After lunch in the hall of St. John Chrysostom we moved north and east on our November 22nd and arrived at the remarkable Sharon Temple on Leslie Street north of Davis Drive.
Sharon Temple is a remarkable space unlike anything we have ever visited on a
previous pilgrimage of sacred spaces. It
offers a look back into Canadian history and yet it was clearly built to offer
a look ahead to the New Jerusalem.
the hardest thing to envision is that the Sharon Temple was formed by a group
of people who left the Quaker Meeting House on Yonge St. The leader of the Sharon Temple sect known
as the Children of Peace was David Wilson, whose weekly preaching did not
resonate with the lovers of silence in the Quaker congregation. Wilson and his followers left shortly after
the new Quaker Meeting House was erected in 1812 and found their way north and
east of Newmarket to the settlement of Sharon.
is difficult to envision the link because the Sharon Temple, which was built
between 1825 and 1832, represents an architecture, liturgy and community that
is, at least on the surface, much more elaborate.
begin with, the pump organ in the Sharon Temple is a visible sign of something
that simply didn't exist in the Quaker Meeting House - music. The Children of Peace commissioned the first
organ built in Ontario. Along with the
organ came a great musical tradition among the Children of Peace as their
leader, David Wilson, composed a new hymn each week. When William Maddox sat to play the old organ
he was amazed to know it worked, but without Hans Alfred pumping we would not
have heard a sound.
Maddox spoke to us not only of the organ, but also of the acoustic recalling
that Sharon Temple acoustic was the subject of a three hour lecture in his
undergraduate studies in music at Queens.
second floor in the Temple which looks down into the altar area was built for
musicians. Unlike the children of the
day they were to be heard and not seen,
but oh how they were heard. The remarkable acoustic seems to have been
arrived in part as a result of good fortune and chance, but I like to believe
our forebears had a lot more smarts than we give them credit for. We concluded our visit by gathering everyone
around the altar to sing, Amazing Grace.
How sweet the sound indeed.
Sharon Temple is also distinct form the Quaker Meeting House by the presence of
David Wilson's study. One person in the
community was clearly set apart to prepare the liturgy and sermon for the day
of worship, but what is more, the community was clearly built around the voice
and vision of that one person. Wilson
was obviously also a dynamic and charismatic leader as the community grew
significantly in a time when the population was relatively small and when most
of the worshippers would have had to travel great distances to worship.
Wilson also founded the Canadian Alliance Society which was Ontario's first
formal political party. Wilson and other
members of the Sharon Temple supported William Lyon MacKenzie's Upper Canada
Rebellion in 1837 and endorsed visions of bringing more democratic reform to
Upper Canada. However, as is sometimes
the case with an organization built by a charismatic leader, the Children of
Peace began to fade after his death in 1866.
The last service was held in 1889.
the Children of Peace were set apart from the Quakers by the architecture of
the Temple itself. They did have a
Meeting House which was significant in size, but presumably also less ornate
than the Temple. The very name temple
implies a sense of having arrived at the Kingdom. The temple in Israel was built and rebuilt
after the return from periods of exile abroad.
Some believe the Sharon Temple was symbolic of having put of the yoke of
British rule through the obvious connections with the Upper Canada rebellion
and the election of their candidate as part of the Baldwin LaFontaine
parliament. However, once inside the
Sharon Temple one is immediately caught up in the Biblical symbolism at work
and one can't help but wonder if it wasn't the Kingdom of God on earth the
temple represents. To Wilson and his followers Sharon may well have been the
Wilson was the architect and he drew heavily on Biblical symbols such as the
number twelve for the central columns representing the teaching of the Apostles
and the three tiered structure representing the Trinity. The window panes are also all in variations
of twelve. While the object in the
centre of the worship space in the Quaker Meeting House is a cast iron stove
intended to invoke nothing more than heat on a winter's day, the centre of the
worship space in the Sharon Temple is nothing less than an ark containing a
Bible open to the Ten Commandments.
are four identical doors into the Sharon Temple located in the centre of the
four sides of the perfect square. One
can almost imagine the four angels envisioned in Revelation seven protecting
the four corners of the earth, but there is little doubt it was the vision of the
Kingdom invoked in Jesus' words in Luke chapter thirteen, "People will come
from east and west, and north and south, and will take their places at the
feast in the Kingdom of God.
co-leader, Corey Keeble saw many other symbols in the design of the Temple
which invoked even deeper meanings. But
it was the sight of the cluster of inner columns and the similarity they bore
for him to the interiors of Early Renaissance buildings by Brunelleschi,
Alberti, and others such as the Santo Spirito in Florence, that left Corey
almost speechless. The wonder of it all
is that there is very doubtful that either Wilson or Doan would have had any
knowledge of such buildings.
the vantage point of almost one hundred and fifty years since the death of
Wilson it would seem he was following a vision to build the Kingdom of God on
earth and the political aspirations of the community were not disconnected from
the vision. It was a vision intent on
changing the world for the better.
Sharon Temple was open for the worship of the community only once a month while
all other religious services took place in the larger but less ornate Meeting
House which was demolished more than a century ago.
the community and the faith died, the building constructed by Ebenezer Doan the
master builder who followed Wilson's designs, has avoided demolition thanks to
a group of people who began their fight to save the space ninety-five years
ago. John McIntyre, a descendent of one
of the first to take up the fight to save the building, serves as the museum
curator. On a cold day John's welcome
couldn't have been warmer. Though he has
been at the helm for many years he still speaks of the space with a child's
sense of wonder and awe. I am sure too
he has heard many a group raise their voice in song, but as we left it was as
if he heard music for the first time.
But the acoustics are such that hearing a song in the Temple is like
hearing it all over again for the first time.
It was a joy to sing in the Temple and though none of us ascended
Jacob's ladder to the second level, we all felt a a little closer to the
Kingdom. It would be a joy to return and