Like all main line churches in Canada, the 87-year-old United Church — Canada's largest Protestant denomination — is facing multiple challenges.
It has far fewer people in its pews than it once did. Since peaking at more than one million in 1965, membership has fallen by nearly half. The declines have been even steeper for Sunday school enrolment — down about 90 per cent since 1961 — baptisms and professions of faith.
Those who do come to church are predominantly older. Among the nearly 7,500 church members who responded to a major identity study last year, the average age was 65.
The church's 1,970 ordained ministry personnel are also aging. As of April 2011, their average age was 56. Just six (0.3 per cent) were under age 30.
In a country in which most people live in large cities, more than 50 per cent of the church's congregations and 30 per cent of its members reside in communities of less than 2,000. Another 23 per cent of congregations and 26 per cent of members live in communities with populations between 2,000 and 30,000.