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Activist politician returns to pulpit

By Patricia Clarke


Rev. Cheri DiNovo, an NDP member of the Ontario legislature, often said she would go back to pastoral ministry when the time was right.

That time has come. On Jan. 1, DiNovo will begin ministering to Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church and Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts in Toronto.

After 11 years in politics, she says, “I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish.” That includes increasing the minimum wage, ensuring equal rights for LGBTQ people and giving voice to the voiceless. Those were her goals when she left the Emmanuel-Howard Park United congregation in Toronto in 2006, where her radical ideas and outgoing personality tripled attendance over eight years.


Cheri DiNovo. Photo courtesy of Cheri DiNovo
Cheri DiNovo. Photo courtesy of Cheri DiNovo

DiNovo, who is 66, says two small strokes had a part in her decision to leave politics. “They were a wake-up call. I had to think: how do I want to spend the rest of my life?”

Why Trinity-St. Paul’s? DiNovo was initially intrigued by the job ad, which stated that the church’s 152 active member families were seeking a minister to continue the congregation’s long tradition of social justice activism and “to share this passion and public witness.” What the search committee found in her, says co-chair Barbara Lloyd, was “vision, enthusiasm for the work of the church in the world, [and] a deep passion — theologically grounded — to work for justice.”

DiNovo, meanwhile, had concluded that what social activists — often exhausted and frustrated by politics — need is a place that “offers sanctuary and support.” That’s what appealed to her about the call. “It’s so important to be part of a supportive community. In the church, we can build those alternate communities.”

A few had worried that DiNovo would be preaching the NDP gospel. Not her plan. For her upcoming covenanting service in February, she has invited Ontario’s Liberal premier, Kathleen Wynne, to preach.



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