In January of 1994, a little church on the end of a runway at Pearson International Airport in Toronto came to the world's attention as a place where God chose to meet with His people. As a result of this divine visitation, the members of what was at that time the Toronto Airport Vineyard were thrust into ministry to thousands of people worldwide.
The Toronto Blessing is a transferable anointing. In its most visible form it overcomes worshippers with outbreaks of laughter, weeping, groaning, shaking, falling, "drunkenness," and even behaviours that have been described as a "cross between a jungle and a farmyard." Of greater significance, however, are the changed lives.
The "renewal" came to what was then the Toronto Airport Vineyard through visiting pastor Randy Clark of St. Louis, Missouri. What was originally planned as a series of four meetings exploded into a marathon of services which are still being held every night of the week except Monday.
In early September of 1995, cumulative attendance at what was later to become known as the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship was about 600,000, including approximately 20,000 Christian leaders and 200,000 first-time visitors from virtually every country and denomination. Attendance at evening services now numbers in the thousands, and ministry is carried out by a trained, 45-member team. Within twenty months of the beginning of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, 9,000 people had made a first-time commitment to Christ at the Toronto Airport Vineyard. Church membership tripled in size to about 1,000 regular members from 360 in early 1994.
The original 425-seat facility became overextended by the summer of 1994. Waiting lines formed at five o'clock outside the doors, which opened at seven. In November, a former conference centre on Attwell Drive, east of the airport, became available for rent.
Senior pastor John Arnott signed a lease to rent with an option to buy, and the building was purchased on January 20, 1995, exactly one year after the first day of the renewal/revival. The new location, seating over 3,000, is equally accessible to the airport and closer to major hotels, some of which run a shuttle service to renewal meetings.
The effects of the Toronto Blessing quickly became international in scope. Within a year of the outpouring, an estimated four thousand churches representing main denominations in the United Kingdom were touched by the renewal. The renewal arrived in England through authors Charles and Frances Hunter of Texas. Another catalyst was Eleanor Mumford, wife of Southwest London Vineyard's pastor, John Mumford. The renewal broke out in May of 1994 at an Anglican Church, Holy Trinity Brompton, where she shared her Toronto experience.
The "Toronto Blessing" has spread, not only to England, but to Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Finland, Holland, Japan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Korea, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Guyana (South America), Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Czechoslavakia, Russia, mainland China, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Romania, New Guinea, Kenya, Israel, and many other places.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: THIS INFORMATION IS ADAPTED FROM AN ARTICLE BY DAINA DOUCET WHICH APPEARED IN SPREAD THE FIRE, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1995, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1. COPYRIGHT 1995 BY THE TORONTO AIRPORT VINEYARD. REVISED VERSION COPYRIGHT 1996 BY THE TORONTO AIRPORT CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.