Three Lutheran churches merge their congregations
WATERLOO REGION — Three Lutheran congregations in Kitchener and Waterloo have combined into a new church in the face of dwindling membership.
Reformation Lutheran Church in Kitchener held its last service at 456 Krug St. in June. St. Mark’s held its closing service at the end of September at 825 King St. W. between Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute and Grand River Hospital. Both those congregations have merged with St John’s Lutheran in its church at 22 Willow St. in Waterloo to form Trillium Lutheran Church.
The new congregation began to worship on Oct. 7 in the Willow Street building, and will hold a celebratory worship service on Nov. 4 to mark the new beginning.
The move was prompted by “dwindling numbers and a re-evaluation of the use of assets and how they can be better put to us,” said Michael Pryse, bishop of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
On a typical Sunday, Reformation saw about 35 people at its worship service, while St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s averaged about 90 worshippers.
It’s a trend most mainstream churches are struggling with, said Pryse, who is responsible for 120 Lutheran congregations stretching from Halifax to Sault Ste. Marie. “Everyone’s pretty much got the same graph on their wall,” he said.
Two other Kitchener Lutheran churches — St. Phillip and St. Luke — merged earlier this year.
The former St. Philip site was sold and will open as a new Indigenous drop-in centre this fall. The church reduced its asking price to help the drop-in centre and the synod helped with the new centre’s mortgage, Pryse said.
“That’s a good news story,” he said, adding that the church was able to support “an agency that’s going to do some wonderful work that aligns with our values.”
It can be wrenching to see a loved church shuttered, he said. His home church was St. Philip, where he was baptized in 1962, so he knows how difficult that can be. But with so many underused churches, there are opportunities to rethink what the church does with its resources, he said.
“Part of my job is to shine a spotlight on the opportunities and blessings that can be bestowed by thinking of our sacred spaces in creative ways,” he said.
St. Mark’s hasn’t yet been sold. The former Reformation church on Krug has been sold to another congregation.
Reformation Lutheran Church held its last service in June. The congregation has joined Trillium Lutheran Church at 22 Willow St. in Waterloo.