House of Lords: Ten Religious Buildings in Toronto

By Denise Balkissoon

Here we have some appropriated photos of 10 religious buildings in Toronto that I have been to. Except this first one, I just think it looks cool.

I’ve never actually been to a Hindu temple in Toronto, although my father was born Hindu. If I had to pick one, it would be the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Etobicoke. Look at it!

Before the Toronto And Region Islamic Congregation mosque went up at Jane St. and the 401 in 1991, the prayers used to be in schools, rec centres, and my uncle’s basement.

This is St. Paul’s Basilica, the oldest Catholic church in Toronto. It’s a stand-in for a Catholic church my father can’t remember the name of, where we went to a really, really, really long wedding. Afterward everyone shook hands and said “Peace Be Unto You.” I didn’t know this was going to happen and also I am clueless so I said “Pleased to Meet You.”

When my mom had cancer I used to go sit on this bench by my old office when I needed a good cry. One time an old black lady and an old white lady came along and asked if they could pray for me. They asked Jesus to help me deal with my struggles, then left without trying to sell me on a church or anything. It made me feel a lot better.

Storefront churches and temples are so Toronto. This is the Scarborough strip mall where my mom learns Mahayana Buddhist meditation from a Chinese teacher. Mom tried to explain something to me about inner peace and three-dimensional zeros the other day, but I didn’t get it.

This is the Jami Mosque off Roncesvalles, the city’s oldest mosque. For a long time it was the only Toronto mosque that could properly perform Muslim funeral rites. It’s where my aunt’s body was shrouded after she died.

Ok, not in Toronto, but pretty much the most impressive religious building I’ve been to. There’s no steel or wood frame in this thing. Think about that. It was built as a Hindu temple and is now Buddhist.  A seriously ancient man tied a red blessing string around my wrist and his knots ain’t never coming undone.

Toronto Life (where I stole this photo) says Holy Blossom is the place for Jewish movers and shakers. I once went to a wedding there and didn’t bring anything to cover my shoulders, so I had to wear my parka through the ceremony.

I told my husband that if he wanted me to do the gifts and gluttony part of Christmas, we had to do the Christ part too. So we went to Christmas Eve ceremonies at his childhood church. I sang “Away in a Manger” for the first time in 20+ years.

I can’t find a photo of either of the gurdwaras I’ve been to, so let’s hear it for Fauja Singh. In high school World Religions class, I went to the Gursikh Sabha Gurdwara in Scarborough and learned that “Singh” means “lion.” A few years ago, I did some interviews at the Sikh Spiritual Centre in Etobicoke, where the walls were full of sword-and-decapitation-pictures. It was pretty wild.

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