City High School

Friends, I am glad to tell you about a new partner sharing space in our building.

City High School in Toronto is a college preparatory program for Chinese-speaking secondary school students. They are using classrooms on our third floor, down the hall from my office, and office space off our East Chapel. I’m bumping into high school kids when I head down the hall to the water cooler or to the kitchen. And I love it.

Our building covers a city block. Our forebears built it to be a place of welcome for our entire community. At the time, we were the grandest building on the farthest northern tip of a growing city, in the 1910s. Now, we are in Midtown—one of the wealthiest portions of a city embroiled in housing and loneliness crises. Square footage is the most coveted goldmine in our city. And groups like City HS need space.

Now, this is not charity. City is paying rent for their time with us for the rest of the school year. This helps with our budget shortfall. But more importantly, it creates new relationships. We have high school students through our building that we wouldn’t have otherwise. One of their administrators told me they used to offer ESL classes in their old location and want to do so again. I’ve wanted ESL in our building since before I got here. Another offered Chinese language classes for beginners, and suggested I jump in as a student! I may not have the time . . . This is the sort of collaboration that becomes possible when you share real estate, kitchens, washrooms, water coolers. I pray God will make more of both our institutions.

Jaclyn Didiano, who scouts for new partnerships such as this, found the bulk of her university friends were former students of prep schools like City. We are among the most cosmopolitan cities in the history of the world, and Christ’s kingdom invites in all nations. Pastoring in Vancouver, I was amazed at the innovativeness offered by Chinese immigrant churches and their subsequent generations. My most recent book was on the these particular gifts. Asian newcomers are far more likely to embrace Christian faith once they arrive in North America than they were to practice faith back home in Asia. Apparently if you’re willing to upend your whole life, you’re willing to rethink your faith, along with everything else. Immigration has often been an engine powering the church’s growth. Sympathetic readers have told me I could have written the same book about Toronto. The church God is bringing is more Asian, South American, and African than we have been. Our staff is more than 1/3rd Asian, and so a good start.

I don’t mean to overfreight City’s presence with us theologically. They’re a tenant offering education and paying rent. These relationships can be merely transactional. But I hope for much more. The church continues Jesus Christ’s ministry of healing, teaching, and upending death. I see every educational institution as a continuation of his work of teaching, whether they are aware of it or not, whether they would deny it or not. I’ll pray for this group, as I do for everyone with whom we share a roof, a city. And I hope you will join me in doing the same—and in welcoming our new friends.  

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