and drapes for the lecterns.
Do you sing? - The choir always welcomes new choristers.
Do you want to learn to read in Church Slavonic? - Our readers are ready to help.
Can you help with something else? - Do not hesitate to tell this to the rector, warden, or one of the members of the Parish Council.
It is the joint effort of prayer and labour that make the Christian community and all of us, Orthodox Christians, flourish.
May God bless everyone who works for His house!

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