One of Toronto’s beloved music rehearsal venues and community hubs, the Geary Rehearsal Factory, could be sold to the controversial C3 church. Some residents of the area are not pleased with the possibility and a coalition of local businesses, residents, and former C3 members are campaigning to prevent the sale.
Although C3 Toronto originally announced on their website that they had indeed purchased the property, the sale has not yet gone through. Their website now states that it is an ongoing process, and mentions that the church must first go through two stages of approvals before being able to use the space for their long-term plans.
C3 Toronto’s website states that “the space would be able to function for specific purposes that we need including our offices, recording studios, rehearsal spaces, and as creative studios.”
In a statement to TRNTO, Rehearsal Factory president Chris Skinner said that the building has not yet been sold, and when it is sold, they will most likely do a lease back for tenants.
The potential sale of the Rehearsal Factory to C3 is contested by a group called the Geary Coalition.
Their petition, “Stop C3 Church Toronto’s plans to enter Geary neighbourhood”, has more than 2,800 signatures. The petition contests the sale on two counts; as a zoning issue and as an issue with C3’s method of operation.
Large swaths of Geary are zoned by the city of Toronto as “Employment Industrial” lands, which prohibits residential development and entertainment facilities. Geary Avenue is known for its eclectic mix of local artisans, including tattoo parlors, breweries, coffee houses, and other unique small businesses as well as its unique industrial aesthetic.
The Geary Coalition’s petition argues that the Wallace Emerson neighbourhood’s infrastructure cannot support the influx that C3’s proposed development would entail.
Local business owner and one of the founders of the Geary Coalition, Michelle Los, spoke with TRNTO about the future of the neighbourhood. She stressed the need for an official Business Improvement Area (BIA) to keep the spirit of the neighbourhood active.
Los said that while the Geary area may be growing, “it needs to honour kind of that maker’s tradition, that artisan tradition,” she says. “It’s not just an office, it’s someone who’s really putting their bread and butter in.”
The city’s planning and housing committee briefly discussed the re-zoning necessary to accommodate C3 during a meeting on May 20 but deferred the statutory public meeting on the zoning amendment application until June 11.
Michelle Los spoke at the meeting on May 20, arguing that if C3 were to purchase the property, “the surrounding area would be at a disadvantage.”
Residents of the area and former members have also taken issue with C3 Toronto alleged conservative doctrine.
Although C3’s language initially appears welcoming to all, with its website stating that it aspires for “vibrant, diverse and energetic” membership, it also states that marriage “is exclusively between a man and a woman” and that sex “is only appropriate within and designed for marriage.”
Brooke Palsson, a member of the Toronto music community and a former member of C3, spoke with TRNTO about her experience in C3 and as a supporter of the Geary Coalition. She expressed concerns over the LGBTQ+ community in Geary if C3 were to purchase the Rehearsal Factory.
Palsson recalled that C3’s initially vague inclusive messaging resulted in a painful shock for LGBTQ+ members when the church brought in a pastor who expressed homophobic beliefs, resulting in several congregation members crying in the church lobby after the service.
Although tithing, or donating ten percent of one’s income for church community projects, is a common concept, Palsson also raised concerns about C3 requesting large donations from members regardless of their financial ability.
“When you’re in a space like that where people are affirming it, and there are videos are saying I tithe this much and then suddenly I had all this money, it becomes almost like a multi-level marketing scheme,” she says. “You start to believe that you’re probably not tithing enough because no money comes in.”
C3 has also turned down offers to train staff to deal with the issues that members brought up over inadequate resources for congregation members dealing with serious issues such as homelessness and sexual assault.
C3, or C3 Church Global, was formerly known as Christian City Church International. Originally founded in Australia, the church has grown rapidly since its founding in the 1980s, with over 500 churches in 64 countries.
C3 is often compared to Hillsong Church, which is popular with celebrities such as Chris Pratt and, formerly, Justin Bieber. Hillsong was also founded in Australia.
C3 appeals to millennials through its upbeat preaching style and modern branding through its use of social media platforms. Church membership has grown significantly in Toronto, growing to over 1,500 members since 2013. C3 was the subject of the CBC documentary, #BLESSED.
TRNTO reached out to C3 Toronto but they were unavailable for comment.