Q: I am hearing of so many churches closing right now, and that makes me worried for the denomination’s future. Is the United Church going to disappear?
A: No and yes. I believe that the United Church is evolving into something different, so no, it won’t disappear. But will the institutional church as we know it disappear? Yes, I think it will.
Membership has already been evaporating over the last three decades. To this you can add that many congregations are aging and just tired, and that some in emerging generations see church as either a curiosity or toxic.
The United Church was formed back in 1925 because the existing structures at the time no longer made sense. In a different way, we have begun a similar process. For example, we have undertaken “mutual recognition of ministries” with other denominations, including the United Church of Christ (U.S.A.), which means we accept the credentials of each other’s ministers.
With technology, we can look at sharing resources and virtual staff members with other denominations in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Here in Canada, I think it is only a matter of time before some type of intense collaboration with the Anglican and Presbyterian churches will begin.
Our current structures are designed to maintain an institution, not create something new. But here is what I see as good news. Once we stop spending so much energy on palliative care, we can move into rebirth.
The story of the Christian faith in Canada is far from over, but the chapters written in the 20th century are coming to their natural end. The opportunity before us is to write new ones — and that is both exciting and life-giving.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s December 2021 issue with the title “Is the Church Disappearing?”
We hope you found this Broadview article engaging.
Our team is working hard to bring you more independent, award-winning journalism. But Broadview is a nonprofit and these are tough times for magazines. Please consider supporting our work. There are a number of ways to do so:
- Subscribe to our magazine and you’ll receive intelligent, timely stories and perspectives delivered to your home 8 times a year.
- Donate to our Friends Fund.
- Give the gift of Broadview to someone special in your life and make a difference!
Thank you for being such wonderful readers.