Church attendance across Canada is at its highest level in 30 years, a recent survey indicates, and while the province of Quebec has seen a decline in the number of churchgoers, many of those who haven’t seen the inside of a church in years say they still believe in a god.
The studies, made by Reginald W. Bibby, a sociologist at the University of Lethbridge, are supported by pollster Allan Gregg who reported that 26 to 30 percent of English-speaking Canadians go to church regularly—a dramatic increase from a low of 18 percent in 1992.
With the exception of Quebec and Montreal—the number of those who say they have no religion is growing—church attendance in the rest of Canada is on the upswing, being at its highest level since 1985.
But even in a region such as Quebec, where the number of people who go to church has declined, Bibby says that doesn’t mean there is a loss of faith.
"Anglicanism and the United Church, Presbyterianism and Lutheranism, along with Roman Catholicism in Quebec, are not exactly fly-by-night operations," Bibby writes in his latest book, Restless Churches. "They have long histories and recuperative powers. They just don't roll over and die."
If the faithful are still out there and the religious framework is still in place, according to Bibby, "it makes good sense to assume that it will only be a matter of time before they experience rejuvenation."
Though one out of every 20 person in the province of Quebec attend service at least once a week—a dramatic decline from the two in ten ratio twenty years ago—about 2 million people still attend religious services on any given weekend.
The study also found that 63 percent of Quebecers say they have personally experienced God’s presence in their lives. And while many people no longer support what they consider as institutional religion, 80 percent of are still believers.
“What I find intriguing is that large numbers of Quebecers still identify themselves as being Roman Catholic, even though they don’t go to church,” Bibby told The Montreal Gazette.
“Eighty percent of them say they still engage in prayer,” the sociologist added. “There are still signs of life in the church.”
Bibby’s survey also shows growth in attendance for all Protestant denominations in Canada. Only the Anglicans in Quebec are suffering losses, he said.