Magazine article Anglican Journal

Falling Membership Not Only Option

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Falling Membership Not Only Option

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two-part article on growth churches.

GROWTH IS A FEATURE of church life on the prairies too. When Rev. Murray Henderson arrived at St. Aidan's, Winnipeg, he found a respectable Sunday attendance of about 160. Since then, in the late 1980s, it has almost doubled, his people raising the largest parish budget in the diocese.

One factor in the growth has been diversity. Murray provides different worship styles at different hours on Sunday to meet different preferences. An early service is straight prayer book. Later in the morning, tradition and contemporary worship are blended. Charismatic features are part of an evening service.

As well, Murray has developed a small groups ministry, all newcomers being invited into a fellowship of eight to a dozen people.

That there is no such thing as a growth formula is clear from two other western churches. One of them - All Saints', Regina, shows how it is not only conservative churches that grow. It is a congregation whose women's study program could include a book on myths about the birth of Christ.

But it is also a church that developed such a children's ministry that it needed an expanded parish hall. So it built one in 1991 at a cost of $400,000 that has now been paid, that expansion leading to a growth of the church population from 300 to 350 families.

All Saints' demonstrates that growth results not as much from a theological position as it does from a quality of life, like a family-oriented program.

Another mark of growth churches is the energy with which they welcome new people and the efficiency with which they integrate them into parish life. Murray Henderson, for example, endorses the claim that people who make new friends in a church within the first six months are the ones most likely to stay.

St. Peter's, Calgary, works at making that happen. Its location at one of western Canada's busiest corners inspired its laity to erect a $7,000 outdoor sign so that the thousands passing by every day would get some message from the church.

Those who come inside get a message too. They get a welcome from the chancel by Bishop Gary Woolsey, the rector, their names and addresses being obtained at a table set up for that in the narthex. Over coffee they have a chance to meet clergy and other laity. Twice a year newcomers are invited to a get-together when the clergy and lay leaders tell them about life at St. Peter's.

And there is such a lot of life there. A consciously "programmatic church," it has something for everyone. …

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