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Ryerson, Dunbar United Churches to combine congregations

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Reported by Cheryl Whiting

On Oct. 2, Ryerson United Church members voted 96 per cent in favour of a motion to create a new congregation.

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The outside of Ryerson Church. Members recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of creating a new congregation. Cheryl Whiting photo.

In January of 2017, Ryerson United Church and Dunbar Heights United Church will officially become one congregation. They will meet at Dunbar properties for two months as a test run before moving back. The move is a result of a declining population, a decrease in revenue and buildings that are in desperate need of repairs and seismic upgrading.

Debra Bowman, coordinating minister at Ryerson, says the amalgamation will make them stronger.

“We have two fairly strong congregations, but people don’t give to [the] church the way they used to,” Bowman said. “It seemed to both of us we can have a stronger mission and do more for the community and the world if we work together.”

Conflicting needs created difficulites

Last March, The Voice reported on community protests in response to the church’s attempts to develop part of their land to fund building repairs.

Bowman said the church has struggled to balance the needs of all parties involved.

“We keep adjusting the plans and trying to get closer and closer to what everyone wants, which of course, is difficult,” Bowman said. “What the church wants, what the city wants, what the neighbours want, it’s not easy trying to get to a place that serves everyone’s needs.”

More changes could still be in the future

According to Gordon Esau, a volunteer at Ryerson, a future approval of a rezoning application could mean members of the new congregation would worship out of Dunbar Heights United Church again.

“If we get rezoned, we will put both congregations there,” Esau said. “Several years from now, we can then decide what’s going to occur.”

Ann Kent is a spokesperson for the Ryerson Neighbours group, which has strongly opposed the redevelopment of the church. As far as the amalgamation goes, Kent said the group supports the decision.

“We wish them all the best in embarking on a new future together,” she said.

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