St. Paul’s Anglican Church in western Lachine will shut its doors for good next weekend, marking the end of the West Island’s largest Anglican church.
In recent years, St. Paul’s congregation has dwindled while costs of operating and maintaining the large church and adjoining halls on 44th Ave. have increased to the point the numbers no longer work.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Barry Clarke, Montreal’s Anglican bishop and St. Paul’s rector from 1993-2004.
St. Paul’s is the first West Island Anglican Church to fall victim to the demographic and social changes that have already closed numerous Catholic churches across the province.
Clarke will officiate a final service at the church, a choral eucharist scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday.
“The greater issue is how do we effectively live out the Gospel in the 21st century when society is growing increasingly secular,” Clarke said.
“It’s a challenge.”
Nowadays, on Sunday mornings, Anne Simpson said, “everyone is at the hockey rink or eating breakfast at one of those restaurants.”
Simpson, the people’s warden at the church and a long-time parishioner, said it was sad: “Church is a place to worship and give thanks for all that we have been given.”
Founded in 1873 just after Canada’s Confederation, St. Paul’s started as a little clapboard church and belfry but quickly grew as Montrealers moved west. The church building was expanded to meet the needs of growing faith community.
The large church sanctuary that exists today was consecrated in 1964.
Up until the late 1990s, the church was still attracting between 500 and 600 people a week for various activities held in its two fellowship halls and 500-seat sanctuary. It held blessing of the pets events, bazaars, organized mission work and served as a second location after Christ Church Cathedral downtown for large Anglican Church gatherings.
But that has all changed as St. Paul’s congregation has aged and the church’s volunteer capital has dwindled. Today, the church no longer even runs a Sunday school.
“There are only two young families,” said Simpson, who has worshipped at St. Paul’s for more than 40 years and remembers when hundreds of children attended its Sunday school.
Clarke said the 125 families that now worship at St. Paul’s will go to other Anglican churches in the West Island, including St. Stephen’s in Lachine, St. Andrew and St. Mark in Dorval and St. John the Baptist in Pointe-Claire.
“It’s a community that is being dispersed and, they won’t all be together any more,” he said. “There’s grief and sadness around all of that.”
Clarke said St. Paul’s was especially dear to him because he met his recently deceased wife, Leslie James, there. She was a member of the choir. They married at St. Paul’s in 1997. She died last month after a long illness.
For the time being, the church building will not be deconsecrated. No decision has yet been made on whether the building will be sold.