(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
August 25, 2019

How will Christians live out their faith in a world that is more urban than ever before? There is a rural urban split in congregations in Canada today.

Rural churches more than 30 km from an urban centre are (statistically) in rapid decline. Population is declining and so is church attendance. There are many fewer children in the parish, as younger people have been called to “work in the city.”

Rural churches within 30 km of an urban area are holding their own as urbanites choose to live in smaller centres and commute to a vocation. Some churches will decline, and some will grow, but there is a viable population base.

Urban congregations are both declining and growing, depending upon their vitality indexes. Waterloo Region has nearly 600,000 people. (It probably has more, but the artificial date of July 1stfor the census means that a very large student population is caught in the middle of moving day, and are not counted.) Waterloo Region is Canada’s tenth largest urban area, according to Statistics Canada.

Many long-established people (note I did not say “Old People!”) in our Region do not think of this as a large urban area. When they were born, or arrived here, the perception was of a small city or a large town.

This reality changed a long time ago, but the perception of ‘smallness’ continues. Like it or not, we are number 10 after Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Hamilton. The economy of our Region of Waterloo is larger than the province of New Brunswick.

The 2017 book “Stay in the City: How Christian Faith Is Flourishing in an Urban World” looks at urban ministry. The city is New York, truly an urban place. The lessons are for all urban ministries, even Canada’s tenth largest urban space.

The authors, Mark Gornik and Maria Liu Wong work at the City Seminary which offers a new way of doing training for ministry. There are no classrooms. The city is the classroom. Some observations from the book:

  • Global migration is one of the most important factors fueling the growth of Christianity today.
  • The average Christian in the world is an urban Christian, so how do we live into that space and context?
  • “When we think about ministry, it’s important to be present and to hear and see what’s already there — that God is there before us, that people are already doing things in the neighborhoods, and that we’re not coming in to save that community.”
  • The title, “Stay in the City,” is from the Gospel of Luke, where after Christ’s resurrection he says to the people, “Stay in the city, where you will receive power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
  • Ministry in the 21stcentury knows that God is here before we are aware of God.
  • Christianity has always been urban, look at the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles!

The church is much bigger than we can imagine. Look around you on a Sunday morning or a Thursday evening at LOGOS. What do you see? A 21stcentury urban church. By the Grace of God, we look very different than we did just a few decades ago. The world is here at our door step. We are blessed. Thanks be to God.