At a recent Sunday service at St. Philip’s Anglican Church, the word of God was served with cake.
That morning, May 8, the Venerable Christopher Page told his congregation of about 200 people they’d be staying put.
It was a day of celebration – and some disappointment – as the parish learned it would no longer be moving to the somewhat larger St. Mary the Virgin Church as part of a restructuring plan by the Anglican Diocese of B.C. that proposed the closure of six churches in Greater Victoria.
“There were absolutely lots of positive feelings, lots of excitement, but there were also a lot of people devastated at the prospect of losing this space,” Page said.
The two churches’ amalgamation order was rescinded in early March, but “it took me quite a while to be convinced that (the change) was final,” he said.
Though St. Philip’s was spared, the same can’t be said for many other South Island churches.
Late last year, five parishes west of Victoria blended into one – called the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul – at St. Paul’s Church in Esquimalt.
Bruce Bryant-Scott, executive director of the diocese, said the four closed parishes were financially unstable. He attributed the decision to stagnant congregation size and increasing salary costs for clergy.
“In most of these kinds of churches, anywhere between 50 and 80 per cent (of collections) is (used for) paying for the clergy,” he said. “That was the kind of bind we were in. By consolidating things, our hope and expectation was we could come up with a new DNA for the church.”
On the Saanich Peninsula, a retired rector was not replaced, Bryant-Scott said, leaving one and a half clergy members to look after two churches: St. Stephen’s and St. Mary’s churches in Saanichton.
Brentwood Chapel was closed and its parish split between the other two Peninsula churches.
In Saanich, St. David by the Sea in Cordova Bay, St. Peter’s in Lakehill and St. Michael and All Angels on West Saanich Road share a rotating four-person clergy.
Bryant-Scott said retirements and clergy transferring out of the region means no clergy were laid off in Greater Victoria under the restructuring plan.
The Oak Bay churches, for their part, had struck up a conversation committee once their amalgamation was announced. That committee showed the diocese the economics of moving the parish around to do renovations on St. Mary’s before the parish ended up there, weren’t worthwhile.
Page said there remains a steady core of people who maintain their faith in an age and country that’s increasingly turned away from religion.
“Sunday morning is no longer just church time for many people,” he said. “(But) there will always be some that decide to (worship) in the Anglican fashion and we’ll always be there for them.”
Did you know?
• The Anglican Diocese of B.C. will continue to own its closed church buildings until a decision is made on their disposition.