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No Space for Community: In depth look into loss of community infrastructure due to the closures of faith buildings in Ontario

What is Community Space, Faith Place?

Estimates suggest that 1/3 of Canada’s faith buildings could be in danger of closing. The United Church of Canada reports one building closing a week while the Anglican denomination forecasts a trendline toward a complete loss of members around 2040. The Community Space, Faith Place or No Space for Community two-year study gathered new data through surveys of existing nonprofit organizations and groups that make use of faith-building space. This data enabled us to examine a series of core questions about how faith-building closures may impact community user groups including: Where will twelve-step groups, social services, services for equity-seeking communities, food banks, blood donor clinics, arts groups or community meetings go in the absence of faith buildings?

With the funding support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Toronto, a collaborative team of institutional members designed and executed a survey project to learn more about the impact of faith-building closures on nonprofit and community groups at a local level. The survey asked the user groups in the faith buildings a series of questions to determine the nature of the use arrangement, financial commitments, and what their alternative locations might be if the building they were using closed. Check out the ARC-GIS interactive map for more information on invisible infrastructure behind Rural Communities.

Final Report:

No Space for Community

The Value of Faith Buildings and the effects of their Loss in Ontario

The pioneering nature of the Community Spaces in Faith Places survey has deepened our understanding of the complex, beneficial way that faith community buildings support the life of their local communities and neighbourhoods. It has also revealed that there is a lot more work to be done to extend that understanding.

"If we fail to adequately understand these changes – representing both challenges and opportunities – we may well lose vital community capacity that will not be easy or even possible to replicate."

Many community leaders and networks of nonprofits, charities, and faith communities have raised these concerns in various ways. There is an opportunity in our current moment to make critical decisions that will see access to community space increase, rather than contract, in the coming months and years. Read the full report to learn more about the survey and the relationship between faith buildings and the community around us.


Community Space, Faith Place: Kingsbridge Centre





Community Space, Faith Place: Coastal Coffee

Community Space, Faith Place: Peterborough

Download the Full Press Release: No Space for Community: New Report Addresses Loss of Community Infrastructure Due to Permanent Closure of Faith Buildings in Ontario

Published 2020-07-16

Kendra Fry, project lead, is available for interviews.
For press inquiries please contact Heather Kelly at [email protected].

Case Studies

Toronto Case Study: St.Matthew’s Church sparks community building and neighbourhood development

St.Mathew’s United Church has a building from 1924, with 21,000 square feet located in Toronto’s Wychwood neighbourhood. Shaped by the moral energy and social activism of its Methodist roots, the congregation understands its mission to be a community of faith that serves their surrounding neighbourhood.

"A key to this success, besides the general ethos of the congregation, is its openness to change and development."

Peterborough Case Study: Church of St John the Evangelist Anglican: A ministry for the whole city

The church is a classic “Church on the Hill” serving generations and generations in the community. As the neighbourhood changed, the Deacon at the time felt the Church needed to start looking beyond its walls for a new mission and meaning of being a church in its changing community. He strongly believes that the location dictated that mission hence deciding to create a ministry for the whole city.

"St. John the Evangelist was an important incubator for Warming Room Community Ministries and now One City Peterborough. By starting out under their structure it allowed us to focus on the work of supporting the most vulnerable in our community and then develop a structure of our own.

ED One City Peterborough – Christian Harvey

Huron County: How Huron Shores United Church Opened its doors to Grand Bend

Grand Bend is a small resort community on the shores of Lake Huron, about an hour northwest of London. Its beautiful beaches have attracted tourists and cottagers for decades, and more recently retirees have discovered its charms. A red brick church building with a distinctive six-sided tower has been a part of the town’s main street for almost 100 years.

In the past three years, the church has reinvented itself as a much-needed community hub and concert hall, an integral and valued part of the community.

"As we reflect on our pathway, it's clear that change is always with us. It has become our friend and mentor"

Bob Illman, Chair of Trustees of Huron Shores United Church


Download to read the full Huron case study

Download the graphs from the study to learn more about how community organizations are dependent on faith buildings in Huron.

Upcoming Events

Press Release: No Space for Community in Ontario Neighbourhoods?

New Report Addresses Loss of Community Infrastructure Due to Permanent Closure of Faith Buildings in Ontario

The National Trust for Canada indicates that a third of Canada’s 27,000 faith buildings - more than 9,000 buildings - could close permanently within the next ten years. A new report released today, No Space for Community,” measures faith-building usage and how closures could impact the wide range of not-for-profit services, organizations, and community groups that rely on those buildings.

Daycares, women and seniors programs, arts and culture organizations, community groups, twelve-step groups, food banks, blood donor clinics, community meetings, and others, would have nowhere to go in the absence of those buildings and the free or affordable space they provide.

The two-year study, conducted by Faith & the Common Good in partnership with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Nonprofit Network, the City of Toronto, Cardus, and the National Trust for Canada, gathered new data through surveys of existing non-profit and community groups that make use of faith-building space.


Press Release: No Space for Community in Ontario Neighbourhoods?

Data collected April through  July 2019, in French and English online and on paper via our regional research leads. The Survey was distributed via our partners as listed below and via research leads for “DEEP DIVE” regions of Huron, Peterborough, Toronto, and Sudbury

Overall there were 1269 respondents with 948 were statistically valid (desired respondents, data was applicable, sufficient responses to verify valid identifying group)

From the survey, we've learned a lot about the types of communities and draws of faith buildings for Non-for-profits and community groups.

Geographic Distribution of Respondents to Survey

Thank you to our Partners

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  • Jamie Sanders
    A similar thing is happening in British Columbia and I’ve been following the news on this. It’s my belief, especially with the polarization and isolations of people during the lockdown restrictions of 2021, community has never been more important in our communities. I honor you for your efforts and hope you continue to do your best to solve this problem. In Victoria BC with https://www.bestchoiceroofingservices.com/ we’re hosting regular meetings against mandates but we believe its more important that the people in our community to connected through faith and weekly meetings despite what anyone else says. That’s my truth. Once again, thank you.

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