14 Anglican churches could close in B.C.
The Anglican Church of Canada may close up to 14 churches in British Columbia because of declining attendance.
Bishop James Cowan of the Anglican Diocese of B.C. says its community numbers are dwindling because churchgoers are aging and no new members are taking their place.
“We are a church saying a crisis could come if we don't act. It is painful.”
A report released Tuesday recommends the closure of 14 churches in the Victoria-area and southern Gulf Islands. Another five would be renamed and become “hub churches” that would provide services in areas affected by closures.
The problem is empty pews. At St. Martin in the Fields, only 37 people regularly attend Sunday service. The same is true at St. Columbia. In both cases, for sale signs could soon pop up on the lawn.
Cowan said parish churches in urban areas need a membership of 150 to keep afloat.
Church members are putting their best face on what is a troubling time for religion. Other churches may face the same painful decisions.
“They're not coming through our doors in sufficient numbers so we must go to them where they are," said Canon Martin Hendy.
Many British Columbians say they're spiritual but not religious, meaning they don't go to church. Anglicans are hoping to reshape things like never before, vowing to turn the church inside out in a search for new followers.
It's anything but traditional for an institution based on tradition.
“Using coffee houses, establishing ourselves in an internet café kind of place, coffee house kind of place, restaurants,” said Bishop James Cowan of the Anglican Diocese of B.C.
The dramatic shift in culture might be necessary, because empty churches can’t be sustained.
“It is a sad story in that there are a lot of challenges ahead,” Reverend Chris Parsons said.
It could be a year or more before the churches are closed and sold. And because attendance problems aren't limited to Anglicans, these extraordinary reforms could soon hit a church near you.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jim Beatty