West Hill is a people, a place, and an idea. We are a community living out a progressive faith, striving to make a positive difference in our own lives, the lives of others, and the world.

Our mission:

Moved by a reverence for life to pursue justice for all, we inspire one another to seek truth, live fully, care deeply and make a difference.

Over the past many months, we've been challenged to engage broadly about who we are and what we see the future of church can be. We'd be delighted to talk with you about it and have extended an invitation to congregations across the country to reach out if they are interested in having a conversation with us. It can be about what this "theologically non-exclusive" church is really like. It might be about the rise of the "Nones" and how we are engaging them. You might want to just talk about the review of our minister. Whatever your interest, we will find a way to engage. So be in touch and let's set a date. 

Support West Hill!  Learn more or donate now through CanadaHelps.

The latest news, videos and perspectives from our community:

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Bishop John Shelby Spong's Newsletter

Bishop Spong's Newsletter By Fred Plumer

Good morning friends. I am the Board President of ProgressiveChristianity.org and have held that position for over 12 years. Our organization has been the publishers of the Bishop Spong’s newsletters and the owners of the John Shelby Spong website for nearly five years now. The website is titled, A New Christianity for a New World. I hope you all avail yourself to this treasure of fascinating and interesting articles by Bishop Spong that go back almost 20 years. As subscribers you have access to these absolutely wonderful writings of one of the best authors of our time. If you have trouble accessing these nearly two thousand articles by Bishop Spong please contact our office and we will help you. This morning, however, I want to share with you some of the things we are doing with your subscriptions newsletter.

As you know, Bishop Spong had a serious stroke several months ago and for a long time we had hoped he would recover enough to continue writing this column. Well, the good news is he has recovered quite well and he continues to improve. He is back to his 3 mile walk every day on his treadmill. He is driving and he finished his “final” book. However, after some serious pondering, he decided it would be in his best interest to let the column go. As you can imagine, putting out a weekly column, with the details and research he always included, was extremely demanding. We were disappointed.

We immediately began looking for a “replacement” for Spong. We actually interviewed several people but it became clear rather quickly, there was no permanent single individual who could put out a regular column every week and maintain the interest of you, our readers. That is when we decided to look at some of the other talented writers that already had columns who had been heavily influenced by Bishop Spong. We thought it would be something special to see how some of these writers not only had been influenced by Bishop Spong, but also what they were doing and how they were using Spong’s ideas. We have to remember Spong was talking, preaching and writing about a “New Christianity,” not yesterday’s leftovers.

So let me explain how we picked these writers. First, we talked to Bishop Spong and he recommended three people. We expanded the search and found a few more candidates. Once we had this group we then talked to them all and explained exactly what we wanted and needed; and a couple dropped out right then. That left us with a group of eight. All of them are trained clergy from five different denominations. Each one of them already had a blog page and we had already reviewed their writings. Most of them have written at least one book and we took the time to read them. We did this with all eight of the candidates.

You may be wondering if we have had some kind of a framework or expectations from our writers. I suppose the honest answer is yes. We did and do have certain expectations about what we wanted from them. Of course we had a pretty good idea at this point about what they believed and were writing, but we wanted to be certain.

First, they must have a clear idea about what the Bible is and what it is not. That is, they must realize that the Bible is not a historical document that tells the story of the Jewish people from Adam and Eve to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) were created by at least forty different authors who did not write or even think in literal terms. Each author, having his or her idea about what happened, always had a bias. The Bible was spoken or written starting over as much as 3,400 years ago, but it was actually not canonized until the second century ACE. There are a great many differences, and biases in the entire text. However, anyone who wants to seriously study will realize what these differences are and how they came to be. We expected that kind of study.

As far as the New Testament was concerned, we had similar expectations. As Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan once wrote in the book, The Last Week (Harper/San Francisco), the gospels are not a straight forward story but were rather a “combination of history remembered and history interpreted.” They all have been “updated” for the time that they were written. That is probably a 90 year span. And finally the writers had to know the differences between the description of Jesus by Paul, as well as the different depictions of Jesus we find in the gospels. We did not assume that they would all have the same interpretation of our view on the Bible but we wanted them to point out their differences and how they came to those conclusions.

The Second requirement was the writer had to have a clear idea of who Jesus was. The concept of an all-powerful, “Divine being” who was sent by his Father (God) to save the world, is at its best, a poetic myth. Those of us who have studied for years, and most of our readers, know this as well. And yet when we work up the nerve to enter a church, even one that professes to be a Progressive church, we find this story repeated in the prayers, the liturgies, the tapestries, our hymns, and even the sermons. I have been told to relax when I complain about these things. I am told they are just stories, or rituals. And yet, I would find myself quietly critiquing the theology, or trying to find the symbolic meaning. We did not want our writers to do that to you.

Jesus was a man born just like you and me. He grew from a child, born to a very young, poor Galilean woman and against all odds he became a respected teacher, a rabbi even. He had a deep level of compassion for all living beings that astounded everyone he met.

Why was he so special? It may have been the fact he was most likely considered a mamzer, an Israelite of suspect paternity, at least in his early life. That may be why he supposedly never married. It may have been the influence of John the Baptist and his subsequent death. It may have simply been the fact that he was born a poor Galilean who struggled against oppression his whole life. He had a rough life but he somehow overcame all of these challenges. In the midst of all of these difficulties he found a way to find peace, clarity, and the discovery of the important things in life. He seemed satisfied, even happy at times. He taught where he was welcomed and had followers that tried to live by his model. He gave us all a road map to a wonderful place in our world, regardless of our financial means or stations in life.

We wanted our writers to already know this Jesus.

The third thing we wanted was some clarity about God. I tried here not to have a bias but rather to listen. We have several ideas about this “God thing” as one of the people in an audience once called it. What we did not want was a God-man. That is the assumption that there is a God up there that has human attributes, is Jesus’ father, intercedes in history and listens to our daily prayers.

We wanted people to be aware of Bishop Spong comments about God. The most common one is: “You can be part of who God is and he becomes part of what you are.” I believe he was saying something like, we can evolve to be fully in one with Oneness or Unity of the world.

You may find it interesting to know that our one atheist writer was Spong’s first pick when we asked for suggestions. Rev. Gretta Vosper could challenge all of us to really know what we mean when say, “God.” I hope you read her carefully. There is a reason the Bishop Spong loves her and what she is doing.

Just for the record I do not believe that there is a God out there. What we call God is everything. It is all of me and I am part of it. We can discover this with meditation and self-discovery. But we did not ask the writers to follow my beliefs about God. We did rather say if you are going to write about God, then please explain what you are talking about. So far I believe that this has been true.

And finally we wanted to our writers to explore how to expand this “New Christianity” into the everyday lives of others. We were not interested in providing mental gymnastics or expressions of superior intellects. We did not want to be simply impressing you with the superior intellect of our writers. We did not want articles that were boring or so light you could not help but yawn. I hope we have achieved that.

However, this brings me to the main purpose of writing this article. This is truly your subscription newsletter. If you decide that you do not like what we are doing, you have the right to cancel your subscription. We know that. However, we need some input from you if we really want to tailor this newsletter to your taste. I already have had one person let me know that they did not care for a particular writer. Unfortunately a second respondent told me that this was the best writer we had and that we should let him write every week.

We will of course have to work through some of those kinds of things. Please let us know what you are thinking. We have just recently completed going through one full cycle so you should have an idea what each of our contributors has to offer. We have given them permission to strike out on their own and I think you will enjoy them even more.

But most of all I want to thank you all. We know that you are a very special group of people and that is the main reason we wanted to continue to publish the newsletter.

~ Fred Plumer, President

Read the essay online here.


Second Harvest Soup Luncheon - March 5th, 2017

Save the date!

West hill has a tradition of supporting Second Harvest, a group that rescues surplus food to create meals for those in need.

Let's help bridge the gap between surplus food and hungry people. Our outreach committee will host our annual soup lunch on March 5th and we hope you’ll join us.

Enjoy homemade soup and fresh bread.

For every $10 we raise, WHU can help Second Harvest to provide 20 meals for the hungry.

A Little Goes a Long Way!

Each month, over 100,000 hungry Torontonians depend on Second Harvest for healthy meals.
We are very glad to once again offer support though participation in the HERO campaign, raising money that will prvide 2 meals for every $1 raised.
Join the Outreach Committee for our Annual Bread and Soup Luncheon on March 6th.

Food Rescue & Delivery

The Food Rescue & Delivery Program is the core of Second Harvest's work. With seven trucks and a van on the road, it connects excess food with those in need. The program runs seven days a week and provides food to its network of over 220 social service agencies. This year, Second Harvest's goal is to rescue and deliver 8.5 million pounds of food.

Harvest Kitchens

The Harvest Kitchens program trains adults and youth with barriers to employment in food preparation, while providing healthy, prepared meals to Torontonians in need through our agency network. 

Feeding Our Future

Feeding Our Future is a summer program that, in partnership with the Sodexo Foundation, feeds hungry kids in city camps. Last summer we delivered just under 39,000 lunches. 


2017 Winter Book Study

Our title for winter 2017 is "Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind."
by Yuval Noah Harari.

For over twenty-five years, between January and May of each year, on alternating Friday evenings, a group of enthusiastic learners has gathered in the lounge of West Hill United Church to uncover the kernels of wisdom found in that year's chosen book.  Because each book has had a provocative edge to it, the Book Study Group has been the crucible within which much of the theological shift that the congregation has seen over those twenty years has taken place.

 Participants are not always West Hill congregants and the Book Study is always open to new voices who are interested in respectfully engaging the many ways we are challenged to live radically ethical lives. Please do join us for an intriguing and animated discussion.  The book study takes place in the lounge at West Hill at 7:30 on alternating Fridays.  You don't need to have come to the first to still join us.  You can pop in mid-way through.  

Given the depth, complexity and richness of the chapters, and our limited time together, some may wish to continue conversations,  so we invite anyone interested in respectfully offering thoughts to engage with fellow readers.  We hope to post our facilitation questions and let you take it from there. Visit our blog HERE!


Respond Faithfully to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Decision 

[Photo: Mark Klotz, Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Despite opposition from Indigenous leaders, environmental groups, and community advocates, the government approved the Trans Mountain (Kinder Morgan) pipeline on November 29.

“We fail to see how Canada will be able to fulfill its fair share of carbon emission reductions under the [COP 21] Paris Agreement, as the Trans Mountain Pipeline increases emissions,” wrote Moderator Jordan Cantwell in a letter to the church.
Take Action today. Ask the Prime Minister how approving the Trans Mountain pipeline will fit with Canada’s commitments to emission reductions and reconciliation.


Mindful Yoga Program at West Hill

This 6 week Vinyasa Yoga practice beautifully complements Mindfulness Training and is a great wellness booster: improving balance, flexibility and overall resilience.

This yoga practice is appropriate for beginners, intermediate, and advanced yogis alike.

Remember you are flexible enough, you are tall enough, you are slim enough, you are good enough...YOU ARE ENOUGH!

Adult classes offered weekly Saturday mornings 10am-11am, February 4th - March 11th

$35 for the 6 week program


Children’s 1/2 hour Mindful Yoga class

Saturday mornings 9 am

$35 for the 7 week program




Inspired by Hollywood Service Series


The Longest Night Service

Over the millennia, we have learned to gather together in community to share resources, find protection, increase confidence, hang on to courage. Especially at difficult and dangerous times, turning to one another for support, affirmation, and encouragement is as natural as instinct; we do it intuitively.

Long before recorded time, the power of nature reigned supreme. It birthed us into being, nurtured and sustained us, sent us reeling with its often catastrophic indifference. And as the sun slipped beneath the horizon in the winter sky, our bewilderment must have turned toward despair.


Our attachment to light is primal. We need it. Indeed, we crave it. Our lives could not be nourished without it. And so, even when we can rationally understand the physics of a leaving and returning sun, we find within the cosmic cycles a metaphor for much within our lives.

Join us on one of the two evenings of the Winter Solstice to retell the story of darkness pressing over light and light's ongoing triumph. We'll reflect on what has been and our complicity in its dark and brutal tale. And then, encouraged in community, we'll move into light and, in so doing, let darkness slip from our hearts.


 On Sunday, December 18, we'll be at the home of West West Hill in Mississauga84 Burnhamthorpe Road in the Community of Christ Church building. This gathering of West West Hill will, as usual, commence at 4:30 for an early potluck meal as we do every third Sunday of the month. Our service,The Longest Night, will start at 6:00 that evening, necessarily compressing our informal time together. 


We'll gather on Wednesday, December 21 at our Scarborough location, 62 Orchard Park Drive, three blocks east of Morningside Avenue on Kingston Road. The service commences at 7 p.m.

We look forward to having you with us. After all, who wants to be alone on the longest night?


White Gift Sunday - December 11th

The Outreach Committee, in conjunction with Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities has volunteered to make Christmas Hampers for 12 families with children.

 You can help share the joy!  We invite you to: 

 · Donate food!  

 · Donate a toy! 

 Choose a stocking from the board in the lobby and return the

un-wrapped gift with the stocking attached, on Dec. 11th

 · Contribute financially!

White Gift envelopes are in the lobby.

Insert your cash or a cheque payable to West Hill United Church,

and place it in the collection plate.

 · Deliver hampers!

Volunteer to help with delivery of the hampers.

For information, please contact Dorothy Hirlehey, the Outreach Committee or call the office




Special Note about our Podcasts

After 25 years of service, our wireless sound system needs to be replaced. To ensure that we can provide a quality recording to share with others, this system -- like the previous one -- must be of professional quality. Systems of this quality can range from $500-$600.  Can you help us out with a donation?  If you value hearing Gretta's and others' wonderful perspectives, clearly and without distortion, this would be a great way to show your financial support! You can send your donations to West Hill United Church with a notation "for a speaker system".  Or click on the Canada Helps button to the right and note "for speaker system".  Thanks for your ongoing support!


Culture, Context, and Reconciliation

Seventh Annual Affirming Anniversary Celebration


West Hill became an Affirming Congregation, officially welcoming LGBTQ2S people into leadership roles at West Hill, in 2009. In fact, we had included diverse sexualities and genders in congregational leadership for some years before but realized that, from the outside, it was hard to tell we were welcoming. Since our initial celebration, we've recognized our diversity every year on the first Sunday of December.

This year, we are excited to be welcoming Ej Kwandibens, an indigenous gay man and cultural educator. Ej will illuminate the history and meaning of the indigenous term "Two Spirited". He will also bring his own experience and perspective to bear on the issues of sexuality in indigenous culture and the importance of reconciliation to the nurturing of healthy relationships in the community and organizations.

As we do on the first Sunday of each month, there will be a meal following the service. This month, the meal will be vegan and built around the Three Sisters Soup recipe which has its roots in indigenous communities. We look forward to breaking bread with Ej and with you!