“Whenever there’s someone saying a church is closing, people think this is the one but nope,” said Bruce Trothen. Recently, I visited the Bedford United Church in Sandwich Towne and something about this comment has stuck with me for a couple of days. The red brick, rusticated masonry church was a part of the original town square located on the corner of Sandwich and Brock Street.
“It’s part of my life. Ever since I can remember this has been my church,” said Trothen, the last of the original members of the church. “My parents were members here in 1928. I was born here in ’33. I was baptized here. I was married here. My children were baptized here and married here. There are four generations of us connected to this church.”
Bedford United Church, first known as the Sandwich Methodist Church, was founded in 1907. In 1925 Sandwich Methodist Church became the Sandwich United Church and in 1992 Sandwich United and Calvary United Church came together to form Bedford United Church. In 2007 the church celebrated their 100th year anniversary and was honored with a bronze historical plaque proclaiming Bedford United Church as a “Historical Site.”
Originally the congregation could seat about 125 people and have 300 children at Sunday school. Now, there are only about 50 to 60 people in the congregation and around 25 to 50 children attend the Sunday school.
Dwindling congregations and high costs of building maintenance are causing many churches to their doors. One of the main issues is the lack of young people interested in attending the church. In 2009 only 21 per cent of Canadians, aged 15 and over, attended religious service at least once a week, down from 30 per cent in 1985.
“The young people find it as a place to get married and a place to have funerals at the end of their life and other than that they don’t need it,” said Trothen. “But if they are going to continue in that way there won’t be any churches to do that for them in the future. Then what?”
Although Trothen was the one who pushed for this church to be designated as a historical site, the future of churches, like Bedford United, is so uncertain. For Bedford United Church “If we have our way it will stay.”