TheStar Toronto’s diverse neighbours live in harmony.
The buildings at the corner of Bloor St. and St. Helens Ave. are unlikely neighbours. One has clients who worship the flesh, the other has the faithful who worship the lord.
Every Wednesday evening, the small congregation at the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship serves dinner to 100 marginalized and homeless people.
Next door, the folks at Club Paradise strip club serve up sexy dances.
“They are good neighbours, they keep up with maintenance,” says BLCF board member Stephen Mickelson as he stands in front of the two buildings. “Aside from several of their clients urinating at our front door, but their management probably isn’t aware of that.”
When first asked about the interesting contrast with his neighbour, Mickelson replied in an email:
“By contrast to our practices and beliefs, namely the exploitation of women, what happens next door to our Church can best be summarized by a quote from Martin Luther, to paraphrase: ‘Where Christ builds a church, next door Satan put a temple.’”
When asked the same question, the staff at Club Paradise hung up the phone, and when pressed, gave “no comment,” as their official comment.
In a wood-panelled room, Mickelson, his wife Sophie and a few volunteers are cutting buns for the Wednesday dinner service. The oven is broken and one fan moves the stuffy air around.
Mickelson said there is mutual tolerance between Club Paradise and the church, even though values are different.
“It’s not a show here. We have enough money to pay the bills,” Mickelson said of the church.“We work through kindness and love. The people who work there, many may have had a hard life.”
The previous pastor at the congregation used to have a late night café for some of the women who worked next door. The program stopped when the pastor left the position last November.
“Thursday nights, we’d open the front doors and some of the girls would walk in for crafts, coffee and tea,” Sophie Mickelson said.
Some of the dancers have also come in for church services, her husband said. The only reason he knows is because they tell him.
“A generation ago, they might have been the exception. Now we’re the exception. The Lord’s Prayer is not in schools, but this is our heritage. Some people don’t know what a church is,” Mickelson said.