News this month that Queen Street United Church, the church with the big window that you can see all the way down Queen Street in Lindsay, is moving. The building was sold to Mackey Funeral Home in November. Services shift next week to a new location on Mary Street.
Needless to say, the congregation is in mourning. Most of the members of that church – I used to be the organist there – are elderly people who have attended Queen Street for years, if not their lives. In fact, the church is so picturesque, with the river right beside it, that it was frequently requested for weddings by members and non-members alike. Queen Street United will likely miss the financial boost the weddings brought.
But Rev. Wayne Reed says it was financially unviable to continue to worship in the building that had so many costs associated with it. Expenses were outweighing the income – most of which comes from that dwindling congregation itself from weekly offerings, or – sometimes – a memorial gift.
It’s the story of many churches in the Kawarthas that are either closing or amalgamating. Last year, it was St. Matthews on Wallace Point Road which merged with Donwood United Church. In the 1950s and 60s, there was a boom in church attendance, but that boom has been followed by a draining of the pews. Few churches have more than a handful of people in the pews on a Sunday.
We can debate why, but rather than engage in an intellectual banter, it is wise to remember that, while many churches are closing or merging, some are thriving. This year, Gilmour Memorial Baptist Church, a small country haven just north of Peterborough, launched a $3/4-million campaign to expand. They’ve almost reached their goal!
There is a lesson in all this: the vibrance of a church community lies not in its history, or roots, or in the size or decor of the building: it comes from the way in which individual members reflect the church’s mission. It comes from the individual decisions made by each member on how to treat one another, the community, and newcomers. And for that reason, there is hope, whether Queen Street congregants worship in an office building or a stone chapel steeped in history.