People gather for "Wine Before Breakfast"

Offered by the Christian Fellowship at the University of Toronto, Wine Before Breakfast is a ministry meant to engage both students and members of the community.

At 7:22 every Tuesday morning, an eclectic group of 40–50 adults gathers in the small Wycliffe Chapel at the university. A mixture of students, young professionals, urban ministers, and people off the street attend these early morning meetings.

A participatory spirit guides this community as the staff prepares the liturgy, students preach the message, and the community writes the prayers.

The University of Toronto fellowship, one of the largest in Canada and funded in part by Christian Reformed Home missions, encourages students to use their gifts in many different ways, including sharing testimonies and utilizing musical abilities.

The whole gathering is a time of worship filled with the singing of contemporary music, litany readings, teachings, prayer, and communion.

After the service, a breakfast of home baking, juice, and organic Fair Trade coffee is shared in the chaplain’s office.

Brian Walsh, the leader of campus ministries at the University of Toronto, comments on the provocative title of this program: “We call it Wine Before Breakfast because Jesus spent most of his time on Earth conversing with people on the margins of society…”

Wine Before Breakfast offers a place where people from all walks of life can come to ask the tough questions and wrestle with their faith. Walsh elaborates, “We don’t always come to a conclusion because we don’t want to dispense cheap answers.”

This transparency entices people to join in the conversation every Tuesday, despite possible hindrances such as extreme weather. Walsh tells the story of a bitter Tuesday morning, the coldest of the year, as he was making his way to Wycliffe Chapel.

Walsh expected fewer than 20 people to show up, as the weather was nearly unbearable. To his surprise the doors kept opening, and eventually more than 45 people shuffled through the doors. Some of them had been up all night.

No matter their circumstance, people consistently attend Wine Before Breakfast, which is a testament, says Walsh, to the power of the truth that Jesus proclaimed openly to all people.