In August of 2003 the lights went out all over Eastern North America, including Toronto. As darkness fell, something strange happened in the city. Alarmists had predicted for years that such an even would cause panic, with widespread looting and rioting. Law and order would cease, and anarchy would reign. But that is not what happened. No, the strange thing was that people, often for the first time in years, came out of their houses and spoke to their neighbours.
In my case, this was the first time this had ever happened- neighbours speaking, that is. The neighbours gathered in the courtyard of our complex, and we began to talk. At first, we congregated around the few who had portable television sets and radios so we could catch the news. But all the news could tell us was that there was a blackout. So we abandoned the television sets and the radios. more people came down. Then some men dragged over their barbecues, then some more, then some more people came down with food, and then some more. "It'll only go rotten," they explained. "Eat up." One man brought out his freezer full of meat for his barbecue. "The only place my meat is going bad is right here!" he said, pointing to his belly, as he began to roast a series of steaks and hamburgers over the coals. "Now, how do you like your burger?" It was a veritable feast that night.
The night wore on, but we stayed out for much of it. Often we just gazed up at the impossibly starry sky of that night. We laughed and talked like old friends. A few people who had instruments brought them out and began to play music, and some people began to dance. What could easily have been a disaster had become a party.
Across the city, scenes like this were playing out in one neighbourhood after another. People laughed and joked, ate one another's food, strolled the streets in safety. The next night, the power was restored, and the people returned to their homes, and watched television, and surfed the net. Yet many people had fond memories of that blackout night, and it was seriously proposed that perhaps blackouts should become regularly scheduled events, at least once a year, to recapture that moment.
That night, for a few, brief hours, the people of Toronto got to experience something rare, for they got a brief glimpse of life in the past- the good part. Understanding this will help to understand the Church in Toronto, and the changes it has undergone over the last century.