Anglican Diocese team recommends closing several churches around Victoria, Vancouver Island in “transformation”
Ten Anglican churches in Greater Victoria should close and their parishioners move to other congregations, says a report released yesterday that calls for sweeping changes to deal with declining attendance and aging congregations.
The report was commissioned by the Diocese of British Columbia, which governs Anglican churches on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. It also recommends the closing of churches at Crofton, Cowichan Station, South Pender and Saltspring.
Church leaders, priests and parish representatives are expected to vote on the recommendations at a meeting of the Diocesan Synod in March. If approved, the changes could take effect within 18 months.
At a press conference yesterday, Bishop James Cowan said the report offers an alternative to slow decline.
“I would not say we are yet a church in crisis,” Cowan said. “We are a church that is saying, ‘A crisis could come if we don’t act.’ ”
The report calls for “disestablishment” of 19 of the 52 churches in the diocese, 14 of them in Greater Victoria. Nine of those in Greater Victoria should eventually be fully closed, with the property sold or leased, it says. And one, St. Mary’s in Metchosin, is earmarked as a church conference centre.
Cowan said he didn’t know the value of theproperties, but expects it to be in the millions.
Five other parishes to be disestablished — four of which are in Greater Victoria — would be renamed with a special liturgy and become “hub churches,” their ranks swelled by parishioners moving from the closed churches.
The five that would be renamed are St. Mary’s in Saanichton, St. Paul’s in Esquimalt, Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oak Bay, St. Dunstan’s in Saanich and Church of St. John the Baptist in Cobble Hill.
Changes are expected to affect 1,500 to 2,000 of the estimated 5,500 Anglicans in Greater Victoria.
The Anglican Church in Victoria in recent years has been fractured by disagreements, most notably over whether gay marriages, enacted under civil law, should be eligible for a church blessing, something still not performed within the diocese. Three parishes have already split with the church over the issue.
But Cowan called blessings for gay marriage a side issue that’s not connected to the report, part of a process that began five years ago.
Cowan said the average age of parishioners in the Diocese of B.C. is between 58 and 68.
A report prepared for the national House of Bishops in 2005 warned that the Anglican Church in Canada is losing about 13,000 members a year and will face extinction by the middle of the century.
Cowan said it’s hoped the reorganization can be part of a new church effort to attract parishioners. He noted people are highly mobile but in some ways more connected than ever through things like the Internet. Meanwhile, many, particularly on Vancouver Island, identify themselves as “spiritual” but not religiously observant. That offers the church an opportunity to reach out to those people, he said.
“Here is community, here is a place that you can be rooted and in which you can be connected,” he said.
Cowan said he has shut down two churches in recent years and it’s always painful. “[It] hurts the people who have been there Sunday after Sunday worshipping in that place.
“What I would like to be able to do is enter into new ministries and be able to say, ‘Here’s how we are going ahead.’ ”
Read the full report here. DTTReportV14-Jan25
Among the churches affected:
St. Paul’s in Esquimalt, to be rededicated with new name as hub church
St. Saviour to close, move Rainbow Kitchen to another location if necessary
St. Martin in the Fields to close
St. Columbia to close
All Saints in View Royal to close
St. Mary in Metchosin to close
St. Dunstan in Gordon Head to become a new hub church, rededicated with new name
St. David in Cordova Bay to close
St. Peter in Lakehill to close
St. Philip to move from smaller church to current St. Mary building. The combined congregations (St. Philip and St. Mary) would decide on a new name.
St. Mary in Saanichton, to become new hub church, rededicated with new name
Brentwood Chapel, to close
St. Stephen in South Saanich, to close
Holy Trinity in North Saanich and St. Andrew in Sidney to create a new hub church for North Saanich
Saltspring – Close St. Mary and St. Mark (use property as centre for arts or new ministries)
By Richard Watts, Times Colonist
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