Earlier this week I posted a short article showing how the Toronto District School Board has chosen to effectively drive churches out of the public schools by pushing through a massive fee hike. In a city of small congregations and expensive real estate, renting space from public schools has long been one of the few affordable options for churches. Grace Fellowship Church of East Toronto, a recent plant of the church I attend, is faced with a 391% increase in the fee they pay to rent a gymnasium for their worship services; Grace Toronto, another local church with which we have a close association, has seen their fees rise by 142%, up to $192,000 a year for just four hours of weekly use. Many other local churches face similar circumstances.
At the time I wrote the article I asked for action and for prayer. Both must have happened in abundant measure!
I posted the article on Monday morning and by the next day I had been contacted by several local and national newspapers, radio stations, and television channels. I opted to direct all media inquiries to Julian Freeman and Dan MacDonald, the pastors of those two churches. In the few days since, it has been a thrill to see those men appear all over the news.
- CTV News covered the issue immediately and headlined their article “Churches scramble after school board raises rental fee.” They published another titled “Church stunned by major TDSB rental fee hike.”
- The Toronto Star published an article titled “School rental hike wallops small faith groups.”
- The National Post went with the long headline “Church groups see rent for meeting rooms spike as much as 400% as Toronto schools try to fill budget gap.”
- WORLD Magazine titled an article “Blatant Discrimination.”
- Christianity Today published a brief story titled “Toronto Churches Face Eviction As School Rental Fees Skyrocket”
And that was not all. This issue was the subject of discussions on local talk radio, including 1010 CFRB, a station well-known to Torontonians. WDCX, a Christian radio station based in Buffalo (but which broadcasts across Lake Ontario into the Toronto area) had a feature. Global TV, a national television network, apparently intends to air a feature this weekend.
I’d ask you to continue to pray and, if you are a Toronto resident, to continue to take action by getting in touch with your Member of Provincial Parliament and your School Trustee. While I have not yet spoken to the Toronto School Board representatives, I am hearing from one pastor they may soon be willing to offer some kind of a compromise to the churches. Please pray that they do. From other pastors I am hearing that the School Board is digging in their heels.