Liberty Grace Church meets on Saturday evenings in the Danceology Studio and is involved with community activities in Liberty Village. You may have seen Liberty Grace Church in such places as the Liberty Village Farmer’s Market, sharing burgers at their community BBQs in Liberty Village Park, or helping with the park’s clean-up events.
Some people have questioned what the need is for a church in a place like Liberty Village. For example, last September Matt Galloway interviewed Darryl Dash on CBC’s Metro Morning in an attempt to understand why someone would move into a young professional area and start a church when nobody is really for looking for that. When the big trend of downtown is that churches are closing left, right and centre and being converted into condos and lofts, what is the point of starting another church? For that background interview, You can listen a recording of Matt Galloway’s line of questioning here.
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Because we here at LibertyVillageToronto.com are also curious as to why someone would attempt to start up a church in Liberty Village, we asked church-founder Darryl Dash to describe his vision and his experience in Liberty Village so far.
Darryl replied that his decision to be in Liberty Village was based on three specific criteria: He wanted to be in a neighbourhood that was located downtown, experiencing rapid growth, and that was underserviced in terms of churches.
Rather than trying to come up with some grand plan to try to re-invent the neighbourhood, Darryl has a more modest goal for the church to be Liberty Village-focused and to help plug in and serve the community. The main vision of the Liberty Grace Church has to do with how they can help make Liberty Village a better place to live.
As examples of the type of their involvement in Liberty Village Mr. Dash stated that they want to help do something with the parks and park clean-up in Liberty Village, to participate in and enable such events as the Liberty Village Art Crawl, have community BBQs, talk to others in the neighbourhood, and sponsor such initiatives as the LV Board Game Group so as to increase neighbours spending time together. They want to help residents come up with ways to build community.
In terms of a religious angle, Mr. Dash states that Liberty Grace Church is not looking to capture people who are already going to church. Downtown Toronto already has many churches, and Liberty Grace doesn’t want to be perceived as trying to steal members away from other churches or religious groups.
According to Darryl Dash’s vision, Liberty Grace Church is not focused on attendance at a weekly service or centred around a particular building. Rather it’s about the attempt to contribute to the regular daily experience of people living and working in Liberty Village. Church, for Mr. Dash, is about how you live your regular life, rather than about church attendance. The choice of name for the church – Liberty Grace Church – reflects their aim of wanting to focus on Christian ideals of freedom and grace, and not on a set of restrictive rules.
The target audience for the church is people who live in Liberty Village and who perhaps don’t think of themselves as wanting to go to church – residents who perhaps for years have focused on educational achievement and career success, but have neglected spiritual questions that they may have. Liberty Grace aims to be available in a supportive role, listening to resident’s stories and being open to their questions. Darryl Dash says he wants to prioritize around what people are searching for and looking for in their lives rather than simply bringing in a his own approach that would impose on others. With respect to this, Mr. Dash says that to engage with Liberty Grace Church you don’t even need to agree with Christianity. Dash encourages residents to come with their questions and their arguments. All he wants is for people who are looking to engage honestly.
Churches are often viewed as being conservative, older, and suburban. The focus of Liberty Grace Church is aimed at those who are younger, perhaps more cynical, urban, and who hold any political position. Darryl Dash emphasizes that you don’t have to clean up your act before you come to Liberty Grace – there’s no right kind of person you have to be.
One added way that Liberty Grace hopes to engage with the community in 2014 is to help residents become knowledgeable about important causes outside of Liberty Village. For example, Dash indicates that he wants to bring the World Vision film called Girl Rising for a screening to Liberty Village. This is a film about women’s fight to be educated around the world. The film screening will be an opportunity for residents to connect with each other over the needs and struggles of others.
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