Ottawa may close under-used chapels

By on September 4, 2007

A comprehensive study of the diocese of Ottawa recommends closing eight little-used rural chapels and allowing another 34 to live out their natural lives with no subsidies. It also recommends establishing a new church in the growing Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven, buying land in areas that have the potential for further growth and boosting resources in many of the remaining 89 churches.

The $80,000 study, released in early June, was prepared by Myrlene Boken of AMB Research, based in Churchill, Ont. In recent years, Ms. Boken has prepared similar studies for the dioceses of Toronto, Niagara and Calgary.

“I am excited by this report and want it widely read and disseminated,” wrote the newly-elected bishop of Ottawa, John Chapman, in a June 14 letter to the diocese. “The major thrust … is to show us where and how to grow the diocese and its parishes.”

Bishop Chapman noted that “thought, prayer and consultation” will go into considering the recommendations and “nothing will be acted upon in haste or precipitously.”

The study found that the population of the diocese, which includes Ottawa and parts of Quebec, grew to 1.51 million in 2006 from 1.29 million in 1991. The number of identifiable Anglican givers declined to 10,323 in 2005 from 12,476 in 1991, however, envelope giving in current dollars, with inflation removed, increased to $7.6 million in 2005 from $7.4 million in 1991.

Among urban churches in the nation’s capital, the report said that “one of the most commonly-heard comments is that Anglicans are overchurched in Ottawa. However, without exception, all of the churches are aware of their vulnerability and many are adapting to their neighbourhoods, creating relevant ministry for their members and are still viable financially.”

Some churches, however, due to changing circumstances or poor locations, are finding it difficult to grow and they should “be allowed to live out their natural lifecycle but all support systems be removed (e.g., they should not be allowed to accumulate debt or appoint part-time clergy who for the most part, work full time, or be given support grants).”

The eight chapels are only open once a year and “are a drain on clergy who still oversee administration and maintenance.” The report recommended that some summer congregations be maintained since the “population can more than double in the summer months.”

The report identifies top priorities as the Barrhaven area, revamping the diocesan Web site and making better use of its CrossTalk newspaper as a communications tool, matching clergy skills to the needs of the parish and removing “support and equalization” grants in favor of “a ministry development grant system.”

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