As wrecking crews level the Knox-Metropolitan United Church in south Edmonton, parishioners who belonged to the decades-old Garneau building are finding a new place of worship.
Many members of the Knox-Metropolitan congregation have joined United on Whyte, a merged congregation of four south-side churches that were failing to thrive.
All four congregations were facing similar challenges; shrinking congregations, dwindling revenue and aging buildings that had begun to deteriorate, said interim minister at United on Whyte, reverend Heather Wright.
The truth of the matter is that the Christian faith is in decline in Canada.– Heather Wright
“Four churches have come together and we’re creating a new thing,” said interim minister at United on Whyte, reverend Heather Wright.
“The truth of the matter is that the Christian faith is in decline in Canada, and all of those churches were experiencing decline in membership … And our older generations saw fit to build enormous, lovely churches so that’s a no brainer that something had to change.”
“The bygone era was really about the bricks and mortar and those big, outlandish facilities,” Wright said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“But this whole transition has been about wanting to reinvest their resources into a lasting, supportive ministry, rather than a big new building.”
An experiment in faith
Constructed in 1942, the Knox Metropolitan needed significant repairs. After thriving for decades, the congregation shrunk to a few dozen.
The old structure was sold in 2016 and the property will become a nine storey mixed-use development called The Artisan, with townhouse style units facing 83rd Avenue, and commercial units facing 109th Street.
Heavy equipment has been ripping away at the church all week.
It’s been an absolute joy to work with such a broad group of people who actually are committed to change.– Heather Wright
It’s been a bittersweet but rewarding time for members of the congregation, said Wright, who was who brought in to facilitate the transition.
Change can be difficult, but parishioners have a lot of faith in the future of a combined congregation.
“The trust and the vulnerability the whole congregation has placed in me and each other is very moving,” she said.
“Every day, it’s been an absolute joy to work with such a broad group of people who actually are committed to change and that’s not always a real common thing in the church.”
The new United on Whyte church got started two years ago. That’s when United Church congregations from the Knox-Metropolitan, Ritchie, Pleasantview and Avonmore locations agreed to form a new church together.
Pleasantview and Ritchie United Churches closed and their parishioners began worshiping together with Avonmore at their building in 2015. Knox-Metropolitan parishioners joined them the following year.
All four congregations began worshipping together in the building located at 7909 82 Avenue beginning in January of 2016.