September 2017

How Catholicism Shaped Canadian History
The Catholic faith has played a large role in shaping Canada's culture and history.

The Catholic faith has played a large role in shaping Canada’s culture and history.

Like other nations in the Americas that began as former European colonies, Canada’s history has been largely defined by exploration and conquest, along with the establishment of religious missionaries. The last National Household Survey revealed that Catholics make up 38.7 percent of Canada’s population, a testament to the legacy of Catholicism in our country. Indeed, the Catholic faith has played a large role in shaping its culture and history.

Did It Begin With John Cabot’s Arrival?

Chronicles of America disclosed that Venetian explorer John Cabot, better known to some as Giovanni Caboto, landed in northeastern Canada in 1497. Depending on who you ask, Cabot’s ship landed in either Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland, Labrador or even the northeastern part of the United States. In either case, his Biography entry reveals that he claimed the territory for King Henry VII of England. Some sources insist that he also raised banners for his home nation of Venice and for the Pope, but some of Cabot’s story has been lost to history and remains in the domain of speculation today.

Samuel de Champlain and French Catholic Settlement 

French navigator and geographer Samuel de Champlain left his own mark on Canadian history as the first to make an accurate map of its eastern coastline. In 1608, he established a Catholic colony that eventually became our modern-day Quebec City. A few years later, he founded a fur trading post and Catholic colony on the Island of Montreal. Known as “the Father of New France,” he spent his time in Canada creating trading opportunities, charting new areas, and furthering relations with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The Canadian Encyclopedia explains that several Catholic orders came to Canada later in the 1600s, including Franciscans and Jesuits. While the French Canadian Catholic Church’s focus was first on evangelizing Indigenous peoples, it soon had to turn its attention to the growing population of French settlers. With the establishment of parishes and other institutions, the first diocese was formed in Quebec in 1674, and Catholicism had firmly established itself in the region.

British Impacts on Canadian Catholicism

During the same period in which French Canada was developing as a Catholic territory, British Catholics were creating their own presence in Newfoundland. In 1620, George Calvert established the Avalon colony, in which a Catholic ministry was founded by two priests. As part of Avalon’s first charter, Calvert included the concept of religious tolerance to allow all residents, including Catholics, to practice their faiths freely.

However, British influence would not fully play out until the Seven Years’ War and French Canada’s conquest. The Canadian Encyclopedia mentions the 1763 Treaty of Paris, which converted New France over to British rule. The years that followed proved to be somewhat contentious for both French Canadian Catholics and their new British Protestant neighbors. French Catholics worried about conversion attempts from English Protestants, but the right to openly practice their religion was included in the terms of surrender. These liberties were further secured in the Quebec Act of 1774.

Irish Immigration Adds Further Complexities

Irish Catholics began migrating to Canada in the second half of the 17th century. This would set the stage for the later battle over French-language schools in the nation. Siding with Canadian Protestants, Irish Catholics opposed the use of French in public educational institutions, while French Catholics remained staunchly in favor of it. This heated debate led to legislation such as Ontario’s Regulation 17. As TVO revealed, it was enforced until 1927 and repealed in 1944. Moreover, full public funding to French-language schools was not instituted until 1968.

Catholicism’s Legacy in Canada

From initial settlement, to questions of religious freedom, to a battle between cultures, the history of Catholicism in Canada is a long and complex one. Our nation’s religious makeup, the monuments left behind by earlier settlers and even modern public policies all display evidence of its legacy.

 

Sikhs Continue to Make a Life in Canada
Sikhs make a life in Canada.

Sikhs make a life in Canada.

Sikhs make up about 1.4 percent of the current Canadian population, according to the most recent National Household Survey. Those numbers translate to a community with over 468,000 members in a country of almost 36 million people. As part of the global diaspora of Sikhs, Canadian followers of this faith enjoy more opportunities while facing unique challenges.

Sikhs Arrive in Canada in the 1800s

The first Sikh settlers, a group of British Indian Army officers, came to Vancouver aboard the Empress of India ocean liner in 1897. These and later immigrants typically found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway, on farms, and in the lumber industry. They faced discrimination in many aspects of their daily lives. Sikh workers, along with other South Asian immigrants, were frequently paid far less than white workers performing the same jobs. Additionally, ignorance about their religion resulted in these individuals being classified as Hindus, and thus they were accused of observing a caste system. The Sikh religion adheres to principles taught by Guru Nanak, who spoke against discrimination based on caste, creed, or gender and believed in equality for all humans. Thus, such a characterization of the Sikh immigrants was inaccurate.

Growing Racism Yields Disastrous Results

As anti-immigrant sentiment grew among white Canadians and successive laws against Asian immigrants were passed, many Sikhs were forced to leave for the United States, Mexico, and South America. One notorious refusal of Indian immigrants occurred in 1914 when a chartered ship carrying hundreds of Sikhs from the Punjab region of India was turned away by the Canadian government. When the vessel returned to India, British soldiers murdered over a dozen of its passengers. The Wall Street Journal disclosed in 2016 that the Canadian government apologised for the affair, known as the “Komagata Maru incident,” in May of last year.

Fighting for Equality

Throughout the first half of the 1900s, Sikhs who stayed in Canada fought for their civil rights. This included their activism with the Khalsa Diwan Society, an organisation formed for the religious, social, political, and cultural development of the community. This era also saw them contributing to Canadian society. One famous example is World War I veteran Buckam Singh, who served with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion and was wounded twice in the line of duty. While his story and heroics were almost forgotten for over a century, modern Canadian history now recognises and includes his efforts. Furthermore, all Sikhs had earned the right to vote by 1947.

A New Wave of Immigration Brings Renewed Possibilities

Beginning in the 1950s, educated Sikhs began to emigrate to Canada. These professionals joined the medical, technological, legal, academic, and other advanced fields. Over time, they contributed to making Canada a more diverse nation in several aspects, including entering politics and public service. In a November 2015 Washington Post article, Ishaan Tharoor reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet included four Sikh public officials. However, Trudeau’s announcement, along with his later statements about equality and civil rights for people of colour in Canada, have not stood without criticism. Writer Ramesh Thakur opined in a March 2016 piece in the Globe and Mail that the number of Sikhs in Canada’s cabinet is out of proportion with their percentage of Canada’s population, with greater representation than the 468,000 in the country would warrant.

What Does the Future Hold? 

Canadian Sikhs now pursue career, educational, and other opportunities that were once denied to many of their predecessors. However, they may face new challenges ahead as anti-immigrant sentiment has started to increase. The New York Times reported on this trend in January 2017, revealing fears that the right-wing extremism prevalent in United States politics may be moving northward across the border. What happens next for the Sikhs in Canada remains to be seen.

For a Unique Wedding Cake Option, Try a Croquembouche
A French Croquembouche can be a delicious alternative to a traditional wedding cake.

A Croquembouche can be a unique wedding cake option.

With the number of French contributions to our culture, you probably won’t be surprised to find a croquembouche at a Canadian wedding. However, you might not be familiar with the history, details and preparation behind these fascinating pastry desserts. Whether you’ve adopted a French theme for your festivities or just want a different type of wedding cake for your reception, this delightful tower of goodness might be just right for your crowd.

Origins in 19th Century France 

While much of Canada was still under British rule, a young Parisian baker began crafting a pastry creation that would become his enduring legacy. In January 2017, the U.S. media network National Public Radio website published a piece on legendary French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the famed inventor of the croquembouche. Born to an impoverished family around 1783 or 1784, he was presumably orphaned by social turmoil resulting from the French revolution. Carême began working in a Paris kitchen at the age of eight, and by the time he was 15 years old, he’d landed a position as an apprentice to top-rated pastry chef Sylvain Bailly.

As Carême honed his craft during his late teen years, Bailly regularly displayed Carême’s stunningly elaborate pastries in his bakery shop window. By the late 1700s, this young sensation had fashioned a tower of small, round cream puffs called “choux” festooned with spun sugar. A recipe for this dessert, which he called a croquembouche, was published in his 1815 cookbook “Le Pâtissier royal parisien.” Meanwhile, Carême continued to rise to culinary stardom, designing lavish, beautiful sweets for the likes of Napoleon, Russia’s Czar Alexander I and prince regent George IV of England.

The Croquembouche in the Modern World

While there are many modern variations on this delicious pastry, they still follow the same basic format: a tall mountain of cream puffs covered in spun sugar and other wonderful edibles. You’ll probably have no difficulty finding bakers in any province to supply one for your special day, and it’s an appropriate wedding cake for many types of wedding themes. Wedding Bells Magazine showcased a French vintage matrimonial affair in a 2012 piece on its website, adding that the couple chose a croquembouche to add a delicate grandeur to their festivities.

If you think that such a spectacular wedding cake should get its own entrance and fanfare, you’re absolutely right. In fact, contributor Kim Petyt on The Good Life France blog revealed that a croquembouche is usually not presented until dessert time. With the lights dimmed and celebratory music playing, guests typically begin chanting “Le gateau! Le gateau!” as the star of the hour is brought out to the dining hall while decorated in small, sizzling fireworks. Once the display is over, the staff serves each guest three or four of the sweet, creamy choux to enjoy.

Flavorful Possibilities Abound

In both exterior decorative touches and inner fillings, the croquembouche presents a wide variety of lovely flavors. Traditionally, each choux contains vanilla-bourbon crème in the center. Nevertheless, bakeries offer several popular filling choices which can include favorites such as caramel and chocolate, or less common tastes like rose, pistachio or orange blossom. Besides spun sugar or pastel-tinted icing, a croquembouche wedding cake can be decked out in sugared almonds, chocolate, candied ribbons or even edible flowers.

A Delicious Wedding Cake Idea for Your Nuptial Affair 

The croquembouche is a distinctive and delightful wedding cake that offers a complex combination of aesthetics, French culture and flavor. Its name appropriately translates to “crunch in the mouth,” and your guests will enjoy the taste and texture of this now-classic sweet treat. Add to that the customary celebratory fanfare with which it’s presented during your festivities, and your croquembouche will certainly be a memorable part of your wedding day.

A Religious Tour of Calgary
Having been built in 1883, St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary is one of the oldest churches in Canada.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary is a fantastic place to start your religious tour.

If you’ve seen the movies “Doctor Zhivago,” “Unforgiven,” or “The Revenant,” you have seen the landscape of Calgary. Most people are familiar with the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day rodeo and exhibition, or one of the many other festivals in the city. It’s a cultural mecca, home to ethnic restaurants, venues and museums.

Calgary may not be recognizable for its contribution to the religious fiber of the nation, but it has some beautiful churches that are part of the history of the city. Here are some of the best places to explore this heritage.

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The foundations for St. Mary’s were laid in 1887 and the building was completed in 1889, but the church began in 1873 when Father Constantine Scollen founded the first mission in southern Alberta. The Resurrection Glass Panel is a stunning piece of stained glass art.

Central United Church

The original building was dedicated in 1905 and was decorated in antique wood and walnut while he walls were made of sandstone from local quarries. Just 11 years later, the interior was destroyed by a boiler fire and would be refurbished. The church then reopened in 1917. At one time, this congregation had about 3,500 members, the largest congregation in the United Church of Canada, but the growth declined in the 1960s.

Lantern Community Church

This church has a lot of history. It’s over 100 years old, with a majestic pipe organ and what might be the best acoustics in the community. It’s home to many more events than just Sunday service. The most interesting aspect of this congregation is that one Sunday each month, instead of holding service, they go out into the community and do things for their neighbors.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church

This Catholic church is much newer than most, built in the late 20th century. It is more modern, but still a beautiful building. The church is currently undergoing renovations, which indicates the congregations plans to be here a long time.

St. Bonaventure Church

This Roman Catholic Church has been here for many years, and it hosts beautiful windows and statues that are examples of the connections between art and religion.

Knox United Church

Know Presbyterian Church started out when Reverend James Robertson preached in the local saloon. The men decided Robertson needed a better place to worship, and the church found its place in the town. At one time, the congregation shared a tent with the Methodists. Knox has a Casavant organ and a strong musical program. It hosts many musical events open to the public.

Calgary Alberta Temple

This stunning building is the third temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built in Alberta and dedicated two years later. Group tours are available by appointment, but you should at least visit the outside of this church to experience its magnitude.

St. Thomas More Parish

Another newer parish in the community, this church held its initial meeting in 1979. The new church building was completed in 1985, with Bishop Paul O’Byrne blessing the church at its opening mass in October. The stained glass windows are more modern, which allows you to see how art has changed through the years.

Explore Calgary Through Its Churches

While driving through Calgary, take a look at some of the churches and how they are designed and built. It’s a great way to examine how the churches have contributed to the community and will continue to add value to the city.

Lent – A Season of Fasting
Lent is a time for religious people to give something up for their religion for a set amount of time.

During Lent, religious artifacts, such as this crucifix, will be covered for the entire duration of the fast.

One common thread between most Christian religions is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, or Easter. The weeks leading up to Easter are often used as a time of remembrance of Christ’s ministry and what he went through before his death. In Christianity, the season of Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Because the date of Easter is based on a lunar, rather than solar, calendar, the beginning of Lent changes each year. Traditionally, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, which in 2017 falls on March 1.

Traditions of Lent

On Ash Wednesday, Christians attend a worship service in which the minister or priest makes the sign of a cross with ashes on the forehead of the worshipper. This symbolizes the sinfulness before God and human mortality. In the Bible, in both Hebrews and Numbers, the ashes of a red heifer would sanctify the ceremonially unclean. Ashes were thought to be purifying.

Human sorrow is represented by ashes. In the book of Esther, the Jews “lay in sackcloth and ashes” as a way of mourning the edict of the King that allowed for the destruction of the Jews. Job used dust and ashes as a symbol of repentance.

Fasting is one of the most common ways that Lent is observed. In older times, the tradition would be to have one full meal per day, with smaller meals allowed. The idea was that a person should have enough food to sustain strength, but never enough to feel full. Each community would have their own traditions, but generally, animal products were forbidden. Fish and fowl might be allowed on Fridays.

On Sundays, the fast would be suspended, but during Lent, Christians would refrain from saying “Alleluia” or the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” rite. These rituals were associated with joy. Because Lent was a time of sorrow, the words would be replaced with another phrase or simply omitted during the season.

During Lent the religious objects such as the cross, statues and pictures might be veiled for the entire 40 days. However, Anglican and Methodist churches traditionally only cover the objects on Good Friday. In more progressive churches, the liturgy of Lent might not be observed at all. Instead, the emphasis is on Easter Sunday, rather than penitence.

Fasting for Social Change

One current trend seen around Lent is that of a positive fast. People don’t just give up food or pleasure, but instead contribute to environmental stewardship. At Greenanglicans.org, people are remembering the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness by doing one thing every day to be more environmentally conscious. For example, have dinner by candlelight and then talk and play games together.

Charisma House, a Christian publisher, is suggesting a 10-day word fast from complaining, criticism, sarcasm and gossip. According to Isaiah 58:6: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The study asks you to watch what you say for just 10 days, to help you change a pattern of discouragement and negativity.

Another interesting concept is taking on atheism for Lent. For 40 days, a Christian examines literature that speaks to who God is and his or her beliefs in God. It’s a time to examine ideological structures of religion.

You do not have to honor Lent to celebrate Easter, but respect those who do. It’s a Christian tradition that means a lot to those who do partake in the season.

 

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Canada
Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world.

Mardi Gras is a time of celebration just before lent.

February 28 is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Carnival and/or Mardi Gras, depending on your culture and traditions. Mardi Gras is the last day for parties before the time of Lent. Lent is when many Christians fast before the Easter holiday. You don’t have to celebrate Easter to enjoy Mardi Gras, but knowing why it’s celebrated can help you understand the traditions.

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is based on the date of Easter. This means that the date generally changes from year to year. In 2017, it’s February 28. Next year, the date is February 13. In Canada, it’s not a statutory holiday, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find celebrations here in the country.

During Lent, Christians give up many indulgences, such as meat, alcohol and rich foods. Shrove Tuesday began as a way of using up the food in the household that might be forbidden during Lent. Some believe that Pancake Tuesday was a pagan holiday. Christians are reported to have made pancakes because the recipe would use up eggs, lard or butter, sugar and milk, foods that might be limited through Lent.

Although Lent probably originated in Europe, people around the world now celebrate Mardi Gras, Carnival or Shrove Tuesday with huge festivals. Masquerades and costumes are popular, but so are large amounts of alcohol, many rich foods, not only pancakes and pastries.

At one time, Mardi Gras was a more sedate celebration. Today, it is often considered the single person’s holiday in late Winter, as opposed to Valentine’s Day, which is more couple-centric. 

Where to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Since 1445, Olney in Buckinghamshire has held a pancake race in which women (although men can participate) carry a frypan and toss a pancake in it while racing 415 yards (one-quarter of a kilometer). The pancake must be in the pan when crossing the finish line, and the contestants must be tossing it as they cross the finish. Typically, these women also dress as housewives, wearing an apron and a scarf. Following the race, everyone goes to the church for a service.

Rio, New Orleans, Trinidad and Tobago and Sydney, Australia are great places to go to enjoy huge parties and crowds for Mardi Gras. Not only is this a time to eat indulgently, it’s also a time to be free of inhibitions. It’s an “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” attitude. In New Orleans, it’s traditional to accumulate beads. Tourists think the best way to get beads is to flash someone, but really, locals prefer you just shout, “throw me something, mister!“ at the people on the floats. Parents of children who come out for the parade will thank you for not flashing yourself for their kids to see.

Places in Canada to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Locally, the most popular place for Mardi Gras celebrations is in Quebec City, but this year’s Carnaval de Quebec was from January 27 through February 12, making it much earlier than Mardi Gras. Ottawa’s Winterlude also misses it this year, as it is from February 3 through 20. You may just have to look for ones in your neighborhood or create your own traditions.

Wedding Traditions From Around The World
Certain wedding traditions have been practiced for hundreds of years.

There are all kinds of traditions that continue through the world. Many have similarities while others can be vastly different.

If you’re trying to plan a unique ceremony for your special day, check out some of these special wedding traditions from around the world.

 

 

 

Wedding Traditions from other Cultures

  • Congo – Brides and grooms aren’t allowed to smile on their wedding day. When they do, it shows that they aren’t serious about the marriage.
  • China – The bride travels to the groom’s home in a decorated sedan chair. Attendants take care of the bride on the journey by holding parasols to shield her from the elements. They throw rice at the chair as a sign of prosperity and health. Female bridesmaids put the groom through a series of tests for him to prove his worthiness of the bride. He must give them envelopes of money before they’ll allow him to have their friend.
  • Fiji – The potential bridegroom must present his father with a whale’s tooth when he asks for her hand in marriage.
  • Jamaica – The bride is paraded through the streets. If the villagers go home, it means she didn’t look her best. She must go home and spruce herself up for another go.

Some Other Cultures Practices

  • Guatemala – The groom’s parents host the reception party. The groom’s mother breaks a ceramic bell filled with grains to give the couple prosperity.
  • Germany – The guests break porcelain dishes in front of the new home. The bride and groom are to clean these dishes up together as a demonstration of working together to overcome anything.
  • Scotland – Gretna Green is the place to elope. In medieval times, Gretna Green would marry young couples who did not always have parental permission.
  • Kenya – The bride’s father spits on her as she leaves the reception. It’s thought to preempt fate by not seeming too supportive of the couple.
  • Greece – The best man (or groom’s best friend) shaves the groom before the wedding. The new mother-in-law feeds him honey and almonds.
  • Japan – A Shinto bride wears white from head to toe. The head covering is thought to hide the horns of jealousy toward her new mother-in-law. The white symbolizes her maidenhood.
  • Norway – The traditional cake is called kransekake. It’s a tower of almond cake rings stacked on top of each other. The center is often filled with a wine bottle. The bride may wear a gold and silver crown with small trinkets as part of her wedding finery. As she moves, the trinkets jingle, which scares off the evil spirits.
  • Russia – Couples partake of a sweetbread called karavaya which is decorated with grains of wheat for fertility. Whoever takes the largest bite without using their hands is thought to be the head of the family.

As you go through this list, you might notice that many of the wedding traditions are similar to customs we have here. It just shows that we’re more alike than we think.

Historical Churches in Montreal
Historical churches are riddled throughout Montreal.

Notre Dame Basilica Montreal is one of the many historical churches to visit while in Montreal.

Montreal is home to a number of beautiful historical churches. Although it might not be the city you think of when you consider religious history in Canada, it is home to four Roman Catholic basilicas. These churches stand out as a centre of liturgy in the church’s tradition. Only 1,580 churches around the world have been designated a basilica. Montreal houses a number of other stunning religious buildings. Here are seven churches that you should take time to visit and experience, even if you don’t belong to the faith.

 

Different Historical Churches in Montreal

  1. Church of La Visitation-de-la-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie – Although this church is not the oldest church in the city, it does have the oldest original structure and interior. It was finished in 1752, but the stained glass windows were not added until 1893. This structure does not have the exterior presence that some of the basilicas have, but the interior is absolutely breathtaking.
  2. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel – Another very old church founded in 1655. The structure was rebuilt in the late 18th century on the ruins of another church. There’s a museum attached to the church where visitors can learn more about the church history and understand the importance of the altar painting.
  3. Saint Patrick’s Basilica – It took four years to construct this church, and it’s been preserved quite well since its completion in 1847. Saint Patrick’s claim is that it is the oldest English-speaking Roman Catholic church in the city. It houses more than 150 oil paintings. You might want to count the shamrocks or fleur-de-lis symbols.
  4. Church of Saint-Pierre-Apotre – Built in the mid-19th century, this church has also preserved its original interior. The only major change in the original was the installation of stained glass windows about 30 years after it was built. Make sure to visit the Chapel of Hope, which has been dedicated to the victims of AIDS.
  5. Saint Joseph’s Oratory – The Oratory is a national shrine and is Canada’s largest church. The architectural style is Renaissance. Stroll through the monumental walkway any season, but spring and summer are the best times to visit if you enjoy beautiful gardens. Plan to spend some time in the art museum, too.
  6. Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal – If you can’t make it to Paris to see the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral, visit this basilica in this local city. The pipe organ and wood sculptures make this church stand out as one of the city’s top attractions. This structure dates back almost 200 years to 1824.
  7. Church of Saint Genevieve – This church was founded in 1732. The structure wasn’t built until 1844, and it took another 20 years to finish the interior, which has been preserved for all to enjoy the beautiful white and gold colours. It’s a stunning monument that you shouldn’t miss.

Churches are vital to every community. The history of these churches tells a story about the people that helps us more deeply understand the city. Take some time to tour religious buildings and find out more about the heritage of your neighbors.

 

Take a Religious Tour of Vancouver
Religious tours give great insight as to how churches function.

While taking a religious tour, you get to see the inner workings of how churches function.

Even if you aren’t religious, there’s a lot that can be learned by taking a religious tour within a city. You may need to call and make arrangements if you want to tour the inside of the church, but you don’t even have to go inside to see the architecture of the building. Make sure you don’t interrupt worship services. Vancouver is not one of the oldest cities in Canada, but there’s still a lot of heritage within the city. Here are some of the best churches to visit when you’re in town.

Different Churches to Visit On Your Religious Tour

  1. Paul’s Anglican Church was built in 1905. It is now a heritage building that cannot be torn down, nor have the integrity of its design altered. It’s a Gothic Revival design, and when you go inside, there’s a replica of a medieval labyrinth laid in the floor. It’s not a maze, but a walking path that leads into the centre and back out again. People of all faiths use it for meditation and reflection. The labyrinth is open to the public during certain times of the day.
  2. Christ Church Cathedral is noted for its stained glass windows. It’s such a popular exhibit that the church has a self-guided tour that can be downloaded to walk you through the building. The church itself is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture built at the turn of the 20th You might even think that it was taken out of the English countryside and moved to its location in Vancouver. In 1995, the church began a restoration project that took about 11 years. Visitors are invited to take a walking tour through the building to enjoy its rich heritage.
  3. The Holy Rosary Cathedral is home to the Roman Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II visited this church when he came to Vancouver. This building was built in the French Gothic style, and it features 21 beautiful pictorial stained glass windows. It’s one of three places in British Columbia where bells are hung in the English way. The bells made three oceanic crossings before the final installation. After one installation, the bells were not considered melodic enough and had to be sent to England to be melted down and recast.
  4. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church is a short walk from downtown. The Gothic building was completed in 1933, and it’s a popular venue for music concerts. Every Sunday, the church offers Jazz Vespers in the afternoon and candlelight and music service in the evening as extra worship services for the community. The church also houses many stained glass windows and liturgical hangings to help understand the faith.
  5. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral is a beautiful building that did not receive the designation of Cathedral until 1983, but the parish was established in 1937. On the first Friday of the month, the church hosts a Ukrainian supper featuring pirogies and cabbage rolls at great prices. The inside of the Cathedral features beautiful paintings of icons. Worshippers venerate, not worship, these icons and show respect for their faith by genuflecting before the icon painting.

Learning more about faiths outside of your own opens your eyes to the similarities and differences between different religions. It can bridge gaps between individuals and in communities. Take a religious tour of your own town if you can’t get to Vancouver to explore its religious heritage. Look at the difference in architecture, decorations and stained glass windows. You don’t have to be a believer to see the beauty in the history of the building and interior décor. Understanding how religion affects someone’s life helps you understand their morals, their celebrations and their lifestyle. And it gives you a better understanding of the world.

Why Are Churches Losing Attendance?
Why are churches are losing attendance?

Why are churches are losing attendance?

Pick up any Christian magazine or read one online, and you’ll find many theories about why churches are losing attendance. Many people believe that the church is no longer relevant. Some think that adults are choosing to ignore God. There are others who see the church as too hierarchal. In Canada, about 25 percent of adults identify as having no religious affiliation. Many studies have been done about the actual number of people who stop attending church, but very few look at the reasons why. The Church of Scotland, which is Scotland’s national church, commissioned a study about the lack of attendance. The findings were surprising.

One of the key beliefs in failing congregations is that the members lose faith in God and this is why they stop attending. Another issue that has been thought to ravage church membership is disagreements. Women still do not find support in leadership in many churches. The LGBTQ community is also disenchanted with the church, which is another reason that people stop attending. However, Dr. Steve Aisthorpe, the researcher who carried out the study for the Church of Scotland, found something interesting.

Are People Leaving Church or God?

Dr. Aisthorpe discovered that about 66 percent, or two-thirds, of those who left the church now practice and worship in different ways. Many still gather with like-minded individuals to discuss theological issues and pray together. They choose different venues, such as homes or parks, or even do activities together where they can share their faith and address questions they have about their convictions. Aisthorpe also found that this phenomenon was not different in rural and urban churches.

This suggests that it is the organization of the church that keeps people away. More people are turning away from large congregations for a more personalized worship ritual. Arguments and division may turn some people away from church, but this doesn’t indicate that they stop believing in God. A spokesman for the National Secular Society states that “Churches are out of step, and the people in the pews are voting with their feet.”

The Health of the Church and Religious Community

Although Dr. Aisthorpe carried out the majority of his research in Scotland, he did not only look at his own country to get information. He looked at related research from the Western world. He found changes in the attendance of Sunday morning worship, but he doesn’t believe that should be the only measure of the health of the Christian community and faith. His research suggests that churches are in a transitional period, rather than a decline.

What happens now with the church, in whatever denomination, is up to the individual community. Pastors, priests, and religious leaders need to find what works for their own congregation. The Christian community is not the only religion that is having a hard time filling their seats. Many Jewish synagogues are finding it difficult to maintain membership rolls. In Japan, religious organizations are facing the crisis of having to close Buddhist monasteries because the smaller communities cannot afford to support the monks. The rural areas do not have the number of people they once had, and those areas with more of a population are finding that nationals are not using the services of the temples.

Another key element that Dr. Aisthorpe’s research demonstrates is that the church leaders have to stop assuming and stereotyping those who do not attend church. The reasons that keep people away may have nothing to do with their actual faith in God. It’s easy to point to other problems when the congregation fails. Instead of pointing fingers, churches need to become more relevant and change their delivery system. This is how the world works. Most faiths are buried deep in rituals and traditions that are difficult to change, but as culture changes, so must religion.