Canada’s mainstream churches are in trouble.
The United Church of Canada is closing churches at a rate of one a week – more than 400 in the last decade. And the Catholic church is in peril in rural areas and in Quebec, where 400 closed between 2003 and 2016. Anglican church membership is down from a peak of 1.36 million in 1964 to 642,000 in 2001 (the last year the church reported attendance).
What’s the solution? In a city that’s being swept by a tsunami of renewal, the answer is often to close the church and turn a house of God into housing for whomever can afford it.
These historic buildings are not just architectural landmarks, they are also institutions to the arts and myriad spiritual and social services the city does not provide.
In June 2018, Michael Wood Daly published the first phase of the Toronto Halo Project to measure the value of the city’s social infrastructure.
The project posed the question, “If a congregation ceased to exist, what would it cost the municipality to replace the programs and services that congregation provides to its wider community?”
Answer: $3.42 for every dollar a congregation spends. Contrary to the assertion that churches are granted a “free ride” because they are exempt from property tax, Daly found that the value of the services they provide is worth 11 to 12 times what they would pay in property tax. That’s the halo effect.
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