With low numbers and an older population, Brentwood Bay United Church has been on the market since the summer and will be closing its doors.
“Part of it is that the numbers were diminishing which means that the finances to keep both places open are diminishing,” said Reverend Barbara Hansen.
As one congregation, Shady Creek United Church and Brentwood Bay United Church have been one pastoral charge since 1990. Hansen said it isn’t unusual this is happening, as main line churches across the country have been losing members. And it isn’t just Christian churches. There are other faith communities too that are having a similar kind of thing, becoming a sort of trend.
Roll clerk, Marian Garnett, who keeps records of the members’ list, has been one of the longest-serving members of the congregation for more than 30 years. She said Brentwood Bay United came to be as the congregation at Shady Creek was, at the time, just too big and all the members could not fit in the smaller church.
At one point there were 40 people and now it’s closer to half a dozen at the Brentwood Bay church. Garnett said most of the elderly members have died or have moved into nursing homes, leaving very few of the original members.
“The numbers have (become) so low,” she told the PNR.
Currently, people are worshipping together at Shady Creek.
“In terms of needing one room to put everybody in, Shady Creek is a smaller building, it’s adequate,” she said.
“Some people feel it’s a terrible change because they’re attached to the building and some people feel it’s a terrible change because they’re being asked to worship at a different time in the morning,” said Garnett.
She said this is why the afternoon teas are important as some people just can’t make it for the 10:15 a.m. service at Shady Creek. Teas are once a month and are a brief service with a communion and a chance to socialize.
“It’s such an honour to serve people whose faith is so deep and so strong and who have come together to build … both congregations,” Hansen said. “They’ve been so key on that, so part of what we’re really … wanting (is) to help them feel like they’re part of the community.”
Next week is the last Christmas Eve service Brentwood Bay United Church will hold, after more than 50 years.
As far as what will happen to the church, Hansen and Garnett say they don’t know at this point. The decision has been made, however, to sell the property.
There has been interest expressed by some parties willing to buy the building. Environmental assessments inside and outside of the building are complete, but they say a final deal has not yet been worked out.
“The church, the building is closing, the community and the heart of Brentwood Bay United Church isn’t,” said Hansen.
The congregation of Shady Creek and Brentwood Bay United Church are exploring new ways of being involved in the community, and they anticipate the church will carry on at Shady Creek.
Sunday morning service will take place at Shady Creek and Hansen said the members will be looking at creative and innovative ways to have a presence in Brentwood Bay itself. Hansen said the last service at Brentwood Bay’s church will be based on when a property sale is finalized, adding the congregation is still using the space for office staff and various meetings.
“We’re still a living presence here and we intend to continue to be a living presence in Brentwood Bay,” Hansen said. “But who we are, what we look like and what we do, I think there is lots of energy and enthusiasm for what that can be.”