More congregations in the US and Canada are reluctantly facing the question posed a physical plant that suited a time when membership was much larger. Why not merge with another congregation in your denomination so that outreach is possible?
The Halifax Chronicle Herald
But the majestic brick building on Chebucto Road in Halifax may be sold once the congregation joins the parish of St. Philip’s, as the number of parishioners steadily declines. Abandoning historic — and more modern — churches has become an increasingly frequent reality not only for the Anglican church, but for a broad spectrum of faith communities that have watched their houses of worship grow progressively empty in the past 50 years.
The Roman Catholic faith shut down five churches in the Halifax diocese within the last four years: three older buildings closed in the Halifax Regional Municipality and two shut down in Amherst. The diocese built two new churches, Saint Benedict in Halifax and Holy Family Parish in Amherst, to house the newly amalgamated congregations, a spokeswoman for the diocese says. “In each case, the decision around combining (came from) a combination of the economic efficiencies of moving from older buildings to a newer building that would meet our needs,” said Marilyn Sweet. “The congregations were each getting smaller. So when we put them together, they’re a better size and we have new energy to attract more people.”
“It’s interesting that in the city of Halifax, churches of other traditions are making the same decisions (we are) in order to carry out the ministry of the church,” Sweet said.
“Everybody comes to understand that we cannot continue just to keep our church buildings open and meet the missions of the church, so it’s in that context that people have to make such a difficult decision.”
St. Matthew’s United Church has also had to adjust to declining attendance, and recently proposed to its congregation that it sell some of its surrounding land to developers so that the church could stay open. A member of the church’s board said in an email Tuesday that it had no plans to close.
It’s all here.
Not to be defeatist, but at some point the answer is not that a congregation and its clergy have failed at evangelism. Laying the blame of declining membership at the feet of the congregation or the clergy is not healthy when the reasons people stop going to church are beyond their control. The question for those left behind is how to be faithful stewards in these circumstances. How do you discern whether your church community has become an idol?