History of Liberty Church of God
The origin of Liberty Church of God started with Pastor Penny’s migration to Canada from the Island of Grenada in 1987. Upon arrival to Canada he was startled to discover that many of the believers who migrated to Canada especially to Toronto from Grenada were scattered and almost homeless where an ethnic local church was concerned. He recalled meeting one sister who told him that she was looking for a local Church to attend. He immediately understood what she meant and made arrangements for a home-based small group prayer meeting to be set up. At its commencement, there were a total of seven in attendance including his infant daughter Trudy. This meeting went on for a period of three months when he received a call from the then Administrate Bishop of Eastern Canada, Rev. S. A Langford asking him to give leadership to the North York Church of God located in Scarborough Ontario. The former pastor Reverend Oscar E. Bent was the founder of the church but felt that God was leading him into evangelism. Pastor Penny graciously accepted the position and started giving pastoral leadership to the congregation on February 4, 1990. He then merged the prayer group with the North York Church of God for its first Sunday morning service. This merger was not a marriage made in heaven and so the congregation split. The original members of the North York congregation eventually left the church leaving the members who came along with Reverend Penny together with the members of his family to conduct Sunday worship. Word quickly went around of Pastor Penny’s church in Scarborough and many others from his Native Island started attending the church services on Sunday mornings and Bible Studies on Wednesday nights.
What’s in a Name?
The name North York Church of God had no Biblical or Theological significance for both the pastor and the congregation so they decided to change it to something that was more representative of and applicable to the mission and vision of the congregation. The name Liberty was more appealing and relevant, so it was renamed Liberty Church of God in keeping with the theme in 1 Corinthians 3:17 which made reference to the Spirit of God giving liberty to the people of God.
Canada the land of opportunity
Many new immigrants started attending Liberty. Some came to Canada as students, economic refugees and others wanted to make Canada their permanent home. Liberty opened its arms to everyone regardless of race, nationality or status. This has always been Pastor Penny’s passion. He was conscious of the multicultural mosaic of people in Toronto and was eager to integrate them into the church. The Church had experienced spurts of growth in the mid nineties and early 2000’s due to the wave of immigrants that were coming to Toronto from the Islands. Those who were not successful in securing their Landed Status left Canada, thus leaving Liberty and were searching for greener pastures in the United States while others returned to their country of birth.
Due to the fact that Liberty’s membership comprised mainly of new immigrants from the Caribbean Islands, it has faced a number of financial and economic challenges. Most of the tithe paying members held menial jobs so their tithe contributions were reflective of the salary or wages received. The small amount of income that was coming into the church’s treasury was insufficient for the congregation to secure the services of a full time pastor so Reverend Penny continued to work with the Bank of Nova Scotia. By faith Pastor Penny responded to the call to further his theological and biblical training. He attended the Ontario Bible College and Ontario Theological Seminary where he earned a Bachelor of Religious Studies (BRS) and a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree respectively. Pastor Penny’s passion had always been disciple making and encouraging believes to maximize their potentials for God’s glory. He continues to emphasize both spiritual and academic excellence for every believer.
The Moving Church
Liberty is noted for its many relocations. Within a period of 22 years Liberty has moved a total of ten times and nevertheless maintained it core membership. The use of school gymnasiums, community centres, storefronts buildings, local churches, and industrial buildings served as places of worship. The members’ nicknamed the church the “moving church.” Others used to jokingly quibble that one would have to learn to read a map to know where to find the church every other Sunday.
A Man Who Hears from God
When the church first relocated from 1125 Midlands Avenue in Scarborough, to 1755 Weston Road, Toronto, a group of ladies asked Pastor Penny to pray with them regarding their landed status. They met every Friday night for a period of six months and many were granted landed status in Canada. While worshipping at 1755 Weston Road, one Sunday night Pastor Penny said that the Lord told him that it was time to move. The next week they moved to the second floor of 2256 Sheppard Avenue West. The Church was nicked-named the “Upper Room.” The Monday following the relocation the unit at 1755 Weston Road had burnt. Thank God for His directions!
Liberty remained at 2256 Sheppard Avenue West for a period of 3 years. Many great things happened there. They experienced a great move of the power of God in every service. Many new people started attending the services and eventually became members and were added to the church. The members were noted for inviting non-believers to their services but could not give them a time when it would end. They had a starting time but not an ending time. Some parents with infants used to carry their baby’s playpens with them to church. In the midst of a great revival, they had to move again because the Landlord (Church of Pentecost of Canada) suddenly terminated their lease. They worshipped at their main sanctuary in the annex for a few weeks then they moved to HumberWood Community Centre. This move posed a major setback for the growth of the congregation because of the location. It was further West of the City and public transportation and the time of the commencement of the service was a problem. Service commenced at 2:00p.m. on Sundays. To solve this problem, they decided to have one church in two locations and so they started having services both at Humberwood Community Centre in the West and St. Albert Catholic School in Scarborough in the East. Liberty’s members were determined and faithfully commuted to both services. However, in spite of this, they continued to experience a might move of God during their worship services.
In 2002 they moved to the basement of 2250 Midlands Avenue where they stayed for 6 years. It was a time of Spiritual Warfare, Christian Formation and empowerment for the members of Liberty. It was there that God began to unify, solidify and edify the congregation. After moving from the Basement they worshipped at East Toronto Church of God at Birchmount for period of four months. Again they were forced to leave that location because of time scheduling issues/conflicts. They then moved back to the West to 3585 Keel Street Unit 1 on March 1, 2009. At that location the faith of the church grew exponentially. The people were challenged to give and they raised over $160,000.00 in one month toward the purchase of their current facility. Again Reverend Penny told the congregation that they were not going to renew the three-year lease because he believed that they were going to purchase their next place of worship and they did. On February 27, 2012 Pastor Penny signed the Purchase of Sale Agreement for its current facility. It was a cash deal transaction. On March 4, 2012 they worshipped jointly with the Bethel Church of God at 780 Arrow Road for 5 months before moving into their purchased unit at 4801 Keele Street, Unit 41.
The church was forced to move their weekly Bible Studies from Wednesday nights to Mondays because of scheduling challenges. This move has been quite beneficial for them and they saw a dramatic increase in their attendance. Pastor Penny felt lead to lead the congregation in reading the gospels. They started off by reading the gospel according to Luke, followed by John and now they are in the book of Acts of the Apostles. This has been going on for the past four years. They have seen and are still seeing lives being transformed by the Word of God.
Prayer has also been another activity that they have embarked upon and they are experiencing a tremendous revival as a result of it. The men at Liberty were challenged to seek God through prayer every Saturday morning at 5:00 A.M. As a result the men’s discipleship group has been and is still revived. The entire congregation was asked to participate in pre-worship prayer on Sundays at 7-9a.m. This too has led to a revival in our Sunday celebrations. The Young People have been revived and had demonstrated a strong interest in the things of God. There are evident changes in their prayer life, church attendance, Bible reading, witnessing and discipleship.
In keeping with his philosophy of leadership and ministry in 2008, which was an Olympic year, Reverend Penny challenged the youths of his congregation who were in High School to set a goal to achieve some level of post-secondary education. He challenged them by 2012 to aspire to attend either a Community College or University by the next Olympic. Fortunately every one of those students was sent off to pursue some level of Post secondary education. Not only were they able to achieve their goal but they were also awarded a scholarship from the local congregation. This endeavor led to the setting up of a scholarship in the honour of all of the students who attended the post secondary institutions. At Liberty, funds are being collected on a monthly basis and put in aid of the scholarship program. There is a Kenisha Alexanders Literacy scholarship; a Troy Penny Church involvement scholarship; a Antonia Amede Academic Improvement scholarship; a Joshua Rose Community Involvement scholarship and a Cassandra Frederick Academic Achievement Scholarship. It is Reverend Penny’s dream that every student in Liberty who has the ability and willingness to achiever higher education should receive the financial assistance to do so.
To God be the glory great things he has done!!!