September 29, 2020

The decline of today’s Anglican world wide church


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Is the worldwide Anglican Church in decline? The answer is “yes”.

This “shocking” story appeared in The Toronto Star on Jun 12th and being an Anglican filled me with dismay and horror.

If you needed any back up to my answer of “yes, the Anglican Church is in decline” just read this:

Trinity Anglican Church in Colborne Ontario closed after deconsecration

If she knows anything, Canadian author Jane Urquhart knows the influence of history and the power of place.

Her celebrated novels are shot through with it. She even lives now with her artist husband, Tony, in the 200-year-old house her parents once owned in this Lake Ontario town, between Cobourg and Belleville.

It’s little wonder then that Urquhart became a leading voice of a local group fighting against the controversial deconsecration of Colborne’s historic Trinity Anglican Church.

And it was no surprise at all that she was in the grief-heavy pews Tuesday when the deed was done and the battle lost.

“I just think it’s heartbreaking,” she told the Star. “These places are so rooted in history and in the narratives that little places like this tell about themselves. It just seems such a shame that this particular story feels like its being eliminated.”

A few minutes before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Rev. Linda Nicholls, the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto responsible for Trent-Durham, pronounced the return of the 166-year-old church to a secular property — it is no longer deemed a consecrated place for Anglican worship

“It’s difficult,” Nicholls told the Star later.

She declined further comment and referred all questions to church headquarters in Toronto.

To the congregation of 40 or so on hand to witness the last rite, Nicholls’s words during the service offered cold comfort — they sometimes even rang with painful irony — and her deference to church head office carried more than a little symbolism.

To them, the closing was a corporate decision by a remote church head office that only reluctantly responded to calls, letters and petitions and refused to discuss the deconsecration.

In essence, the Friends of Trinity were stonewalled, Urquhart said.

In fact, church members say, small rural parishes are under siege across Ontario, regarded as uneconomical by the financially strapped church leaders in Toronto and considered for closure should congregations shrink.

“The smaller the operation, the more dispensable it is,” Urquhart said.

But such a view fails to recognize the different role often played by churches in smaller communities.

Marc Coombs, the mayor of Cramahe Township, who backed the Friends of Trinity, said that in a “small rural community like ours churches are very important.” They are more than their Sunday services.

Trinity, for instance, was used for teas and rummage sales and special dinners, landmark birthdays and anniversaries.

“They’re all community meeting places,” he said.

Lost continuity is no small thing in rural Ontario, Coombs observed. In times past, school principals and teachers settled in for 10 or 20 years and “became part of the community.” Nowadays school boards like to rotate staff through a town every three or four years.

“They never become part of the community,” he said. “The school becomes disengaged almost.”

By the time his children finished elementary school, “there were only two teachers out of 12 who were still there from when they started.”

In such a context, Urquhart said, Trinity’s deconsecration is more than the story of just one little church.

“The whole fabric of the rural communities is starting to, in some way, be altered. And not necessarily for the better,” she said.

There’s a sense, too, that those making decisions in distant urban centres don’t understand or “just don’t care.”

Local anguish over the loss of Trinity is instantly palpable in Colborne. The white steepled church and its property drip — or dripped — history.

It was officially opened in 1846 by Bishop John Strachan. In the graveyard behind is the tombstone for William McMurray, the chief trader of the Hudson’s Bay Co. after whom Fort McMurray, Alta., is named.

On the front lawn is buried former canon John Davidson, who died in 1892 while serving the church. He loved it so much he wished it to be his final resting place.

People donate money to churches and put stained-glass memorial windows into them “because they are the things that are supposed to outlive us all,” Urquhart said.

People were baptized here, confirmed here, married here, ordained here, buried here.

“As is always the case with these little places that have been around for more than 150 years, there really are an enormous amount of stories attached to them,” she said. “They were hand-built by their parishioners in many cases on donated land and everything in them was donated. The whole agricultural history is so important to people who have been here multi-generations.”

On Tuesday, there was bitterness that some of the church furnishings — the brass communion rail, the bishop’s chair, a choir stall — had already been stripped and dispatched to other parishes. But scavengers couldn’t take everything.

As the deconsecration service began, church warden Patti May noted the toys scattered behind the last row of pews where young children played.

“That’s what we called the Holy Hospitality Area,” she said.

What nettled May — in addition to the diocese’s unwillingness to discuss plans to save the parish — was that, across the street, Prospect Missionary Church stands as a symbol of the possibility of renewal.

Prospect took a congregation that had dwindled to single digits and revitalized it in recent years, she said.

On that church’s message board Tuesday was a handwritten show of support. “Friends of Trinity,” it said. Pastor Barbara Ann Ramer attended the deconsecration to stand with her neighbours.

The Trinity congregation did not pass into history without its own types of protest. Paul Coleman, a retired Ontario civil servant and treasurer of Friends of Trinity Anglican, held devotions at the closed church doors every Sunday since plans for the deconsecration were announced.

“There were some ironies in that closing hymn today,” he noted. “When it said, ‘Christ opens every door.’ ”

For Joan Leigh, it was too painful a loss to bear. She couldn’t go inside the church, she said.

“How they can say that God doesn’t live here anymore is beyond belief.”

For more on this story go to:–trinity-anglican-church-in-colborne-ont-closed-after-deconsecration




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