After 150 years of serving the Ottawa community, parishioners at St. Luke’s Anglican Church have decided to no longer be a congregation.
The church community found a home in the building on Somerset Street in Chinatown for 100 years.
In October, the parish was rocked by a fire that closed its doors — what was the final straw in a long discussion about the future of the church.
On Sunday, the community voted to ask permission to disestablish as a congregation, which means regular church services would cease and current parishioners would no longer be a member of St. Luke’s.
Since the fire, the congregation has been meeting at All Saints Church in Westboro but the diocese expects St. Luke’s last service will be held soon.
The decision still has to go through several steps of approval through higher levels at the diocese, including the bishop.
“There was a period of decline over the last few years,” said Linda Hill, executive archdeacon for the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.
“I’d been in touch with … with the Parish council in September to talk about having a series of meetings to discuss what their future might be, and then the very next month that catastrophic fire happened.”
That decline in parishioners, Hill said, led to a lack in parish leadership and financial troubles, to the point where it was hard to pay for clergy.
St. Luke’s is not alone in the ask to disestablish, Hill said recently St. Martin’s parish voted to do the same. It’s a trend she is hoping doesn’t continue.
“It’s a really difficult decision for a congregation to come to, but [St. Luke’s] did. It was very clear, but sad.”
Hill said the diocese is working on ways to train church leaders, better animate existing parishes and set up new worshipping communities.
Building will remain in service
The church building will remain within the Anglican diocese, though it will no longer provide Sunday services.
It will, however, continue to serve the community through St. Luke’s Table hosted there, a program that’s been in operation for 40 years, providing drop-in services, counselling and crisis-intervention programs and serving hundreds of meals per week.
“We want to be able to restore that to where it was prior to the fire because those services are just so incredibly essential for the people in the community,” said Rev. Peter John Hobbs, director of general community ministries for the diocese.
Hobbs said the building is currently being cleaned and readied for repairs, with the hope to start construction in the new year. He estimates the project will take at least another year to complete.
The diocese said it has been told the building will never be restored to its original state, but will continue to serve the community through programs hosted there.
“There’s a lot of possibilities for that,” Hobbs said. “It’s a lovely space and I’m sure that once the diocese has given some considerable thought to it, that we’ll be able to come up with a great resource.”