In an article in The Globe and Mail, Michael Valpy and Joe Friesen propose that it is largely the religious traditions of immigrants that are keeping our places of worship from closing. They point to the increasing secularization of native-born Canadians and contrast this with the steady faith of new immigrants to Canada.
In 1985, only 12 per cent of those born in Canada said they had no religious affiliation, compared with 21 per cent of immigrants who arrived in the previous 20 years. The 2009 data show “no religious affiliation” among the Canadian born jumped to 28 per cent, while the rate among recent immigrants held steady at 19 per cent.*
The article also quotes sociologist David Seljak of St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario as saying that
What attracts native-born Canadians to church these days is the availability of parking, quality of preaching and children’s programs, in that order.*
Yes, that is what he said, parking, preaching, and programs. Sounds a bit shallow doesn’t it? I would wish that sociologists would look at Canadians and see that they are looking for churches that care for the poor, churches that break the chains of those caught in the oppression of the sex-trade, churches that care for the immigrant, churches that care for the environment, and churches that create a community of faith that rights the wrongs of prejudice. Perhaps those of us who have been born in Canada have taken this life for granted. We have never learned what it means to be poor or to be an immigrant or to be oppressed. But God calls both recent immigrants and Canadian-born persons to care for the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (New International Version)
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
*Valpy, Michael, and Joe Friesen. “A Twist of Faith.” The Globe and Mail, December 11, 2010: A12, A13.