The United Church of Canada crest /L'Église Unie du Canada
3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300
Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4 Canada
Toll-Free: 1-800-268-3781
Fax: 416-231-3103
Website: www.united-church.ca
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The United Church of Canada

Welcome to The United Church of Canada

We're glad you're here and hope you find information that is helpful, inspirational, and leads you to a closer relationship with God.

A Very Brief History

The United Church of Canada is one of many denominations of the Christian faith. The Christian faith began about 2,000 years ago with the followers of Jesus, and grew enormously in the centuries after his death and resurrection.

Disagreements about theology and practice eventually led to the three major streams of Christian churches that exist today. All three trace their history to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and his early followers. The Roman Catholic Church identifies a direct connection between Peter, Jesus' disciple, and the popes of today. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches diverged at the beginning of the second millennium. In the 16th century, Pastor Martin Luther and like-minded followers broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, beginning the Protestant movement that saw the rise of many denominations in many countries.

In 1925, three of these Protestant denominations, the Methodist, Congregationalist, and two-thirds of the Presbyterian churches in Canada amalgamated to create The United Church of Canada through an Act of Parliament. The agreement between these different traditions is found in the Basis of Union.

Since 1925, other smaller groups of churches and individual congregations have joined The United Church of Canada, so that there are approximately 3,200 United Churches in Canada today. History of the United Church describes our history and traditions in much more detail.

What We Believe

Like other Christian churches, The United Church of Canada is rooted in God, Jesus, and the Bible. However, the way we understand God, practice our faith, and read the Bible is distinct, just as it is distinct in other denominations of the Christian church.

A New Creed and A Song of Faith outline some of the basic elements of Christianity as understood and practised in The United Church of Canada.

We have two sacraments, baptism and communion, both of which are open to people of any age. We recognize the sacraments of baptism from other Christian denominations.

The United Church works together with other Christian churches whenever possible, and among people of other religions in Canada and throughout the world, on matters of social justice, peace, and human dignity.

See Overview of Beliefs for more detail.

Congregations

The community of people who gather together in a church is the congregation.

It is served by a minister who is paid by the congregation and provides leadership, education, and worship. Other staff people, such as music directors, organists, office administrators, caretakers, teachers, and so on are either paid or volunteer.

All staff, including the minister, can be female or male, single or in a committed relationship. The money for the staff salaries and to maintain the church building comes from the weekly giving (offering) of the congregational members. The offering also supports the work of the church around the world through the national Mission and Service Fund.

While the minister and staff may have special roles in the life of a congregation, the members and volunteers are responsible for "running" the church.

Finding a Congregation

Everyone is welcome at The United Church of Canada. We have communities of various cultural backgrounds offering worship in a variety of languages. Some congregations provide bilingual services, while others are unilingual. To find the closest congregation regardless of language, use the Find a Church feature. If you are looking for a francophone or bilingual (French/English) congregation, click here.

What Happens on Sunday

Each congregation and its minister shape the Sunday service around the community and its traditions, so there are variations among United Church worship services. Nevertheless, some things tend to be common to most services:

  • When you arrive, you'll probably be greeted at the door and handed an order of service. Like a theatre program, this tells you what will happen during the service and about other events at the church throughout the week.
  • It is the custom in many United Churches to have children stay with their parent(s) for the first part of the service and then go to another room with a volunteer teacher for a Church School time. Church School programs vary by congregation. See Children & Young Teens Ministries for details on our ministry with children and youth.
  • For new parents, congregations often provide nursery facilities with a caregiver, but if you want to cradle your baby or toddler throughout the service, people understand that crying and squirming are part of their small lives and are quite acceptable during the service.
  • Services tend to be about an hour long.
  • There will be some readings, normally from the Bible, but often from other contemporary sources.
  • United Church people love to sing. Music and words are provided either in the leaflet or in a hymn book in the pew.
  • The minister or someone else will give a sermon, which is a reflection or commentary on the readings, current events, or life in general.
  • There are several times for prayer during the service. Some of these will be given by the minister, and others by a member of the congregation. In most United Churches, people usually stay seated to pray rather than kneel.
  • Communion is served numerous times a year in United Churches, but not every Sunday. Participation is open to all people attending the service, but is not mandatory.
  • An offering of money is collected to support the work of the church. There is no set amount; people give as they are able. This supports the local congregation (maintaining the building, providing programs, paying the minister), and also the work of the church around the world through the national Mission and Service Fund.
  • At the end of the service, people often gather for refreshments and conversation. It's there for everyone and you don't have to be a member to join in.

As you can see, there are few “rights and wrongs” about how to behave in a United Church service. The most important thing is being there!

Church Life through the Week

Community and friendship are an important part of church life. Most congregations have activities and events that you can join or participate in that will help you meet people, make friends, and do worthwhile things. Many congregations feature things like

  • congregational dinners and lunches
  • spiritual formation and companioning
  • food preparation and delivery to shut-ins and elderly
  • support for life transitions (e.g., divorce, loss, bereavement)
  • book clubs
  • women's groups
  • men's groups
  • Bible reading and study
  • new parents' support
  • children's and adult's choirs
  • amateur theatre productions
  • quilting, woodworking, or handiwork clubs
  • soup kitchens
  • social justice activities
  • food and clothing banks
  • youth groups and activities
  • educational programs
  • and many others events

So there are lots of ways to get involved! Maybe you have a unique idea for a project or event that would flourish at your local United Church that they haven't thought of yet. Try it out!

Learn More

To learn more about The United Church of Canada and its local congregations, you are warmly invited to browse the links on this page and other sections of this website, and of course to visit a congregation near you. Also, check out Wikipedia * for a comprehensive look at The United Church of Canada from an outsider's point of view.

Last updated:
2014/07/30
Created:
2007/05/17