Magazine article Anglican Journal

Diocese (of Calgary) Rides Boom-Bust Oil-Patch Economy

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Diocese (of Calgary) Rides Boom-Bust Oil-Patch Economy

Article excerpt

Anglican extremes also a challenge

WITH AN ECONOMY so closely tied to the oil industry, Calgary has seen its share of boom and bust times over the past 15 years. The Diocese of Calgary, established in 1888, has not been isolated from the challenges and opportunities of coping with wild swings in the economy and its effect on the population. This is true in both the rural and urban areas of the diocese's 82,000 square miles.

There are about 20,000 Anglicans in 96 congregations in the diocese, which runs east-west from Saskatchewan to British Columbia and north-south from the U.S. border to Lacombe, a community just north of Red Deer.

Archbishop Barry Curtis was elected bishop in 1983. At the time the city of Calgary was booming. People were coming from all parts of Canada to work in the city and residents of Alberta's rural areas were also leaving home to find work.

"We are so dependent on the oil industry which is very cyclical," said Archbishop Curtis. "It has a huge effect on the diocese, particularly in the urban setting. When the money flows in there are lots of jobs, but then housing becomes a problem. When oil prices drop, people have to relocate and this affects parishes which were built on the assumptions there would be people and resources to support them."

A case in point, he said, is the parish of St. George. It was built near the city's airport to accommodate a growing population. But, by the mid-80s, the financial infrastructure that had looked so promising just a few years before had disappeared.

That left a huge mortgage that was "paralyzing to the diocese through the '80s," said Archbishop Curtis. "We just couldn't look at growth because we had to support this parish and keep it open."

By the beginning of the 90s, Calgary and the surrounding communities began to see a resurgence of population, thanks in part to a mini-boom in the oil industry. The diocese ran a successful financial campaign. This allowed it once again to look at ways to address the renewal of some long-established rural parishes. Some are more than 100 years old, and many are suddenly serving a much larger population.

Recently, Archbishop Curtis dedicated St. Paul's in south Calgary and the diocese is in the process of buying land to build a new church for the congregation of Holy Trinity in the city's north end. That congregation is currently meeting in a school gym. …

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