St. Matthias Victoria runs out of chair money

Here is a brief recent history of St. Matthias in the Diocese of B.C.

In 2009 most of the thriving congregation voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada to join ANiC.

As was the case for every other congregation that left the ACoC, the diocese seized the building but not the majority of the people. This left a small congregation that would not normally be considered viable but had to be made to appear viable, otherwise the diocese would have had little need for the building. Consequently, the parish was put on financial life-support by the diocese.

In 2010 a pair of 17th century Ming dynasty chairs were discovered in the church, by now firmly in the clutches of the Diocese of B.C. They sold in 2012 for a profit $630,000US to the orgasmic delight of the rector, Rev. Robert Arril, who, for some reason, only lasted as rector until 2013.

We were informed that the money would help pay for “several programs sponsored by St. Matthias, including outreach services for single mothers and homeless people.” The reality did not live up to the pious intent of the announcement: the money was actually spent “to cover the structural deficits” because the parish was not self-supporting. It should be self-supporting since, after all, it is:

open and welcoming to all members of the LGBTQI community and we desire to create an environment that is supportive of LGBTQI people and their relationships, respectful of all people, treat all people equally, and are non-judgmental. We do not judge people on their sexual orientation or their gender identity, but rather, we seek to affirm them in their self-identity.

In spite of all the self-identity affirmation, the chair money is running out. Here is an excerpt from a recent, rather dispirited, parish report:

Over the past seven years the Parish of St. Matthias has been in constant transition. In 2009 something over 80% of the parish left, along with the clergy and musicians. Under the Rev. Dr. Robert Arril the parish began a process of recovery. In 2012 the “Hand Document” was produced which charted out an action plan for the next five years. Much of this ambitious plan was implemented. Bob Arril left the parish in Spring 2013, and after a long interim our current Rector came in June 2014. In 2015 we observed our centennial.
In none of these seven years were we truly self-supporting. In the first two years we  were supported by grants from the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia. In 2012 we had a providential discovery in that two Chinese chairs which had sat at the back of the church for decades were found in fact worth to be worth a small fortune. The sale of these chairs has helped us to cover the structural deficits. However, the end of the “chair fund” is on the horizon.
As well, our average Sunday attendance has been stuck at between forty and fifty people. By any measure this is about half of what would be expected in a self-supporting parish.

The Diocese of Niagara’s continuing mission in Guelph

Alienating the residents:


From here:

Protesters seek meeting with Anglican bishop over sale of Guelph property

GUELPH — Passionate but peaceful protesters gathered outside St. George’s Anglican Church in downtown Guelph on Sunday morning to send a message to the church’s bishop.

As parishioners filed into the Woolwich Street church, roughly 25 members of two south end community groups handed out literature and marched on the sidewalk with signs critical of Bishop Michael Bird of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara.

While the protesters made it clear they have no issue with St. George’s Church itself, they felt it was another way to try to pressure Bishop Bird to meet with them and discuss the sale of property on Kortright Road that is the home of the former St. Matthias Anglican Church.

The Bishop was not at Sunday’s service.

And while the behaviour was cordial and polite, the signs and words of the protesters were a little more barbed.

“I think the bishop should meet with the people. Jesus met with everybody, sinners and non-sinners, so why would the bishop not meet with the people,” said Bruce Taylor of Citizens for Community.

The property in question, on the northeast corner of the intersection of Kortright and Edinburgh roads, has been sold to HIP Developments, which has gone to the Ontario Municipal Board to try to get the property rezoned from institutional to specialized residential.

HIP Developments plans to build a six-storey, 81-unit residential complex.

Opponents feel it is the wrong use for the 0.81-hectare site and want to preserve the land and property for community use.

“The church should practise what they preach,” said Filippa Mirotta, who has lived near the property for 30 years.

She and others felt the church was intent only on maximizing its financial return on the property rather than the social implications.

“The church has a moral responsibility,” Mirotta said. “The church is not in the business of making money.”

Linda Davis of the McElderry Community and Friends group said they have asked three times for a meeting and were turned down each time.

“We want to meet with him face to face and he continues to shun us and treat us with disrespect,” Davis said. “It’s a very sad situation.”

Diocese of Niagara developing 8 story condo building in cathedral parking lot

The synod of the Diocese of Niagara has granted approval for the development which, in spite of bearing a passing resemblance to soviet era flats, will by no means be low cost housing. Here is a conceptual rendering:


The plans are here with more details on the buildings here.

Ironically, at the same time the diocese is ploughing millions of dollars into its headquarters, the diocesan image is looking a trifle tattered in Guelph, where residents are planning a demonstration over the sale of St. Matthias for – you guessed it, millions of dollars.

GUELPH — Two community groups are planning a peaceful rally outside St. George’s Anglican Church Sunday to request a meeting with Bishop Michael Bird of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara about the tentative sale of St. Matthias Church property to HIP Developments.

Linda Davis, of the McElderry Community and Friends Group, said the group has made “repeated requests” to speak with Bird about the sale of the property, where HIP intends to build a six-storey, 81-unit student-geared residence called Solstice 3.


Davis said she believes it comes down to money for the diocese.

“They’ve tied their futures to that plan and they’re not willing to deviate from it regardless of what we say,” she said.

The bishop has defended the sale on the basis that:

our Diocese is in the business of nurturing and building spiritual communities in the Anglican tradition, not in the business of urban planning.

The cathedral development looks suspiciously like urban planning to me.

Selling cathedral land to developers to build apartments appears to be a trend. Here is the Diocese of Ottawa’s cathedral and diocesan offices sandwiching a large apartment block; the dwarfed cathedral is just visible. It seems to be a fitting metaphor for western Anglicanism: the church used to be surrounded by the secular, now the secular has been invited to dwell and flourish within the church:

The Diocese of Niagara and the love of money

The Diocese of Niagara’s self-proclaimed mission is to be a champion of social justice.  By its actions, it is not only doing a magnificent job of concealing that but it is managing to convey the impression that the church really just wants your money.

From here:

The Anglican Church of Canada Niagara Diocese has inadvertently confirmed a perspective many have about churches: they’re only out for money.

The diocese turned down offers from two local congregations (one for $1.2 million, the other for $800,000), who would have maintained the St. Matthias Church property’s institutional and community use.

Instead it accepted a $2-million bid from HIP Developments whose proposed student housing project has met with resounding opposition from the neighbourhood.

Contrast that to the Sisters of St. Joseph, a dwindling community of nuns in the Steeles and Bayview Avenues area of Toronto. (Pope John Paul II visited this convent while in Toronto for the World Youth Day celebration in 2002.) Developers offered the sisters $75 million for the 23 hectares of prime real estate. Instead, the nuns accepted a $58-million offer from the neighbouring Tyndale University College, who pledged to maintain many of the convent’s unique characteristics, including an incredible chapel and an outdoor Stations of the Cross.

The response from the diocese’s head, Bishop Michael Bird hasn’t helped matters: “Going forward, our ministry — both with the re-envisioned St. Matthias community and all our area parishes — will continue to further God’s loving purposes throughout the Royal City.”

The Diocese of Niagara has competition in Guelph

The Diocese of Niagara is closing both St. Matthias and St. David and St. Patrick in Guelph. As a counterpoint to the sound of shrivelling, accompanied by revving bulldozers, echoing throughout empty diocesan buildings ANiC is considering opening an Anglican Church in Guelph. Ecclesiastical free enterprise is a wonderful thing.

See below for details:

I met recently with the Reverend Zena Attwood, a minister of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). ANiC, she explains, is trying to stem this Anglican hemorrhage by establishing churches that fulfill [sic] the goals I’ve described. Their website ( shows that in their first five years they have 72 parishes across Canada. ANiC is a member of the conservative Anglican Church in North America, that reckons about a thousand parishes in Canada and the USA and is enthusiastically planting more. Ms Attwood says she’s creating a core group to start such a parish in Guelph. The group meets on Sunday mornings for Bible discussion and eucharist. Ms Attwood invites inquiries at 519 846 0454 or [email protected] Mr D’Arcy Luxton is an alternative contact at 519 846 0483 or [email protected]

Another Diocese of Niagara church on the brink of closing

The congregation of St. David and St. Patrick in Guelph will be worshipping in a Lutheran Church starting in June. The Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have been combining their office space and holding joint synods for some time now, so it’s not surprising to see consolidation at the parish level; this is almost certainly the first of many. The ACoC and ELCIC, for all their spiritual posturing, are behaving in much the same way as secular businesses. Unlike secular businesses, though, while paying no tax themselves, the ACoC and ELCIC lobby the government to redistribute other people’s wealth by increasing their taxes; this is called prophetic social justice making.

After the public relations debacle with the closing of St. Matthias in Guelph, the diocese is understandably leery about yet another church closure and probable sale of the property to developers. It seems that the parishioners are not “allowed to talk about the issue”. What would happen to them if they do, I wonder? Shipped off to Justice Camp for re-education, I expect.

From here:

GUELPH—As the debate around the sale of the St. Matthias Anglican church heats up, the future of another Anglican place of worship in the Royal City is left uncertain.

The Anglican Diocese of Niagara says the congregation at St. David and St. Patrick, at 520 Speedvale Ave. E., will move to worship at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church this June.

Reverend Bill Mous, director of justice, community and global ministries at the diocese, wrote in an email to the Mercury the Anglican parish has entered into a two-year “partnership agreement” with the nearby Lutheran church.

That leaves the future of the Anglican church building unclear.


A person who answered the phone at the Anglican church said no one there was allowed to talk about the issue.

Bishop Michael Bird defends the sale of St. Matthias, Guelph

St. Matthias Anglican Church in Guelph has been sold by the Diocese of Niagara for $2 million to a property developer who intends to build a six story apartment building on the lot. Residents in the surrounding area are less than happy about this and are protesting the sale. The local paper recently published an editorial implying that the Diocese of Niagara is behaving more like a corporation – in an “unflattering sense of the word” – than a church. Developers are expected to be motivated by profit, churches are not:

In the story of what’s next to come to a former church property in south end Guelph, a development firm has frequently been framed as a villain in the narrative.

Whenever that happens, it’s a convenience for the current owner-vendor of the property.

That’s the Anglican Diocese of Niagara.

It’s the stakeholder in this chronicle that decided to put the former St. Matthias Church lands up for sale – and to choose the big-bidding developer, whose intentions could easily have been anticipated by the diocese. The diocese has confirmed that it received two purchase offers from churches but they were “substantially lower” than the offer it tentatively accepted.

The diocese had every right to accept whatever bid it wanted to in this process. But it must accept that in making this decision it will be regarded as behaving corporately – in an unflattering sense of the word.

Michael Bird, unhappy at the thought that there are villains at work in all this, has responded:

I strongly disagree with the editorial board’s characterization that there are villains in this story. The Diocese, the developer, members of city council, concerned citizens and others are each playing a role in what has become a very thorough planning process. I continue to have every confidence that the needs and well-being of Guelph citizens will be of primary concern.


Today our congregations in the city of Guelph continue to proclaim Jesus’s message of love and hope and justice, particularly in this season of Easter.

I note that Jesus’ message of salvation is missing from the list.

Apparently, the reason the building has been abandoned and sold is so the congregation can “focus on ministry”:

In 2013, the St. Matthias congregation voted to take leave of their building to focus on ministry in the community rather than the upkeep of a building and property.

What ministry, you might be wondering? Well, advertising Earth Day, for one. And being a member of Proud Anglicans for another – evidently the massive influx of LGBTQetc Anglicans was insufficient to keep the place afloat.

The organisation of local residents opposed to the sale has its own perspective on how effectively St. Matthias has managed to “focus on ministry in the community” since its closure:

From our perspective, there does not seem to any continued Anglican ‘ministry’ in this neighbourhood. We have not seen a public service, prayer meeting, flyer, social event or any other invitation in the two years since the church closed. The site itself has been vandalized and/or signs empty,  for most of that time.

The Diocese’s director of justice, community and global ministries, Rev Bill Mouse clearly had not been briefed by the bishop when he admitted in an interview that, in the end, it all came down to money:

It came from the congregation’s size and their ability to financially support the ministry and the property.

A United Church minister was “baffled and disturbed at the diocese’s decision”. He approached the diocese to cooperate in setting up:

a spiritual centre — a place where different religious traditions could meet, celebrate in their own tradition but co-operate for the sake of the neighbourhood.

Normally this type of mushy mult-faith amalgam would be right up the Diocese of Niagara’s street but, in this case, there was no response from the diocese. Well, $2 million is a lot of money.

Diocese of Niagara fills church for all the wrong reasons

As I mentioned here, St. Matthias in Guelph was sold to property developers for about $2M.

From here:

It is somewhat rare today that the church can gather an overflow crowd but the Anglican Diocese of Niagara has succeeded in doing that — unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

The crowd that gathered were neighbours of Saint Matthias Anglican Church (at the corner of Edinburgh and Kortright roads) concerned that the Anglican Diocese is planning to sell the church and land to a developer who will build 81 units of rental housing geared to students.


We have heard that there were other serious offers to purchase the property by other churches. But these too have been rebuffed. And so the conclusion that many would draw is that the diocese wants top dollar. And worse, that the denomination cares little for the neighbours that the church community has lived beside for the past 30 years. It would seem to be another example of a self-serving church.

The diocese is attempting to revitalise what’s left of the homeless St. Matthias by having some seminars on the Seven Grandfathers of the Anishinaabe people. That should work.

For those who remain unconvinced of the relevance of St. Matthias to today’s world, there is the St. Matthias blog where we discover that “living our questions is where the answers lie” and “There is Truth and it is deep within and around us all the time.” I am so moved, I think I am going to cry; so much so that I can almost overlook the fact that the writer seems to be oblivious to the difference between “lie” and “lye” – a generous application of which could, admittedly, greatly improve the diocese:

Does the truth lye in the living each moment of each day without fear of failure, fear of the other, fear of rejection, fear of all sorts of things that consume our thoughts, emotions, spirits and hearts.

St. Matthias Victoria has an interesting church sign

When St. Matthias in Victoria B.C. voted to join ANiC, 250 people departed and 30 remained, leaving the diocesan residuum in a financially parlous state. Last year, some furniture came to the rescue: a pair of 17-century Chinese chairs that had been collecting dust in the church for decades sold for $630,000 at Sotheby’s.

The Rector, Rev. Robert Arril mused: “this [windfall] will allow us to do some creative things that we couldn’t do before.”

And, true to his word, Rev Arril did a very creative thing with his church sign. He put a rainbow flag on it. Of course, the Diocese of B.C. has approved the blessing of same-sex couples, so a rainbow flag on the sign is actually de rigueur, if not positively humdrum. But the flowing of Arril’s creative juices did not end with a rainbow flag. Not at all!

In an effort to become yet more inclusive – and with the sobering realisation that a rainbow flag did not cause hundreds of homosexuals in committed monogamous relationships to inundate his pews – Rev. Arril has taken inspiration from St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto. He is inviting dogs to Holy Communion.

Fears that a generous pastoral response to the canine community will lead to unwelcome territorial marking – just as well those chairs have gone – uninhibited poochly greetings at the peace, and a general diminishing of respect for the dog collar may not be entirely without foundation. But at least Rev. Robert Arril will finally have an audience whose grasp of theological niceties is such that its members will truly appreciate his sermons. As long as he throws them an occasional bone.


St. Matthias

St. Matthias, Victoria saved by armchairs

When the congregation of St. Matthias voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and join ANiC, they left behind more than the building: two armchairs worth between $180,000 and $250,000 were also abandoned.

The rector of the 30 or so people who remained in the Diocese of BC, Rev. Robert Arril, is rubbing his hands in glee, since the sale of the chairs will enable him “to carry on the work we do”: subverting the Gospel.

St. Hilda’s Church in Oakville also has hidden treasures generously donated by the ANiC congregation that vacated the premises in June. If the Diocese of Niagara searches diligently, it will uncover an antique sump pump secreted in a hole in the basement: it doesn’t pump that well – if at all – but it is a fine early example of F. E. Myers engineering and, as such, could fetch a few needed dollars  for the impoverished Niagara coffers.

From here:

They’d been there, in a quiet spot along the back wall of Victoria’s St. Matthias Anglican Church, for decades — possibly since the parish opened the doors of its new home in the B.C. capital nearly 50 years ago.

But two elegantly designed wooden armchairs, their origin unknown to clergy or even the eldest members of the congregation, may prove to be the salvation of the financially-challenged church — nothing less than a “godsend,” according to St. Matthias’s rector, Rev. Robert Arril.

An antique-furniture buff’s fortuitous visit to the church two years ago for a Bible study session has led to the identification of the chairs as rare and valuable Qing dynasty treasures, expertly crafted in 17th-century China before making their way somehow — thanks to a long-forgotten donor evidently unaware of their significance — to the Vancouver Island parish.

Now, a church, which has struggled to survive since a damaging schism over same-sex marriage in 2009, is poised for a potential windfall when the chairs are auctioned next month in New York, where Sotheby’s expects the matching set to fetch as much as a quarter of a million dollars at a Sept. 11 sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art.

“It’s a remarkable discovery — such a fantastic turn of events,” Arril told Postmedia News. “It’s very significant for us as a struggling congregation, very meaningful. It will allow us to carry on the work we do.”


The two-chair set has an estimated value of between $180,000 and $250,000 US, according to Sotheby’s. A similar pair of 17th-century chairs from China sold earlier this year at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong for $282,000.