Sunday Gathering – Using Improv to Beat Anxiety

Toronto Oasis is a community that meets regularly to create a place to celebrate the human experience. Each week we gather to discuss a wide variety of issues and interests. Launched in February 2016, Toronto Oasis welcomes all people who want to be part of a community exploring life through reason.

Every week we gather to be inspired, entertained, motivated and  build our secular community in Downtown Toronto.  This week’s speaker is Yitzi Gal. to speak about how improv theatre helped him overcome social anxiety.

Sunday, May 28, 2017
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Koffler House
569 Spadina Ave, Toronto, Toronto, ON (Map)

Join and RSVP

Featured Speaker this week:

YITZI GAL is a faculty member at The Second City Training Centre in Toronto. He is currently attaining his masters degree in Drama Therapy at Concordia University in Montreal. He has also studied Drama Therapy at NYU in New York City. Yitzi teaches improvisation for anxiety classes at Second City as well as other venues around Toronto. Yitzi began taking improv classes nearly ten years ago in order to cope with his own anxiety, and has since graduated from several improvisational theatre programs and has performed in various venues in Toronto, New York, and Montreal.

Featured Musical Guest:


Snacks & Goodies

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s refreshments! What a delicious tradition for our post-gathering socializing.

As always, your contributions are very welcome this week and will never go to waste; extras go to feeding the homeless.

Sunday Gathering – Don’t Throw the Baby Out… Lessons from Liberal Religion

Sunday, May 21, 2017
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Koffler House
569 Spadina Ave, Toronto, Toronto, ON

Join and RSVP

Every week we gather to be inspired, entertained, motivated and build our secular community in Downtown Toronto. This week we are excited to have our very own Dan Cooperstock present for us.

Don’t Throw the Baby out with the Bath Water!

Dan will talk about what secular non-religious folks and communities can learn from the helpful practices and specific values learned in liberal religions, most particularly from his experience as a liberal (and non-theist) Quaker. Among other aspects of his talk, he will talk about the Quaker business process, and give examples of how Quaker values have applied to his business.

Dan Cooperstock discovered liberal Quakerism in University in England in 1979, and has been a member of and very active participant in the Toronto Quaker Meeting and the Canada-wide Quaker organization, including many leadership positions, since 1981. Professionally, Dan is a computer programmer. For the 10 last years he has been an entrepreneur, writing and selling software for small to mid-sized churches and charities. Outside of work, Dan is an avid movie-goer, group ride leader with the Toronto Moto Scooter Club, participant in a song circle, and dancer with the LGBTQ square dancing club the Toronto Triangle Squares.

This week at Oasis: Alternate Libraries- How Humans Share the Earth

Here’s what’s happening this week at Oasis!

Featured Speaker:

LAWRENCE ALVAREZ is co-founder of the Toronto Tool Library and The Sharing Depot, and President of their parent non-profit, the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy. He was born and raised in Zimbabwe and he has lived in Botswana, Canada, South Africa and Argentina. His passion lies in travel, exploring human relationships and our shared experience, and finding the connections between us.

Snacks & Goodies

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s refreshments! What a delicious tradition for our post-gathering socializing.

As always, your contributions are very welcome this week and will never go to waste; extras go to feeding the homeless.

This week at Oasis: The Colour of Justice

Here’s what’s happening this week at Oasis!

MARGOT VAN SLUYTMAN is an internationally-respected voice in the field of Restorative Justice. Her lived-experience informs her justice advocacy, lectures, and writings. She has shared the stage with Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book and Oscar Academy Award Winning, Dead Man Walking. And, last year, while in South Africa to give a talk, she had a two hour conversation with the inspiring Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In February this year, she spent time with inmates at Pollsmoor Prison, which was Nelson Mandela’s home for a time. She worked with several young men, offering a safe space for them to share their stories, and an open heart and ear to them. Margot was inspired by their yearning for hope. “We shared I and Thou,” she says, “Not Us Vs. Them.

Come have lunch!

Want the conversation to continue? Join fellow Oasis members in gathering for lunch! We’ll convene after the gathering and choose a nearby spot, so bring your suggestions!

Snacks & Goodies

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s refreshments! What a delicious tradition for our post-gathering socializing.

As always, your contributions are very welcome this week and will never go to waste; extras go to feeding the homeless.

The Varsity Magazine takes a close look at Toronto Oasis

They have the weather right, that’s for sure. The day was blustery and cold. But they also have everything else right, too, and for a magazine article about a topic as nuanced as religion and the secular, that is an amazing feat.

Thank you to Managing Editor Jaren Kerr and journalist Tom Yun for a great article exploring what Toronto Oasis is all about and why most people think of it as being Outside the Circle.

“February 12, 2017 was a Sunday. The roads were treacherous and the sidewalk was slippery. There was a snowstorm; the kind that encourages most people to stay in their homes, but that didn’t stop over 100 people from visiting U of T to talk about anything other than God.

“The first gathering — service, meeting, it’s still not decided what to call it — of the Toronto chapter of the Oasis network was held in the Koffler House Multi-Faith Centre. The Oasis network, established in the US, provides a community similar to that of a church or a mosque for the non-religious, the secular, the skeptical, and the curious.

Read more …

Toronto Oasis Launch


This week at Oasis: Conversation and Jazz! (2nd April, 2017)

Here’s what’s happening this week at Oasis!

Featured Speaker:

You! This week we are switching things up, so come join us for thought-provoking conversation and brainstorming on community building. With a community of such amazing individuals, it’s no surprise you want to interact with each other more; We heard your feedback and are excited to facilitate more connection and exchange this week. As always, we’ll have snacks and music to enjoy in between!

Stay Connected!

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Featured Musical Guest:


With her personal and exuberant approach, Roberta adds her own voice to the jazz and blues repertoire. The over 15 years spent as rhythm pianist with the legendary New Orleans Jazz band ‘Kid Bastien’s Happy Pals’ (Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto) nurtured her love of New Orleans music which she now takes to the next level with Red Hot Ramble!
With a rootsy and bluesy style, Roberta was described by one music writer as “Mix big piano with beautiful voice, add some attitude and a lot of charisma. With a penchant for those you-done-me-wrong songs and her musical roots in the jazz and spirituals of New Orleans: a picture of Roberta Hunt starts to emerge…”
In addition to time spent songwriting and solo vocal/piano performances, Roberta stays active in the Toronto/Southern Ontario music scene with Red Hot Ramble, Bertie and the Gents and sit-ins with various ensembles. Roberta has also participated in the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans; Davos Sounds Good Festival, Davos; Rapperswil Jazz Festival, Switzerland; Jazz in Mortigliano, Italy as well as Southern Ontario jazz festivals over her career.

Snacks & Goodies

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s refreshments! What a delicious tradition for our post-gathering socializing.

As always, your contributions are very welcome this week and will never go to waste; extras go to feeding the homeless.

Here’s what’s happening this week (March 26th, 2017) at Oasis!

Featured Speaker:

AVRUM NADIGEL has been a therapist for over 20 years in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. His approach combines Family Systems, Psychodynamic and Mindfulness perspectives and his background includes a Masters of Social Work from McGill University, a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) from Concordia University, and post-graduate training in Bowen Theory from The Western Pensylvania Family Center.

He is the author of Learning to Commit: The best time to work on your marriage is when you’re single and co-author of the upcoming Love Starts Here (Workbook): Becoming your best self to find your best match.

Avrum co-produces the “It’s the anxiety, stupid!” podcast and blogs about commitment at the Huffington Post. He also composed the music for the award winning NFB documentary: Exiles from Lotusland.

He lives in Toronto with his wife, who is a psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital, his three sons and nine fish.

Featured Musical Guest:

MATT ELWOOD performed at our launch and we’re thrilled to have him return! He is one of Canada’s most accomplished bluegrass musicians having fallen in love with the banjo and its unique flavours after years of musical training. He has toured with bluegrass bands and set the standard for this extraordinary musical genre here at home. His combination of the smoother sounds of the modern banjo with the raw energy of the first generation masters quickly caught the ear of many well respected Ontario bluegrass bands. Matt has played banjo, mandolin, and guitar in many of Toronto’s bluegrass bands including: The Unseen Strangers, The Sudden Valley Boys, Houndstooth, Crazy Strings, and the Hamstrung String Band.

Snacks & Goodies

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s refreshments! What a delicious tradition for our post-gathering socializing.

As always, your contributions are very welcome this week and will never go to waste; extras go to feeding the homeless.

A great launch demands an awesome follow-up!

Off to an historic start, Toronto Oasis is fully launched!

Christopher DiCarlo is a pain in the ass…
… and he wants you to be one, too.

Long before “outside-the-box” thinking became fashionable (is it yet?), Dr. Christopher DiCarlo was putting down roots in territory many still fear to tread. With reason as his weapon of choice and the Socratic method his favourite strategy for doing battle, Chris can eviscerate the most erudite of foes often before they even recognize what’s happening. This Sunday, he’ll share his passion for tracking down truth no matter whose words it’s hiding behind.

Chris is a philosopher, educator, and author. He currently teaches in the faculties of Human Biology and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. His book, How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions, is an international bestseller and, of course, the reason we call him a pain in the ass. We know he’ll consider it a compliment.

Join us for this second week at Toronto Oasis. We begin at 11 Sunday morning, gather for about 90 minutes, and then enjoy refreshments and conversation afterward. You’ll find us on the second floor of the Multifaith Centre at U of T, 569 Spadina Avenue, just south of Harbord. Parking in the area is free until 1 p.m.

Thanks to one of our Toronto Oasis organizers, Agah Bahari, we were able to schedule Robert L. Pepper of Pas Musique for a gig while he is up from Boston to do some recording.
Robert usually experiments with creating ambient music and has invited Agah to play with him this weekend at Toronto Oasis.
An extra treat!

How about those cookies, tarts, veggie trays, and cakes last week! You were AMAZING! In addition to sweetening up our coffee time, each week, we’ll share the extras with students, the homeless and local shelters.

Last week’s extras went to feed the homeless.

Oasis Soft Launch on February 5th

We have the address. We’ve checked out the room. Flicked the light switches on and off and on and off again. We even know where the tables and chairs are stored. But figuring out how everything is going to work is not something we want to be doing on our big day. So, we’re getting together this Sunday, February 5th, for a “soft launch” and you’re invited.

Stacks and stacks and stacks of chairs.

What we mean by a “soft launch” is that we will arrive at the planned set-up time – 10:00 a.m. – and we’ll run through everything we’re going to need to run through to ensure as smooth a launch possible. We’ll set up the chairs and time how long it takes us to do that. We’ll plug in the sound system to make sure we know how to use it for the big day and every Sunday following. We’ll brew some coffee and figure out how long that takes, too, and figure out where to put the cookies. In fact, we’ll run through as much as we possibly can so that next week, when Toronto Oasis officially launches, we’ll be able to set up easily and focus on the fun.

Spare us the tangles.

But we don’t want to be exclusive about it so we’re inviting you to join us. Yep. This Sunday. The 5th. If you’re interested in getting involved with Canada’s first Oasis community, this is your first opportunity. And you’ll get to hang with some awesome people, see some of the obligatory bloopers, and then head off for Superbowl Sunday at a local hangout.

Sound like fun? Great! Send us an email and let us know you’re coming or just show up at 10 and lend a hand. We’ll be glad to have you with us!

Toronto Oasis will be meeting at the U of T’s Multifaith Centre located at 569 Spadina Avenue. Our gathering will be in the Main Activity Hall on the second floor. 


The Oasis Network!

At our Annual Meeting in February, the congregation voted to affiliate with the Oasis Network, a growing group of secular communities. While our affiliation will make little difference to what happens at West Hill in Scarborough, we hope it will provide inspiration and a framework for the development of new communities in other areas of the city and perhaps even further afield as the network becomes more established in Canada.

The seeds for the Oasis Network were planted in 2012, when Mike Aus, after a long process of rationalizing his Christian faith, left the congregation he had been pastoring, convinced that he could no longer lead them as a non-believer. But within a few weeks of his departure, members of his former congregation approached him about starting a community for those who were questioning traditional beliefs or who had already transitioned beyond them.

Gathering a leadership team together, Mike and a handful of other interested people worked together to create a community. They opened the doors of their rented conference facilities that September. Over a hundred people showed up and Houston Oasis was launched. Since then it has become a thriving community and a model that freethinkers in other cities have begun to emulate.

A little over a year later, Helen Stringer (that’s her in the striped top!), a life-long church goer, sat down at her computer in Kansas City and Googled “atheist church”. Finding a kindred spirit in Mike, who happily shared ideas with her, Helen, too, pulled together a leadership team, and in April 2014, launched Kansas City Oasis with over two hundred in attendance. Along the way, Helen and Mike created the Oasis Network. Its mission is to help others form their own Oasis communities by providing support, a working model, resources, and a greater community at large.

West Hill and the Oasis Network have much in common. The Oasis’ core values resonate with our VisionWorks, a document Mike immediately recognized as a fuller expression of the Oasis’ succinct, five-point list:

People are more important than beliefs.
Reality is known through reason.
Meaning comes from making a difference.
Human hands solve human problems.
Be accepting and be accepted.

There are now five active Oasis communities in the States. In addition to Houston and Kansas City, leadership teams have come together and launched communities in Boston, MA, and in Logan and Provo, Utah. Seven more teams are in the process of developing communities in other cities across the States. West Hill is both the first Canadian community to affiliate and the first existing community to do so.

There are two principles that are essential to the Oasis Network beyond its core values: collaboration and autonomy.

Each community affiliated has access to whatever learning previous communities have amassed and that can be incredibly helpful. (For example, the Network has collated their most successful practices in a comprehensive document for starting new communities.) And resources can be shared within the network. West Hill, over the past fifteen years, has been challenged to source or create resources that respect the diverse perspectives of its members; there is a dearth of material out there. Now, we will have access to materials created or used in other Oasis communities and we will share our resources with them.

As for autonomy, each community can create a style that suits their context and the people who gather. So far, most meet on Sunday mornings but one could just as easily decide that Wednesday evenings are best. West Hill, to date, is the only Oasis community that has communal singing, something that others have not introduced or found to be a barrier to participation. And before being affiliated with Oasis, our West West Hill community determined that it wanted to meet around a potluck meal. That’s the kind of autonomy Oasis expects and inspires. In other words, Oasis communities can do almost anything they want to do as long as they do it in a way that respects the core values the network has identified.

But there are a few things that Oasis communities won’t do and these are so alike West Hill that we thought them worth sharing. They won’t require adherence to a belief system or the lack of one; participants represent a wide spectrum of religious and ideological beliefs, just like West Hill. And, also just like West Hill, they won’t provide a soapbox for anti-religious rhetoric. Those who have been at one of our services or who attend regularly know that disparaging believers isn’t welcome here. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have people in our community who actively pursue the right to freedom from religion through other avenues in their lives. Gretta often speaks publicly to the need for public space that is free from religious intrusion. But our Sunday morning gatherings seek to create a barrier free space and, in order to do that, that space needs to be as comfortable for religious believers as it is for those who are not.

We’re looking forward to the collaboration that affiliation will provide and we’re excited about working with Mike, Helen, and others like them. If you have any questions about what our affiliation with the Oasis Network means, don’t hesitate to talk with a member of the Board or gretta.