Junction Arts Festival – will feature an ecumenical prayer service

The Junction arts festival which seeks to serve the community and installs a huge stage for the festival weekend has worked to provide our main stage to the communities churches on the morning of Sept 12.

After informing Bill Saundercook’s office about the the service he wrote this on his Facebook page, and I thought I could not write it better, so here is his take on the service…

The Junction Arts Festival taking place in Sept 8 though 12 in the Junction/High Park will feature an ecumenical prayer service. Churches and places of worship are an integral part of our communities. As such, the churches and temples within and around the festival footprint will play an important part in this year’s event. For festival updates, please see www.junctionartsfest.com.


"Churches and places of worship are an integral part of our communities. As such, the churches and temples within and around the festival footprint will play an important part in this year’s event."

Good. I wouldn't want to see them all shut down and turned into condos.

By the way, I love that photo of the steeple towering over the Victorian streetscape.

We are going to see a lot of unnecessary quotes on this blog by Bill Saundercook before the next election aren't we?

Thank you Will, you're spot on. It has been known for sometime that the Junction blog and the Junctioneer himself are mouthpieces for Mr. Saundercook… we've just come to live with it and take those posts with a large grain of salt.

Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc are there for those who want to take part in religious services – there is no reason that this should be part of an Arts festival, particularly not one that is so heavily sponsored by tax dollars.

i think churches fall very much into the art category, they are full of it from the ceilings to the walls to the windows, to the floors to the statues on the lawns.

The festival is serverly inhibiting two churches during it,s weekend run. Also the stage area would not be used during the 8am to 12pm time slot the churches will be using it.

As to taking part festival will not have to as the festival opens at 12pm Sunday,

leaving aside the 'architecture and design' elements of places of worship, why are religious services being programmed into an arts and cultural festival, paid by tax payers?…ridiculous!

Rob, there is no place for a religious observance in a publicly funded arts festival. Has this ever been done before in the 10 years of street closures?

If the local churches wanted to give tours during the festival, I would have no objection to that and I suspect they would be quite successful. We aren't talking about looking at the art or architecture of the churches here, we're talking about a religious ceremnoy being put on using public funds. It's not at all the same thing.

The west Toronto baptist church held a Sunday service on the street last year. They featured some good music and I think it fit in well with the weekend.

On the street or on the stage? As part of the Arts Festival using facilities paid for by the Festival sponsors, or using their own equipment?

Now that there are other religious serivces happening we have decided to sacrifice a chicken and a goat at the train station on Dundas between 8am-12pm. It's for our Haitian religion so please don't judge.

I don't know where you got your information but you are really wrong, In fact the Forum which runs the festival has gained unprecedented support from all levels of government in the past few months.

Our new model direction was the only one allowed to expand by the city this year, as well the festival has the highest number of curatorial partners of any festival in the city this year.

I could go on but I'll let the this years festival and the forums 4 other events this coming year speaking for themselves.

Tried the tours idea, most wouldn't go for it.

Hi Junction Resident, While I understand your opinion and respect it, letting them use the main stage on Sunday morning, the festival managing producer and the forum chair did not have religion on their mind at all. Simply we were blocking and inherently disrupting their use of their church as we will be doing for every other church on Dundas during the festival.

conversation went like this…

pastor in email .. you are blocking the church with your stage I am told?

Junction Festival managing prod. … the pastor next door isn't happy where the stage is

Junction festival chair… oh well

Junction Festival managing prod…. we should talk to him

Junction fest chair… ok is that him down there (looking from office window)

bla bla talk between Junction Festival managing prod and Junction fest chair…

now on the street,

Junction fest chair… Cannot remember it all but something like this we plan to provide a guided pathway for your people to enter and leave the church

Pastor… not looking so happy

Junction fest chair… look our stage is not used from 8am to 12pm why not just use it (my way quickly solving a problem)

Tomorrow in a real post why I think this is not such a bad thing the relationship between arts and religion

Thanks Theirry, now if you please tell Bill that I would greatly thank you.

we did agree on the subject of weather vanes yesterday (the Junction needs one)

And believe it or not I had a conversation with Sarah Doucette recently among others with her…about her involvement in the festival,

yes I actually spoke to all the active runners in the election asking them to volunteer for the festival Sarah has said yes.

I asked the other new guy running mths ago to volunteer, he said he would but has neglecter to follow up (so to not embarrass him he will remain nameless.

For those of you who don't the person who runs this blog is also chair of the festival.

The issue here isn't about the relationship between the arts and religion, it's the relationship between the tax dollars which provide your funding and religion. Your decision was hasty and needs to be reconsidered.

The Festival will think about it, but for any further decision I kindly that you e-mail the festival directly info@junctionsartsfest.com. We would be happy to meet with anyone at our offices on any Monday, Wednesday or Fridays. It is best to have conversations not under the cloak of anonymity.

per Junction Arts Festival

Please be aware this is not the blog of the festival and the opinions expressed in blog posts are the authors of the individual posts.

How does pseudo-anonymity come into this at all? My identity is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. It sounds to me that what you might really be saying here is you don't want to have this conversation in public.

You still haven't answered my very simple question about whether churches have been allowed to use Arts Festival-funded facilities in the past. Should I expect to see posts related to this being deleted soon?

identity = truth, I really don't want to waste my time discussing with someone who will not put their name behind there statements, would you?

If you really want to contribute I will buy a domain and set up a blog that you can run about the community.

Churches have been allowed to use Arts Festival-funded facilities in the past. …yes I have looked throughly the files from 2002 just a few weeks ago as they were puled up from the JBIA's old office basement, if they are stored in the local Public storage building you are welcome to look at them, and no I am not going to go thought them all and make a list for you. but if you care enough the files are open for your inspection.

as for discussion in public I would like to have all the festivals old files digitalized and posted on the web for open discussion, you are welcome to volunteer for the job or to put a team together to do.

Openness there you have it, the offer could not be greater.

By the way as soon as I can figure out how to do it comments from a anonymity will not be allowed

Rob, it's your blog and you are of course welcome to change it so that people cannot contribute pseudo-anonymously if that's what you want to do. I find it very telling that you think about making this change not because of offensive or insulting comments, but because you seem to be having difficulty dealing with my polite disagreement with a decision that you have made.

My interest right now is in the decision that you made to allow a church (or churches) to use the facilities paid for my your sponsors (i.e., government agencies with tax dollars). Digitizing old files isn't really related to that. Although you seem to be hung on it, my identity isn't related to that either. You seem to want to reduce this to a private conversation between you and I, rather than a conversation that is visible to the community affected by and involved in this.

If you are actually looking for openness, try discussing the issue rather than squelching it. Here is something to start you off – how would you feel if you were a non-Christian and you saw that there was a Christian ceremony being held at a festival you helped pay for with your tax dollars? How would you feel if you were an atheist in the same situation?

How would you feel if you were a non-Christian and you saw that there was a Christian ceremony being held at a festival,

…well finally a reasonable question, I was waiting for someone ask that, and every type of place of worship in the community was informed after the offer was made to ensure fairness, and to my knowledge all the churches, temples and synagogues are in discussion (I staying out of it for ethics reasons) .

Before the agreement was made all 5 government sponsors were consulted to ensure that the festival was within the granting rules,

If fact the front blockage situation and the requirement to maintain this access has been at the heart of months of discussion with the city , so much in fact it has taken hours of discussion and 4 people from various departments to plug the problem for this year. This is the solution to the blockage which is what my decision was based on.

I know you may not agree with it but even though the object was not allowing religious access to the festival more people that comment here have emailed me they understand the politeness of accommodating a group who we are severely hindered by the stage position. (which we have moved back on Pacific ave greatly this year.

I have had 8 email this morning validating the decision.

You have forgotten that one church on Dundas st west comes out every year, at Mc Murray and maintains a presence all throughout the festival, another of the goals with the 8am to 12pm use of stage was to hopefully move them off the street to allow for use of that space.

The JFAC board are going to discuss an alternate and more appropriate term instead of "ecumenical"

The decision to invite all area places of worship was extended well before this discussion, that is the point of this inclusive service.

"Churches and places of worship are an integral part of our communities. As such, the churches and temples within and around the festival footprint will play an important part in this year’s event."

From what I understand, not just Christian churches have been contacted. I believe the local synagogue and Tibetan Temple are a few that have been contacted. I am personally anagnostic and have no issue with places of worship using the stage during "down time", I just will choose not to go. It seems that the festival is blocking the entrance to a couple of churches, so it seems this is the proper thing to do.

You can choose not to go, but you can't choose not to have your tax dollars spent on it.

Regardless of which churches etc have been contacted, an "ecumenical" service is by definition a Christian service.

The churches that have their access impeded are no different than the businesses or motorists who are also inconvenienced by the street closure.

Rob, your post is rather jumbled, so I will only address parts of it in this response. When the issue came up originally, you posted a message that implied it was a spur of the moment decision. Then you said that you had gone into the festival archives to research whether this had been done before. Now you are saying that it has been the subject of negotiations with multiple parties for months. If that's the case, why are you being so defensive about this? You have spent more time backpedalling and trying to find reasons why you can't discuss this with me than you have simply stating your case.

Please don't be offended by this question, but was the offer extended to all religious groups in the area before or after the discussion began here?

before the discussion began here, in fact the issue was 1sr discussed in May during the extension pleadings.

sorry about the jumbled text was typing on my iphone, will edit it now, and remove the confusing material

The problem seems to be with the word "ecumenical" as it is a christian-specific term. The word should clearly be revised immediately. And NOT that the festival has allowed the various community places of worship (tibetan, xtian, jewish, jehovahs etc) time and space on the stages PRIOR to the festival hours of operation. The community places of worship are NOT part of festival programming therefore (ie will not be publicized via festival channels) NO tax dollars will be spent in that area.

Junction Resident – your tiresome, one-track rhetoric sounds uncannily like that of a certain constantly disgruntled Junction BIA bookstore owner….

This whole train of thought about 'my tax dollars shouldn't pay for this' is dopey.

a/ I really don't think they are building any expensive special facilities for this.
b/ tax dollars fund lots of things that are offensive to lots of people..so what?

The people who make up these places of worship are part of the community and have the freedom to participate in a community event as much as anyone else. To feel you are being bullied by religious types in the Junction in 2010 is just ridiculous.

if you personally don't enjoy it, just walk down the street to something you do enjoy.

I'm not sure which bookstore owner you mean, but I take it that your comment means that my opinion would be worth less if I were that person?

I hope the people who attend these churches do participate in the festival the same way that most of the community will – by walking around and enjoying what it has to offer. I don't think other groups are being given access to the stage just because they are "part of the community" – why are churches different from the many businesses that are part of the community which will be just as much inconvenienced by the street closures?

I walk around and enjoy what the community has to offer every day…sorry but this doesn't make for a street festival.

All sorts of groups/individuals/businesses will show off their wares and talents in public – churches are no exception. for many Junction residents these institutions are an integral part of 'what the community has to offer' you may not like this fact but that is just your personal hang up…and you are free to skip the acts on stage that you don't enjoy…like I'll skip all that earnest alt-country music !

Have you ever heard the phrase "the separation of church and state"? I don't think I'm the only person who feels that tax dollars should not be used for public religious observances. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't feel like this is any kind of "personal hang up" of mine.

Please don't misunderstand my position – I feel that churches and other places of worship are part of the community. I am not trying to prevent anyone from attending the private religious service of their choice. I am objecting to public religious services (paid for in part by tax dollars). Can you see the difference?

(Rob, what happened to my earlier reply to this message? I'll attempt to recreate it from memory, but if you're deleting comments now, please leave a note specifying why you did so. Thanks.)

Bill Saundercook posted an announcement on his Facebook page that the festival will "feature" "an ecumenical prayer service". That message was reposted here, with the note that "the communities churches" (sic) will be using the stage. Not the community's "places of worship", but specifically churches. The problem here is not the use of the word ecumenical.

The fact that this activity takes place when the stage is not being used by the festival makes little difference. It is a public religious observance on a stage rented by the festival, using equipment rented by the festival, paid for in part by tax dollars. This is a tacit endorsement by the festival.

I'm not trying to draw a parallel here, but would the festival allow a pro-Al Qaeda presentation to use the stage before the start of their schedule? Would people assume that the festival was endorsing that viewpoint if they did? (Hint: yes)

Having the local Councillor posting about this on his facebook page and having the chair of JFAC posting it on his blog certainly makes it seem like it is being publicized and part of festival programming. Doesn't it?

I really don't see how this festival has anything to do with 'The State'.

If a large part of the community (who presumably are taxpayers just like you) want to have a service or performance or whatever, that is their right. they don't need to conduct their activities 'in private' any more than you or anyone else.

Ultimately, the committee who does the organizing will have to make decisions on who gets to take the main stage, based on whatever criteria they come up with …in consultation with Richard Dawkins of course !

"D" said "I really don’t see how this festival has anything to do with ‘The State’". D, the State in this instance is represented by the various government agencies funding this festival. I thought that was clear by now.

This is a decision made by JFAC. I don't think anyone has asked "the community" what they want, but that's just another red herring. Certain communities have quite happily enforced such policies as whites-only golf courses, so community support is not an indicator of "rightness".

On the one hand there is the assertion that this discussion cannot be held if I remain pseudo-anonymous, but on the other hand we now have D here making assumptions about my religious beliefs despite knowing nothing about me. Funny, eh?

The Junction Arts Festival is not a state institution – it is getting some funding from the government…sorry but there is a big difference.

Taxes pay for sidewalks – that doesn't meant the government decides who walks on them.

I don't know or care what your religious beliefs are or aren't, but since you have gone out of your way to make a fuss about a *multi-faith* service it is safe to have some opinions about where your head is at.

Anyway, we don't need a mile long thread to realize we have different opinions on this one …just plug your nose during the service and try to have fun at the rest of the festival !

Maybe the thread is so long because people keep misstating the facts. This is not a "multi-faith" service – it is strictly Christian.

I've asked Rob to reconsider his decision and I was hoping that he would do so after listening to my arguments here. I have other options besides "plugging my nose" as D suggests. If Rob is unwilling to discuss this further, I'll be exploring those.

Where you got the idea the festival is only providing access for Christian places of worship,I don't know, certainly not from me or anyone connected with the board.

As I have stated before all places of worship are given the same opportunity, for the same reasons.

As the commenter says they have other options so I will close comments on this post.

1st did not delete a thing on this post, yes in private emails from other readers my choice of the word churches was not good, but I always included all denominations.

Really cannot understand why you need to do this under guise when you seem tom know me, really that's a bit rude I think

Please don't twist my words. You say you asked other faiths to participate and they declined, so the service is Christian, not "multi-faith".

I thought you had said that here. Perhaps I misunderstood something you wrote. So it's no longer ecumenical?

I think I didn't understand the word ecumenical meaning as it was always all faith and fractions. sorry if I used a word that I have been told means something different than I thought.

Rob/Junctioneer, Bill Saundercook used the word "ecumenical" in his Facebook post. You also used the word here. Perhaps you didn't know what the word meant when you used it, but you should have figured that out from our discussions. If not, you certainly should have figured it out when "The way I see it" said as much on 3 August.

Earlier in this discussion, you said "The festival is serverly inhibiting two churches during it,s weekend run. Also the stage area would not be used during the 8am to 12pm time slot the churches will be using it," which lead me to understand that at that time it was only the two "churches" participating in the "ecumenical" service. Perhaps things have changed since we started the discussion. If that is the case, what is the current plan? I can't help but feel like you have not been entirely open about this right from the start, as the stories seem to shift over time.

Whether or not this is a multi-faith event is moot as far as I am concerned, since my issue is public religious services paid for with tax dollars, but it might make a difference to some people.

None of our tax based granting agencies share your concern, our plans of inclusion were discussed with them as we introduce them layout maps and in our newsletters to sponsors.

Nothing has changed since the start of the discussion it's just that relating here the daily interactions with all the parties is just not possible.

It is important we (the festival) concern ourselves with all you we inconvenience, especially as we enlarge the footprint this tear and move to doing more events throughout the year, or we simply annoy everyone.

If you want to volunteer and help the festival plan this part of the festival you are welcome too, as it concerns you a great deal.

As to your concern for the use of tax dollars, the stage has a private sponsor this year (enabling us to move it onto the street).

Also at this time I need to stop engaging in this conversation, as the festival is just a month away and my days and nights are filled with ensure it comes off wonderfully , I'll me happy to continue after the festival, yet I do invite you come along and help us on this issue if you really this issue working on in a specific manner.

This year the festival has had a number of concerns from artists and community members and bringing the concerned people into the planning process has produced a better festival that addresses the different opinions.

My discussing the issue issue with you here will not lead to a complete resolution as I am not the sole arbitrator as to the content of the festival.

Once again contact me or any board member if this is that serious to you, we all open, and whoever you are I am sure you know most of us.

All the best Robert

Rob, I am asking that you not include public displays of religious belief of any faith or faiths in the festival and that you bring this up for discussion if you have not already. You know my position, so consider yourself contacted.

Despite what you believe, I don't know most of the JFAC. I hope the rest of the festival preparation goes smoothly.

I sorry I am unable to do that stop all religious belief involvement in the Junction.

While you have been very vocal in your wish, during our discussion I have received many many more emails requesting it to be in.


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