TCM's Early Beginnings: Healthcare

Concerns for public health arose during the latter part of the 19th century and into the early 20th, due to the rising mortality rate of children. Following Great Britain’s lead, sanitation campaigns to clean up the city were under way. For example, municipal waste removal, sanitization of water, and pasteurized milk was introduced into Toronto. As well, when schooling became mandatory during the latter half of the 19th century, school children were immunized against diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria or were monitored for more chronic...

TCM's Early Beginnings: Poor Houses & Social Programs

Poor houses were a reality in Ontario history. For some, poverty was inescapable. Crops failed. People starved. On farms and in cities, as the province slowly started to become industrialized, many couldn’t work because they were sick, injured or old. While Toronto City Mission primarily reached out to the poor who just needed a helping hand, poor houses were meant for the absolute destitute, the homeless and the elderly.

TCM's Early Beginnings: Justice

By Grace Boneschansker, guest writer

Image from Toronto City Mission archive. 36th Annual Report (1915)

Image from Toronto City Mission archive. 36th Annual Report (1915)

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. - Acts 16:25

Toronto City Mission considered prisons to be one their prime fields for evangelism.  Numerous visits and services were conducted in the various city prisons at that time. Toronto City Mission and the Prisoners’ Aid Association carried out prison ministry under the charge of Rev. Robert Hall – one of the early founders of the mission.  In the 19th Annual Report (1898), it is recorded “Our missionaries have made 160 visits and held 269 services in our City Prisons.” 

Rev. Hall was a frequent visitor to the prison and ministered to the inmates. During this time, Rev Hall saw many changes, both in prisoners and in the officers, as well as his own staff.  A story from the 36th Annual Report (1915) reads: Rev Hall entered a prosperous looking store to make a purchase, and was surprised when the proprietor said: "I want to thank you , sir, for leading me to the Saviour when I was locked up in jail two years ago." His business seems to be successful, and he is bright in his testimony for Jesus. 

Toronto City Mission now no longer works in prisons, however, the mission is shaped by missionaries like Robert Hall and Samuel Arnold who had the same vision of seeing lives transformed by the gospel.

Toronto City Mission’s Early Beginnings

By Grace Boneschansker, guest writer

Gospel Carriage Wagon, early 1900s

Gospel Carriage Wagon, early 1900s

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one lift to the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it,
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently with them,
Tell the poor wanderer the Saviour has died.”
- 19th Annual Report, Toronto City Mission, 1898

This poem is taken from Toronto City Mission’s nineteenth annual report in 1898, and reflected their mandate to minister to the poor and needy, both physically and spiritually.  Although much has improved over the years, the basic goal of reaching the marginalized of this great city hasn’t.

The Bible verse that encapsulates the reason for Toronto City Mission’s existence is found in Matthew 25:37-40: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.’

Established in 1879, Toronto City Mission was created by a group of ministers and lay people from various evangelical churches in order to reach needy people who would not normally attend church. TCM served as an auxiliary arm of the church in order to share the transforming power of the gospel to those in need. The early missionaries would employ various methods such as: personally visiting families, holding indoor and outdoor meetings, and distributing biblical literature.

Toronto in the late 1800’s reflected the values of the latter part of the Victorian era with its emphasis on high morals, good behaviour and proper language. It was a time of peace and prosperity for the most part, at the tail end of the industrial revolution. However, as time progressed, there still lingered the effects of an undeveloped society; where the poor, sick and marginalized reside with no welfare, unemployment insurance or universal health care. Therefore, it became apparent that there was a very real need for TCM to fill in the gaps and meet those needs.