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Church volunteer Anna Dohler embroiders a Pentecost banner at the Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto. Photo by Samantha Rideout

A moment of peace

While G20 protesters and police squared off on Toronto’s streets, a downtown church offered a sanctuary from the fracas.

By Samantha Rideout

I was worn out and admittedly a bit cranky yesterday afternoon as I mingled with the police and protesters near the G20 security zone in downtown Toronto. I was just getting over the flu, and all the shouting and commotion were making my head pound. When I saw that the door to the Church of the Holy Trinity on Bay Street was open, I decided to steal a quiet moment inside.

The three volunteers who greeted me explained that their church wanted to provide a peaceful place for protesters to sit and reflect, away from the fray. They were sympathetic to the demonstrators because they know how exhausting standing up for something can be: the church is working on a number of social justice initiatives, including a class-action lawsuit against a government-run home where mentally challenged residents were allegedly abused.

The volunteers handed me Holy Trinity’s G20 statement, which included a prayer for the safety of all the summit participants, official and unofficial. “We invite you to add your own prayers,” the statement said.

After I spent a bit of time in meditation by the altar, the church volunteers offered me a glass of juice. Upon learning that I’m from Nova Scotia, they pulled out a fiddle and played My Cape Breton Home, accompanied by the piano. One thing led to another, and before long I was step dancing happily while they played jigs and reels.

The music attracted a group of protesters, homeless people and passersby, who sat on the pews to rest their feet and listen.

Church volunteer Anna Dohler sat on the sidelines embroidering a banner for Pentecost. “This is the holy fire that inspired the disciples to go out and speak to the world,” she said, pointing to an embroidered row of flames. “And that’s the dove of peace,” she added, gesturing toward the stained glass window nearby.

Both symbols resonated with me. The fire reminded me of some of the passionate people I had met at the Truth and Reconciliation event, the World Religions Summit and the G20: the protesters, religious leaders, speakers, residential school survivors and activists who were determined to struggle for justice. And the dove reminded me of the moments when those same people nurtured their spirits by praying, listening to music or even just joking around.

I’m grateful that Holy Trinity remembered the importance of peaceful moments and provided one for those of us who stopped in. When I went back outside, helicopters were rumbling loudly in the sky, a man was in a heated argument with a police officer and I had a lot of work to do once I made it home. But now, I was ready.

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