Friday Speaker Series - 2021

January 8, 2021 – Alec Seretis, Astronomy

MRUC’s resident astronomer Alec Seretis shows us where to find constellations in the night sky and teaches us about the make up of stars in our galaxy.

January 15, 2021 – James FitzGerald, “Old Boys: the Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College”

James FitzGerald spent over 40 years in the fields of journalism and book publishing. His first book, Old Boys: the Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College, was a controversial inside look at the attitudes and values of English Canada’s ruling class families. Revelations of the sexual abuse boys at the school sparked the criminal conviction of three former teachers and a class action suit against UCC. 

January 22, 2021 – Suzi Morris, “Why do hard copy books matter?” and Kelly Snow, “What is the Tool Library?”

In this digital age, Suzi Morris, from Indigo books, asked if hard copy books still matter. We also heard from Kelly Snow who introduced us to the Toronto Tool Library.

January 29, 2021 – Richard Haldane, Youth Employment Services and Peg Herbert, Empowering Youth in Lesotho

Richard is involved in communities, grassroots agencies and school-boards supporting youth employment.

Peg founded Help Lesotho in 2004 and is an advocate for marginalized populations, beneficiary-led programming and advocacy work.

February 5, 2021 – Candle Mass Halfway Point between Solstice and Debbie Danbrook Shakuhachi Flute and Labyrinth

“The Labyrinth is an ancient Sacred Symbol that can be used for Walking Meditation, for Grounding, for Clearing and Balancing Chakras and for inviting in our Spiritual Guides and Angels.”


February 12, 2021 – Joy Forbes and Elena Petrcich from Groove with the Guitar and Simon Morris, Chef

Groove with the Guitar brings laughter and entertainment to seniors. 

Simon Morris demonstrated how to make Welsh Pancakes – made with flour, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar and salted butter. Traditionally made on bakestones or griddles, crempog is one of the oldest recipes in Wales and are normally served thickly piled into a stack and spread with butter.

February 19, 2021 –  Author James FitzGerald, “What Disturbs Our Blood” 

Like his friends Banting and Best, Dr. John Fitzgerald was a Canadian hero. He founded Connaught Labs, saved untold lives with his vaccines and transformed the idea of public health in Canada and the world. What so darkened his reputation that his memory has been all but erased?

February 26, 2021 – Dr Julia Rady Shaw, The History of Post WW2 Toronto Protestant Churches 

Julia’s dissertation examined “the Protestant Churches in Ontario in the first decade after the Second World War. It knit together the history of religion, politics, education, immigration and commemoration in a study that examined the effects of a rapidly changing society as World War gave way to Cold War, and the ways citizens redefined “normalcy.” 

March 5, 2021 – Andrew Macdonald, Consultant, Sustainability and Circular Economy

Andrew discussed sustainable, circular economic solutions, he works with the PAC Packaging Consortium sustainability team, and lectures at Ryerson University. 

March 12, 2021 – Author James FitzGerald, “Dreaming Sally” 

James joined us to discuss his third book about how the death of an eighteen-year-old girl in the summer of 1968 forever changed his life and the life of the other man who loved her. 

March 19, 2021 – Ellen Schwartzel and Chef Mia De Ala

Ellen shared an introduction to Toronto’s ravines; the growing pressures on our urban natural lands; and how groups like the Toronto Field Naturalists are helping Torontonians protect nature.

Chef Mia, Executive Pastry Chef at Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Professor of Culinary Studies at George Brown College, made hot cross buns. See her recipe for hot cross buns here.

March 26, 2021 –  Listen to Jenny Blackbird from the Centre of Indigenous Studies as she shares about First Nations Spirituality.

April 9, 2021 – Anne Lafaury and Liliana Bechtold, two Urban Studies students at the University of Toronto. As part of a placement program, they have spent the last couple of months working with Rev. Dr. John Joseph Mastandrea on a project called “Who is my neighbourhood?”

April 16, 2021 – Listen to Victor Caratun, Toronto history enthusiast, as we spring back into Toronto’s past and look at our city and the spring seasons from the late 1800’s to recent times. We will look back at social history, politics, urban changes and important spring time events and traditions we still enjoy until today. We will also briefly look forward to another presentation in the series about summer time in Toronto.

April 16, 2021 – In the second half of the program, we are joined by City Councillor Jaye Robinson for Don Valley West, Ward 15 and Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission on the topic “When our Communities Became our Worlds: The Importance of Parks, Greenspace, and Other Lessons from a Global Pandemic.”

April 23, 2021 – We joined in conversation with City Councillor for Toronto-St. Paul’s Ward 12, Josh Matlow, as he shared his knowledge about current condo developments in Midtown Toronto and how we can protect Midtown heritage. 

April 30, 2021 – We joined in the conversation with Kelly Snow, Department of Human Geography Instructor at the University of Toronto as he shares his insights on what kind of message the environment may be revealing to us. 

May 7, 2021 – Musician, composer and recording artist Debbie Danbrook shared “What is Beltane?” and walking the Labyrinth while playing her Shakuhachi flute, an ancient Japanese instrument. The Labyrinth is an ancient Sacred Symbol used for Walking Meditation, for Grounding, for Clearing and Balancing Chakras and for inviting in Spiritual Guides and Angels.

May 14, 2021 – This week on the Friday Speaker Series, we joined in the conversation with Rev. Michael Blair, General Secretary, General Council for The United Church of Canada as he shared this thoughts on “Black Lives Matter: 50 Years Later.”

May 21, 2021 – Suzanne Sherkin, author of the book, “When Gender is In Question: A Guide to Understanding” shared  insights to many questions about gender and identity.

May 28, 2021 – Helen Fisch and Zoe Levitt from Grandmothers Partnering With Africa joined us to discuss the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign which started as a Canadian grassroots response to the emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers who struggled to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS. What began with only a few groups of committed Canadian grandmothers has since evolved into a dynamic, international and responsive movement.

June 4, 2021 – On this two-part Friday Speaker Series, we learned more about making sumptuous Jamaican cuisine in time for summer with Khimar Morgan, an experienced community and social services professional.

In the second half of the series, we heard from Dee Esposito about the Angel Hair For Kids program that provides wigs and hair loss solutions to financially disadvantaged children in Canada who have lost their hair due to a medical treatment or condition.

June 11, 2021 – This week we heard from how Black Urbanism TO is engaging Black communities in re-envisioning neighbourhoods to support social, economic and cultural advancement.

June 18, 2021 – We joined in the conversation with Rev. Dr. Charles Fensham, author of the book “Misguided Love: Christians and the Rupture of LGBTQI2+ People.” Through his book, he invites readers who are Christians “to consider the dimension of harm in the ongoing debates on affirming or not affirming sexual and gender minority Christians within church communities.”

June 25, 2021 – For our final conversation until the fall, we heard from Rev Brent Hawkes from Rainbow Faith and Freedom – “a global movement that confronts religious-based LGBTI discrimination and improves the human and equality rights of LGBTI people everywhere”.

September 10, 2021 – Welcome back to the Friday Speaker Series. Today we heard from Masood Alam, community leader at Canadian Community Services Organization as he shares his advocacy and passion for community service with his Thorncliffe community. From food drives to back-to-school campaigns, Masood spearheads events to support families in Thorncliffe with the outpouring of support from volunteers and other partners. 

September 17, 2021 – Today we heard from Lisa Gervais of the Red Wing Institute – a “nature-inspired experiential learning institute”. She spoke about Turning to Nature to Tap Into Our Strengths, Stay Positive & Thrive in Difficult Situations.”

September 24, 2021 – This week we joined in conversation MRUC’s resident astronomer Alec Seretis on the topic “Mars and Beyond.” 

We also heard from Shelley Neal and listened in on her afternoon rendition of Celtic Harp: A Time to Heal.

October 1, 2021 – With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we heard from Chef Mia De Ala as she whipped up a delicious apple pumpkin pecan pie this week on the Friday Speaker Series. See her recipe here.

October 8, 2021 – This week we heard from Jim Harbell as he shared his work at Restorative Justice Housing Ontario in assisting former prisoners by providing safe, affordable housing. 

October 15, 2021 – We joined in conversation with Rev. Dr. Cheri Di Novo as she shared her book The Queer Evangelist, where Di Novo went from “living on the streets as a teenager to performing the first legal same-sex marriage registered in Canada in 2001 as a United Church minister.”

October 22, 2021 – This week, we joined in conversation with Paloma Plant, Program Coordinator at Fatal Light Awareness Program or FLAP Canada and learned about the organization’s campaigns and initiatives to keep birds safe from deadly collisions with buildings.

October 29, 2021 – This week, we joined Juli Malone as she shared about Samhain and her dedication to honouring the sacred wisdom of the plants by aligning and celebrating Celtic fire festivals.

November 5, 2021 – We heard from Marlene Smith, veteran producer who first produced “Cats” in 1985 at the Elgin Theatre and learned about one of the most successful Canadian stage productions.

November 12, 2021 – This week we joined the conversation with Rev. Dr. Gordon Postill as he shared his book “CALLED! A Longshot’s Story,”  a story of failure, self-loathing, addiction, and deceit, but ultimately a story of grace, faith, hope, and transformation.

November 19, 2021 – We joined the conversation with Rob Oliphant, MP of Don Valley West as he shared on the topic, “Canada: Where do we go from here?”

November 26, 2021 – We took a second look at  the conversation with the Late Hon. Paul Hellyer, remembering his last book Libertation.

December 3, 2021 –  We joined the conversation with Victor Caratun, Toronto history enthusiast, as he looked at Toronto past at Christmastime.

December 10, 2021 –  Fazia Ackbarali, Fitness Coach and Wellness Mentor shared holistic self care through nutrition, fitness and personal life coaching.

December 17, 2021 – We joined musician, composer and recording artist Debbie Danbrook for Winter Solstice at the Manor.

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See 2020 Friday Speaker Series recordings here.

See 2022 Friday Speaker Series recordings here.

240 Manor Road East
Toronto, ON, M4S 1K3
416 483 0695

Manor Road United Church is on the traditional home of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Metis Nation of Ontario, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation and Six Nations of the Grand River. May we be connected to the heartbeat of the Spirit as one.