Alicia DesMarteau is a writer and TV producer based in Toronto, Canada. She has been a member of Catch the Fire...
Something remarkable happens when what God does today collides with the history of what He has done in the past. God is always making things new, but He also cherishes the memories of the old. And in His case, this often means the very old. The scriptures are full of exhortations for us to remember the great things God has done in the past, to fuel our faith that He will renew them in our day. (Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalm 77:11-12; Psalm 143:5; Habakkuk 3:2).
The City of Toronto is about to witness this beautiful fusion of past and present in action.
On July 28, thousands of Christians will gather at Massey Hall in downtown Toronto for a day of prayer, worship and fasting for God to move in our generation. TheCRY Toronto is part of the international CRY Movement. It began in 2002 when around 10,000 Christians gathered on Parliament Hill to pray for Canada. Since then, the movement has traveled the nation from coast to coast, and recently across the border to Los Angeles with TheCRY Hollywood, an unprecedented prayer gathering for the media industry.
And the results? Renewed lives and communities. “We’ve seen tangible answers to prayer,” said Faytene Grasseschi, Director of TheCRY. “Everything from drug ring busts to the passing of really positive legislation to people even testifying in their own life how they’ve had personal heart changes and personal renewal and hope revived.”
Organizers felt pulled to Toronto for the next CRY. Local leaders confirmed that this is a critical time to pray for the city, which leads the nation in economic, media, educational and even governmental trends.
“The Holy Spirit said to me, ‘if not now, then when?’” said Jason Golloher, Pastor of Catch The Fire Midtown. “I’ve been praying and fasting about this stuff for twelve years. This is the hour, an hour of desperation … [there is] such an urgency, such an urgency on the Spirit of God.”
TheCRY is normally held outside. But in prayer the organizers felt drawn to Massey Hall. They didn’t know why, but in obedience they went with it. On the surface, this concert venue just steps from Dundas Square seems like an odd choice for a prayer gathering. But a short dig through history reveals hidden treasure and the wisdom of God.
Massey Hall, it turns out, is a historic catalyst for revivals that shook the city and touched the world.
Let’s start with the founder. Hart Massey was one of Canada’s leading industrialists. He was also a devoted Methodist, and kept company with preachers such as D.L. Moody, founder of the Moody Bible Institute. Hart built Massey Hall in memory of his son who died of typhoid fever, and gave it to the City of Toronto as a gift.
Massey Hall opened in 1894 with a performance of Handel’s Messiah. Its outstanding acoustics placed it among the finest concert halls in the world. Later that year, D.L. Moody held revival meetings there to dedicate the building for religious use. The Toronto Globe, the predecessor of today’s Globe and Mail, reported, “The building was not large enough to hold all who applied for admittance… many conversions resulted from yesterday’s services.”
Massey Hall quickly became a premier destination for top musicians and celebrity speakers. In its prime, the hall was called the city’s most important building. Over the years, a who’s who of influential names passed through, including Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, The Prince of Wales, Nellie McClung, Thomas Mann, Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, Luciano Pavarotti, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Northrop Frye, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Billy Joel… the list goes on and on.
But again and again, Christians returned to the building to invite the presence of God. “Many Hundreds Are Converted,” reads a Toronto Globe headline from 1919: “When Massey Hall emptied last night, over 30,000 Torontonians had heard [evangelist] Paul Rader… altogether converts have run into several hundreds.”
Another Toronto Globe headline from 1921 declares, “Healing ‘Miracles’ Bringing Gladness to Long-Suffering: Physician Astonished at Restoration of Woman’s Hearing.” The article describes healings at revival meetings held by the Bosworth Brothers at Massey Hall, “Hundreds sought healing for various ailments, and many remarkable cures, besides conversions, were witnessed … One of the most remarkable cases witnessed last night was that of Miss Fanny Korn, 258 Huron street, who was almost deaf, but had her hearing restored instantly.”
Massey Hall also played a pivotal role in the life of well-known Canadian pastor Oswald J. Smith. In 1906 at age 16 Smith came to Christ at a revival meeting at Massey Hall. Smith went on to author hundreds of hymns and many books, mentor younger leaders, including Billy Graham, and found The Peoples Church. The first meetings of The Peoples Church were held at Massey Hall in 1928.
This is only a taste of the rich history of God moving at Massey Hall, but it shows that the building is a significant landing pad for TheCRY. After 118 years, Massey Hall still has excellent acoustics. But perhaps its unique spiritual heritage, more than anything, makes it the perfect place for God to hear the cry of His people.
Date: July 28, 2012
Location: Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St, Toronto
Time: 1 p.m. – 10 p.m.
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