Trinity Anglican Memorial Church, in Montreal will close in 2017 at a date yet to be determined. Trinity was built in 1922 and officially opened in 1926. It was dedicated as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I

Trinity Anglican Memorial Church in Montreal will close in 2017 at a date yet to be determined. Trinity was built in 1922 and officially opened in 1926. It was dedicated as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I
Photo Credit: Google streetview

What’s happening to Canadian churches?

In the news this week, a large well-known church in Montreal will close and be offered for sale. Trinity Memorial was built to accommodate 1,000 people, but as the number of parishioners has diminished the Archdeacon says the costs of maintenance, “is beyond their capacity to maintain”.

In Windsor Ontario, another church is set to be torn down. Originally built in 1922, with additions in 1955, city council has approved its demolition to be replaced with housing.

built in 1921, St George Church and hall, in Windsor (Walkerville) to be torn down.
Built in 1921, St George’s Church and hall, in Windsor (Walkerville) to be torn down (show here in 2014 photo) © Google streetview

Melanie Paul Tanovich had wanted to purchase the church and hall for a music and dance studio but was turned down. Quoted in the CBC she said, “”It’s a great shame,” Tanovich said after the vote. “The structure has been confirmed by highly respected professionals. It’s beautiful inside. There’s an ambience that just can’t be appreciated unless you stand in it”. It seems destined to make way for a housing development.

All across Canada, churches are being abandoned and sold, the historic buildings are often then torn down.

Built in 1918, St John’s United Church in Halifax has sat empty since it was put up for sale in 2009. It was bought by a developer early this year with plans to create 40-50 condo units
Built in 1918, St John’s United Church in Halifax has sat empty since it was put up for sale in 2009. It was bought by a developer early this year with plans to create 40-50 condo units © Robert Short/CBC

It seems membership in traditional Christian churches is declining. The Anglican church for example went from  a high of over 1,360,000 parishioners in 1964 to less than half by 2001 at 641,865.

sources- 197-2001 Canada census: 2011 National Houshold Survey. *Data for the ’other religions’ category in 1971 are not shown because thefigure is not camparable with the figures for 1981-2011. Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding
sources- 197-2001 Canada census: 2011 National Houshold Survey. *Data for the ’other religions’ category in 1971 are not shown because thefigure is not camparable with the figures for 1981-2011. Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding © Pew Centre

In 2003, in the province of Quebec, some  2,751 places of worship were identified by Quebec’s Religious Heritage Council. Since then 400 have closed. Quoted by Post Media, Council project manager Denis Boucher says the rhythm of closures is increasing, “A church closes every week. It is a huge phenomenon”.

While Christian churches are being closed in Canada due mainly to diminishing congregations, the influs of newcomers means many other religious communities are growing in Canada.

While many churches have been torn down to make way for other uses, such as condos, in some cases, when a Christian church is put up for sale, it will be saved and converted to another religion.

As one Windsor resident said regarding St George’s, “Once a building is gone, you can’t get it back”.

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5 comments on “What’s happening to Canadian churches?
  1. Jill Whiting says:

    There is a lot of phonies and flakes in the church. The Pastors do a great job but the congregation itself has done nothing but turn people off and this is one of the reasons churches are closing. Immigrants come with their own religion from their own country, but only Jesus Christ is our Savour. With the internet, the church has come right into our homes. I still go to church but I do not like the people in the church. Pastors do a great job.

  2. Anton Hart says:

    If we could re-introduce the “comfortable pew” concept we could turn our churches into great concert halls and (once again) fill them up… and so re-introduce communities to those pews. On Sunday we would, of course, have to match the weekday music with some magnificent organ, choir and chamber music. no fumblers on the keyboards please. Doable.

  3. Doug Evans says:

    This issue is a national embarrassment.

    Far too many churches in Canada are still falling into disrepair, or being unsympathetically altered, badly repaired or at worst threatened with demolition. These buildings are repositories of our shared history; they are living buildings serving the whole community.

    Canada’s historic churches should be enjoyed by everyone as places of heritage, culture, spirituality and beauty and appreciated for the significant contribution they make to our communities, society and the economy.

  4. Peter Ashcroft says:

    As a regular churchgoer I find this a sad item. However, it is also happening in England where churches are converted into offices or places of entertainment.
    Christmas is becoming a secular holiday, and not a religious Holy Day. Happy Christmas.

    • Doug Evans says:

      This isn’t about Christmas or even about religion. This is about saving our national heritage, our national memory; and its about saving our communities.

      The church building has always been the most significant landmark of every village and town across the country since their original settlement.

      This whole issue is a national embarrassment.