Advent Lutheran Church is located at 2800 Don Mills Road, just north of Fairview Mall in North York, or Don Mills/Willowdale as it was known when the church was first planned.
As Toronto grew in size and opportunity after World War II, the Lutheran Church in America recognized the need to serve this area. In October 1962, The Rev. William D. Huras began surveying the area. Of the 3,000 families contacted, 50 expressed interest and 10 stated they would help build a new congregation. The first Sunday worship service was held in Roywood Drive Public School. Continuing services were held at Fenside Drive Public School, the first one on Sunday, February 3, 1963. The congregation was tentatively named “Church of the Advent – Lutheran”. Charter Sunday for Advent Lutheran Church, as it was now officially known, was on October 17, 1963, with 63 members signed to the Charter. Advent Lutheran Church was organized on Reformation Sunday, October 25, 1964, with The Rev. William (Bill) Huras as its Pastor.
In March 1965, a congregational dinner was organized to launch a building fund, and $8,000 was pledged. The total cost to the congregation for the land, building, architects’ fees and various other expenses was $140,400. Statistics for that year claim 67 confirmed members, 56 communing members and 131 baptized members.
At the same time as the groundbreaking at Advent Lutheran, construction was all around the area. Don Mills Road was a gravel road ending just north of the church; Fairview Mall was not yet started (did not begin until February 1969); North York General Hospital was under construction; Georges Vanier Secondary School was planned and the high rise apartment buildings were rising all around.
The first worship service in Advent’s new church building was held on Palm Sunday, April 3, 1966, and the dedication service was on May 1, 1966. Very soon after, the congregation received requests from community organizations for use of space; and over the years Advent has been used by Weight Watchers, Girl Guides, Public Health for immunization clinics, a polling place for elections, North York Board of Education homemaking classes, AA and Al Anon groups, Emergency Food Pantry, a Japanese woman’s choir, exercise classes and various other groups. Several other church congregations of various denominations have worshipped in our building, and still do.
In the fall of 1970, a nursery school was opened as a service to the community that was growing around the church. It was in operation until 1998-99.
From 1970 until 1973, The Rev. Earl Albrecht was called to serve the apartment house ministry at Advent. At the same time, a clothing exchange began at Advent and this developed into the “Rummage Sale” which was held every spring and fall. This was to serve several functions: outreach to community, affordable items for people with special needs, publicity for the congregation, and an opportunity for our members to work together.
In 1978, Pastor Huras was elected President of the LCA Eastern Synod and Pastor Earl Albrecht (in New Brunswick 1973-78) received the Call to serve the Advent congregation, which he did faithfully until 1997 when ill health forced him to retire. Pastor Albrecht worked with the Toronto Lutheran Council to locate the site and build Emmanuel Lutheran Manor (senior’s residence). He was also on the board of the North York Emergency Home for Youth (Eva’s Place), His wife, Sandra Albrecht, took over the administration of the Don Valley Nursery School in 1981 and held this position until Pastor Albrecht’s retirement.
In 1997, upon Pastor Albrecht’s retirement, The Rev. Tim Hegedus was appointed by then Bishop William Huras to be our Interim Pastor while the congregation created our current mission statement and searched for a new pastor.
At the end of the year, The Rev. Michael Mills received the Call to serve as Pastor at Advent. During his time, Advent became the second Lutheran Reconciling in Christ congregation in Canada and our lawn became a community garden.
The community garden, mainly serving tenants of the apartment buildings around Advent, is benefitting approximately 800 people with the produce grown in Advent’s yard. Advent was also chosen by a professional TV garden show for a makeover, which resulted in a wonderful space for outdoor services and a reflection garden.
Pastor Mills resigned in March 2011; and The Rev. Peter Lisinski (a child of our congregation) was extended a call from the congregation on June 26, 2011, to be Advent’s Pastor. From November 7, 2016 to November 30, 2017, The Rev. Ernie Skujins was appointed as Advent’s Interim Pastor. On December 1, 2017, Elaine Boone became Advent’s new Pastor.
Even though the Advent congregation was originally mostly of European background with strong German and Scandinavian roots, it has over the years become one of the most multi-cultural congregations in the Eastern Synod, with many members from Guyana, Sri Lanka, India, the West Indies, China, Iran and more.