After adjusting programming to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, one Lethbridge minister says the Christian Church is still struggling. Reverend Taylor Croissant with Southminster United Church in downtown Lethbridge presented a talk to the Southern Alberta Council On Public Affairs (SACPA) on Jan. 19, where he posed the question, “will the church survive the pandemic?”
“In a way there is a simple answer to this, yes the Christian church will go on,” he said. “Levels of religiosity have ebbed and flowed throughout the history of Christianity but the challenges currently faced by individual congregations will be daunting for the remainder of this decade. Our churches have struggled to get their attendance back to their pre-pandemic levels.”
He pointed out tangible challenges the church faced, such as finances and shifting to online worships when people were staying at home. He added the church is still dealing with the intangible issues that it faced during the peak of the pandemic, such as divisive politics.
“Keeping peace within our congregations became tremendously hard. This has still not been resolved in Lethbridge — as court dates for the accused plotting the murder of an RCMP officer at the Coutts blockade have seen protest gatherings at the courthouse in the recent months and they are invoking Christian messaging to further their cause and I will say unequivocally as a Christian leader in Lethbridge that I denounce this use if the Christian faith to advocate violence in our community,” he said.
He said he expects it to take several years for churches to build back up to pre-pandemic attendance levels and predicts many faith communities will be lost in Lethbridge before the end of the decade.
“Churches will also struggle going forward in the pandemic in finding their purpose. Especially for us churches that make up the downtown ministerial, We have seen the devastation that surrounds us in downtown Lethbridge — the housing crisis, the addictions crisis,” he said. “We want to do something to help, especially so for us United Anglican and Roman Catholic churches because so much of these very serious social issues can be directly connected with our denominations’ histories in running Indian Residential Schools. Because of our own struggles trying to hold our own congregations together right now, our inability to offer support that would make a difference in the face of these multiple crises is quite chastening.”
Croissant said finances continue to be the biggest challenge for faith communities.