Noam Chomsky has a lot of wonderfully productive phrases – “The threat of a good example” is one of my very favourites, because it describes something that all of us have seen, and sometimes found hard to describe to others.
I remember the battle fought over this church and corner – a real prime piece of Toronto real estate if ever there was one – the spot is right across from the classy old Plaza hotel (awesome rooftop bar in the old days), kitty-corner to the Royal Ontario Museum – and some of the most expensive shopping in Canada is concentrated within a circle roughly eight minutes wide, on-foot.
The church was, at the time, suffering several crises which were all quite dire – the congregation had dwindled greatly, and the cynical eighties were a particular low-point for this (once “the City of Churches” remember) anyhow. They also had serious maintenance issues (new roof required – re-pointing too). And then there was all that money – a temptation purer than most.
I don’t even have to tell you how much the developers wanted to kill this beautiful little church – you can feel-it in the way the building behind looms menacingly over that indomitable wee gem even to this day, coveting the yet unclaimed corner and resenting it’s charismatic, if diminutive older sibling.
All over the city this story was re-told – some huge lots waited decades, as one lone holdout continued to live in their tiny house in acres of cleared rubble – “Sorry Goliath – money STILL doesn’t get to win every time.”
Most of these battles were, of course, ultimately lost. But this one, preserved literally in stone, where most of us Torontonians will eventually get to see and smile about it – stands for me as reminder and memorial both.
Screw mammon. Hold the street!