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Churches search for answers

Forum to help those build a community from believers' scattered lives

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The Meeting House's Bruxy Cavey: 'We want to listen and learn and have a dialogue, not a monologue.'

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The Meeting House's Bruxy Cavey: 'We want to listen and learn and have a dialogue, not a monologue.'

Even with countless ways to connect, making time for each other seems more difficult for the faithful these days, says the pastor of a downtown interdenominational church.

"People say they want community, because they know they're supposed to, but we're in a pretty scattered culture," says Steve Swan of The King's Fellowship at 190 Osborne St.

It's not earth-shaking news that Canadians spend their time and money differently now than a generation ago, says Don Moore of World Vision's Toronto office.

Combine that with statistics that show only about one in four Canadians attend worship regularly suggests Christian churches have to rethink how they "do church."

He says that means getting out of the pews -- or the padded chairs -- and into the community to make a difference.

"We can't just sit smugly taking in our offerings. We also have to give back," says Moore, one of the speakers at World Vision's Shifting Stats workshop, Tuesday, May 6 at Church of the Rock, 1397 Buffalo Pl.

This four-hour forum for church leaders (www.shiftingstats.ca) is the eighth stop on the cross-Canada travelling road show to 10 cities sponsored by the Christian aid and development organization. Attracting about 50 to 75 leaders in each city, the workshops are part information and part inspiration, says Moore, World Vision's national church ambassador.

"Most churches would like to sustain where they are and not decline, and maybe grow," says Moore of Canada's more than 28,000 churches registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. He estimates about 17,000 of those have membership of about 100.

That's the situation facing The King's Fellowship, with an attendance that hovers around 75 to 100.

"We as a congregation have plateaued for a long time," says Swan of the charismatic evangelical church established in downtown Winnipeg in 1993.

"Three families come and two families leave."

One way to grow is to provide space for the seekers and the skeptics to raise their doubts and concerns, says Rev. Bruxy Cavey of The Meeting House, a multi-site church in southern Ontario.

"I believe the Christian church should be a safe place for people to come and ask questions," says the Hamilton-based Cavey, who teams up with Moore on the Shifting Stats forums.

"You come with a history and a perspective and we want to listen and learn and have a dialogue, not a monologue."

Cavey isn't discouraged about statistics showing Canadians are not embracing organized religion the way they used to. Numbers collected by sociologist Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge show a slight decline in Catholics over the last seven decades, and a significant slide in the numbers of Canadians identifying with mainline Protestant groups.

"These shifting stats are probably a healthy sign of Canada becoming who we've been for a long time," says Cavey, author of the bestselling book, The End of Religion.

"I think this is probably a healthy migration in Canada of what people believe and don't believe. Now we can begin a very honest conversation."

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2014 D15

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Updated on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 8:18 AM CDT: Added photo caption.

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