The Montreal Gazette reported on Saturday that the Anglican Church of Canada in Quebec is experiencing difficult times.

The Anglican Diocese of Quebec produced a gloomy report in 2014 about the future of its parishes, which span an area larger than the size of France.

Almost half of its churches have fewer than 10 regular services a year and close to 80 per cent of its churches have a regular attendance of fewer than 25 people.

Forty-five per cent of its churches ran a deficit in 2012 and a stunning 64 per cent of congregations said last year that within five years they would be closed or be amalgamated with other churches.

http://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/quebec-anglican-church-facing-major-challenges-in-light-of-fewer-parishioners

For the Anglican Rector of St. James Parish in Trois-Rivières, the implications are obvious:

Samson holds nothing back when he says that, without radical change, the Anglican Diocese of Quebec could soon be extinct.

If we want to keep going on (the old) track we will all die.”

A major factor in the decline of the Anglican Church of Canada in Quebec is the departure of the Anglophone population from the Province. So, one obvious way to attempt to address their decline would be for Anglican Churches in Quebec to become bilingual and begin reaching out to the Francophone population.

If the choice is change or die, it might be assumed parishioners would embrace change with enthusiasm. However,

several Protestant churches across Quebec have closed rather than turn bilingual…. and many parishioners in other Protestant churches in Quebec would rather close than introduce bilingual services.

That was the fate of the Anglican Church in the Grand-Mere district of Shawinigan, northeast of Montreal.

The final few anglophone parishioners decided they wanted to keep their services in English only.

The Anglican Church of Canada in Quebec is not the only Anglican Church facing the stark choice between change and death.

Perhaps survival should not be our concern. Perhaps we should just continue doing what we do without any thought for the consequences. If people want to join us, they will come. If no one wants to buy the product we are selling, we will go out of business.

But, if there is willingness, is it possible for Anglican Church of Canada parishes to change in ways that might enable them to remain viable living communities of faith? Or are these communities simply doomed to extinction in the next 20 years.

It is impossible to be sure whether death is inevitable. But, what does seem certain is that, without some willingness to change, Anglican Church of Canada parishes that are presently averaging fewer than 50 parishioners in the pew per Sunday are going  to have a difficult time staying in operation.

Congregations whose primary goal is to get people to join them so they can continue business as usual are unlikely to be able to sustain their life in the future. Parishes that want to remain viable are going to need to put everything on the table. They need to ask some honest questions and be willing to hear and act upon the answers even if the answers are unsettling.

What is our primary goal as a church?

Are we determined to survive just as we are, even if that means our eventual extinction?

What realities outside the church must we take into consideration if we hope to attract people who unfamiliar with church?

What aspects of our church have the potential to attract people from outside the church?

What aspects of our way of doing church may be an impediment to people feeling comfortable worshiping among us?

Are there parts of our worship life to which we cling simply because they are familiar and give us a sense of comfort?

What parts of our worship tradition could we change or let go of in an attempt to remove obstacles to others being drawn to worship with us, without losing our core identity?

The answers to these questions may not turn around the gloomy future that appears to lurk on the horizon for many churches. But, the refusal to look honestly at these questions will almost certainly cause continued decline and the eventual closure of many small and struggling congregations.

 

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