Declining congregations in Canada reborn as community resources

While different denominations in North America and Europe have had to close and sell places of worship due to shrinking attendance or moves of their followers to new urban areas, the recent figures published by the National Trust for Canada, with estimates that 9,000 religious spaces in the country will be lost in the next decade, are nevertheless striking. There were more than 27,000 buildings used for religious purposes in Canada in 2019, and a third of them are likely to be sold or town down, Bonnie Allen reports (CBC, March 10). She quotes National Trust for Canada Regeneration Project leader Robert Pajot, who remarks that it is not just about buildings but involves the loss of centers of local community life, including worship spaces hosting many activities beyond Sunday worship.

Money is a key issue linked to decline in attendance. Some attempt to avoid closure by sharing space with other users who will help in paying the bills. An Anglican church in Montreal has gone as far as partnering with a circus company for that purpose (CBC, February 17). Other churches are converted into places for secular uses. “Many churches have been transferred from sacred to secular use as art galleries, concert halls, libraries, community centres and even micro-breweries,” Allen writes. Although the goal is to save the buildings for religious or community purposes, demolition sometimes remains the only option left when a building has deteriorated too much. Some old churches have thus been razed and replaced with affordable housing projects. Allen explains how the National Trust for Canada has partnered with the interfaith network Faith & the Common Good to launch a project called “Regeneration Works: Places of Faith.” The project offers consulting services to help communities “create successful strategies for their buildings and community.”

(Webpages for the project “Regeneration Works: Places of Faith”:;