Rev. Chris Parsons sits in the pews of St. Peter's Anglican church

Few buyers for church lands

Anglican churches survive by grace of tepid Victoria real estate market

Nearly four years ago, the Anglican Diocese of B.C. recommended closing 11 churches across Greater Victoria, and selling the property in a bid to reduce debt and reinvigorate itself in the face of shrinking congregations.

Out of the 11, three have sold and two are leased by other organizations. The remainder are open for business as Anglican churches, and no longer face imminent closure, largely by strokes of luck.

“They were put all on the market at once, the ones people wanted to buy immediately are the only reason (others remain),” said Rev. Chris Parsons, speaking for the diocese. “We only wanted to sell a certain amount and re-evaluate what was needed.”

Properties like St. Saviour in Vic West and St. Martin in the Fields in Saanich sold, the former to a dance company and the latter to an evangelical denomination.

St. Columba in Saanich’s Strawberry Vale and All Saints in View Royal have closed as Anglican churches and the space is leased out (St. Alban’s had sold in 2009, prior to the mass sale).

Others once on the block – St. David by the Sea in Cordova Bay, St. Peter’s in Lakehill, St. Philip and St. Mary in Oak Bay and St. Mary in Metchosin – survived by the grace of not being attractive to other organizations or property developers.

“Lower Vancouver Island was over-churched, which came from our history of opening a church on every corner,” Parsons observed. “I feel selling properties is the nuts and bolts. The real change has to do with the ministry, it’s a longer process of change.”

Parsons, the reverend for both St. Peter’s and St. David, said the churches are no longer being marketed for sale, and the individual parishes themselves have a much more rigorous process of reviewing finances. There’s also better resource sharing among churches to keep a lid on costs.

“With the assistance of diocese personnel, we’re a lot better at looking at (financial) red flags before it becomes too serious,” he said. “We don’t say everyone can relax. We’ll always be reviewing … there’s a diligent review process for personnel and the viability of ministries.”

“In the case of St. David and St. Peter’s, both help each other financially. When St. Peters needed a new roof, St. David paid the deposit. But they are unique communities. Cordova Bay is very different from St. Peters (in Lakehill). But we see opportunities … to share services and be more collaborative.”

A steadily declining congregational base, the basis for church closures and sales, and internal debates on issues such as same sex marriage still remain a problems for the Anglican Church.

A report from the diocese estimated that in 2009 barely one per cent of B.C. residents identify as Anglican. St. David sees about 40 parishioners on Saturdays and Sundays, and St. Peter’s sees about 60 people between two Sunday services.

Parsons said the individual parishes have much wider latitude to try new programs and innovations to stay relevant in the community. St. David, for one, has a “Messy Church” service on Saturdays with activities and games for kids.

“Now we are doing some children ministry stuff, some is really successful,” he said. “We’ve given (the parishes) the freedom to try new things and not to be afraid of failure.”




Just Posted

Victoria woman in L.A. hospital after she was run over twice

Lynn Phillips has suffered from multiple broken bones and internal bleeding

Victoria teen killed by falling tree, remembered as hero

Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling towards him and his friends

Tiny Yorkshire terrier Poppie survives days on remote island

ROAM rescue crews, family searched for dog, missing in Saanich for days

Researchers say ‘text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millenials’ skulls

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

VIDEO: Performers awe crowds at 2019 Indigenous Cultural Festival

Dancers and singers from First Nations across B.C. gather in Victoria

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadian communities responding to climate change

New research highlights state of local adaptation planning in Canada

B.C. judge defies lawyers and adds six months to man’s sex assault sentence

‘I find the joint submission is contrary to the public interest and I’m rejecting it’

Man presumed dead after boat capsizes in Columbia River

Search and rescue efforts recovered a life jacket

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Most Read