UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Reality Check

Love and marriage

By David Ewart

If you’re old enough to remember the 1955 hit lyric “Love and marriage go together like
a . . . ,” then you’re old enough to notice that walking down the aisle of a church to get married is going the way of the horse and carriage.

Canadians are still getting married. Federal government cutbacks forced Statistics Canada to stop keeping count in 2008, but in the last decade of record keeping there were about 150,000 marriages each year. However, the percentage of Canadians choosing to get married in a United church has been in steady decline from over 25 percent in 1945 to six percent in 2008. And that trend could reach zero by 2019.

The future will not unfold in a straight line, but there are already over 700 United Church congregations that had no weddings in 2012. And the threshold to be among the top 10 percent of United Church wedding chapels is six ceremonies per year.

In my ministry, walking down a church aisle was a part of almost every couple’s dream wedding — even if they had nothing to do with the church. Those loose ties to religion in the wider culture helped us connect to the community without evangelizing. People came to us for weddings, baptisms and funerals. So we didn’t need to go to them to share our experience of what a difference trusting Jesus and being part of a community of faith makes in one’s life. But as the wider culture becomes “spiritual but not religious,” far fewer people are turning to the church to meet these ritual needs; baptisms may also cease, and funerals will be fewer.

This cultural shift is creating a number of issues for the United Church. One is that the post-war church building boom has left us with an excess capacity that is now a burden to many congregations. But perhaps the more difficult change is the need to figure out what it means to be the church in a culture that doesn’t need us. What on earth are we good for? And what is the most viable way to organize and pay for ourselves to live out those purposes?

Rev. David Ewart is a United Church minister in Vancouver.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Announcement

New Observer editor and CEO, Jocelyn Bell. Photo by Lindsay Palmer

New editor named

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image