Friday Speaker Series

This week on the Friday Speaker Series, join the conversation as we remember the late Hon Paul Hellyer. The program is hosted by Susan Johnson.

Hosted by Rev. Dr. John Joseph Mastandrea, the program happens weekly at 1:00 pm. Come join us in-person at 240 Manor Road East and connect with neighbours over conversations and a light lunch. We have put in place enhanced protocols to ensure your safety. 

For the Zoom link, please email  If you know of someone who may be interested but need some support, drop us a line or give us a call (416-483-0695) and we can help them learn how to use Zoom along with their devices.

Please subscribe to the Manor Road United Church YouTube channel to watch replays of our guest speakers. For more information, please email

Coming Up on the Friday Speaker Series…

September 10, 2021 – Masood Alam, Thorncliffe Park Food Drive
September 17, 2021 – Lisa Gervais, the Red Wing Institute
September 24, 2021 – Alec Seretis, Astronomer and Shelly Neal, Celtic Harp 

October 1, 2021 – Chef Mia De Ala
October 8, 2021 – Jim Harbell, Social Enterprise for Ex Convicts
October 15, 2021 – The Rev. Dr. Cheri Di Novo – The Queer Evangelist – Growing Up Queer on the Streets of TO
October 22, 2021 – Paloma Plant – Flap Canada- Urban Bird Safety
October 29, 2021 – Juli Malone – Dingle Druid, What is Samhain?

November 5, 2021 – Marlene Smith, Theatre Producer, Memories: Cats in Toronto
November 12, 2021 – Rev. Dr. Gordon Postill, Author of “Called: A Longshot’s Story”
November 19, 2021 – Rob Oliphant – Canada: Where Do We Go from Here? 
November 26, 2021 – Richard Haldane – What is Caribana?

December 3, 2021 – Victor Caratun – Voice of Christmas Past
December 10, 2021 – TBA
December 17, 2021 – TBA

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 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 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.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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.

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 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. 

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”.

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 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 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.

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.

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 15, 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 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.

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. 

April 24, 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 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 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 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?”

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

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

Ellen shared an introduction to Toronto’s wonderful and under-appreciated ravines; the growing pressures on our urban natural lands; and how groups like the Toronto Field Naturalists are helping Torontonians appreciate and 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, a great thematic learning moment in the Easter Season. See her recipe for Hot Cross Buns here.

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 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. 

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.” 

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 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.  Joy and Elana love being able to perform with friends. 

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 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.”


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.

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

Educated at Upper Canada College and Queen’s University, 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 rendered in an oral history format. Revelations of the sexual abuse boys at the school, first published in his book in 1994, sparked the criminal conviction of three former teachers and a successful multi-million dollar class action suit against UCC. 

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.

December 18, 2020 – Boar’s Head Feast and Victor Caratun, The Ghost of Christmas’ Past

Victor has been a Toronto history enthusiast and an advocate for architectural conservation for many years. Victor is an active member of the historical and architectural preservation communities. He is a collector of images and ephemera depicting Toronto’s social history.

December 11, 2020 – Nicole Williams, the Roehampton Shelter at Christmastime and Christopher Walker, Cabin Boy Knits

Ertha Downey, Program Coordinator, Roehampton Residence and Nicole Williams, Service System Planning and Integrity for Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division discuss life and activities at the Roehampton Shelter.

Christopher Walker is a Fibre Artist, Knitwear Designer, and founder of the label Cabinboyknits.

December 4, 2020 – Songs of St Nicholas, Debbie Danbrook Shakuhachi Flute and Labyrinth

Debbie Danbrook is a musician and recording artist who is also a master player of the Shakuhachi flute, an ancient Japanese instrument. The Shakuhachi flute was originally played by monks as a type of Zen called ‘Suizen”’.

November 27, 2020 – Cynthia Switzer, Director at Morley Bedford Funeral Services

Cynthia formerly worked in the Toronto film and television industry for ten years.  She transitioned into the funeral services profession because of her desire to help others in need.

November 20, 2020 – Greg McKinnon, Manager, Museum and Archives at Toronto District School Board

Greg manages the TDSB archives including its new museum recently, featuring the largest public education collection in Canada, with more than one million items that have been collected since the mid-19th century. 

November 13, 2020 – Marie Nicolson, Shirley Carmichael and Magda Gockel

This week we heard from Marie Nicholson and her Newfoundland Knittings, Shirley Carmichael and her Swedish Weaving and Felting, and Oma (Magda Gockel) who baked Bavarian Star Cookies. See a video of Bavarian cookie baking, part 1 and part 2.

November 6, 2020 – Betty Kelman, MEd, Retired Nurse

Betty shared her experiences of growing up in a small town in northern Ontario to travelling to Toronto to study nursing. Her stories included patients who left an impression long after Betty retired.

October 30, 2020 – the Honourable Paul Hellyer

Canadian politics, economics, journalism, and now extraterrestrial presence and their superior technology.  

October 23, 2020 – Alec Seretis, Astronomy

What the first objects in the night sky? See the details of our moon, other planets in our solar system, and far off galaxies. Alec answers all your questions!

October 16, 2020 – Wills, estate planning, and power of attorney.

John Philip Newell, wills and estates and a bonus episode of I Love Lucy, 

October 9, 2020 – Simon Morris, Chef

Yummy recipes! See Chef Simon share his recipes with simple ingredients – Field Mushrooms, Spinach and Brie on toast, Butternut squash soup with garlic croutons, Beef and Guinness stew (to boost ya’ iron) and Classic Apple Crisp (Perfect after picking!).

October 2, 2020 – Susan Johnson, Comfort Shawls

Since its inception, the women of the church have provided knitted goods for sale and for outreach. In 2013, we were introduced to a new mission, founded in 1998 by Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo of Connecticut. The Prayer (or Comfort) Shawl is worked specifically for someone who may be undergoing a rough time, or who has reason to celebrate. The knitter either prays as she works, or channels her energy in to the piece. If possible, the finished shawl is handed around the congregation who channel good wishes into it. Since then, we have provided over 40 shawls, some of which were given to members of the congregation and their family and friends.

You can find out more about the ministry here:

September 25, 2020 – Joanne Nicolson, 2nd Degree Black belt

Joanne shared her karate experiences, her love of martial arts and her “journey” to a 2nd degree black belt.

She also shared how that training can be applied practically in everyday life – not as an aggressive pursuit but rather to feel confident and prepared for things that might be otherwise unsettling in life. 


240 Manor Road East, Toronto, ON, M4S 1R8

416 483 0695

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