Four Churches, One Project

From The Prebyterian Record July 1, 2008

Four downtown Kitchener congregations, who had signed a covenant in 2001 to work together, met in May to discuss the issues they face. St. Andrew's Presbyterian, St. Peter's plus Zion and Trinity United Churches, held an architectural competition at the University of Waterloo in 2004 which resulted in a plan to raze several church wings, and build high-density housing while conserving sanctuaries. This year's conference sponsored by Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation sought to hear about other downtown church projects and consider future options.

A Lutheran member assessed the problems facing his church: too much real estate, declining attendance and membership, operating expenses are not being met, mission money is not there, staff are not being paid appropriately, and upkeep is not being done.

In contrast to the other congregations, Rev. J. Mark Lewis of St Andrew's says, "I think that we're growing. And trying to expand all our missions and ministries. And we have money, because we have people. I think that we're in a growth and strengthening position." The congregation is aging but vibrant, youth ministry continues to grow. Attendance is leading some to think about returning to two morning services.

Jan Blackburn of St. Andrew's sees the Four Churches project as a mission in itself, a witness to the community of Christian unity, an avenue to attract people into the downtown and into the worshipping community. Perhaps a renewed day care will be located at St. Andrew's. They want to grow mission in the downtown, not to just preserve the congregation. But preservation is an issue as St. Andrew's building has a heritage designation that limits its uses and reshaping. The next meeting is this fall.

Dave Rogalsky