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

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.”

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

The West Shore Community Response Network (CRN) is urging awareness around National Fraud Prevention Month, so residents can especially help protect older and vulnerable adults against fraud. (Photo by Joshua Hoehne/Upsplash)
March dialed in as National Fraud Prevention Month

West Shore Community Response Network urges citizens to protect seniors against phone, email scams

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read