Faith Feeds Cities in Canada and the United States


Case studies outline how faith-based organizations contribute to urban renewal in Canada and U.S. 


January 29, 2020

OTTAWA, ON – Instead of letting Chalmers United Church simply shut its building in downtown Guelph, ON as attendance dwindled, nearby Royal City Church bought the building in 2005 and put it to good use. Today, Royal City feeds a small army in the historic, stone church, providing the surrounding community up to 600 meals a week while also offering music, art rooms, and games. Likewise, Lakeside Church in suburban Guelph didn’t let Norfolk Street United become yet another piece of prime downtown real estate snapped up by a developer. It bought the building to open Hope House – a non-faith charity that offers grocery and clothing services, runs drop-in arts programs, helps foster relationships between low- and middle-income families, and provides support workers to help area residents navigate local social services.

Those are two stories that appear in The Long, Quiet Work of Faith and the Public Good, a case study by think tank Cardus about two churches in Guelph, ON that “have demonstrated how historic church buildings can be maintained and used even more fully to serve the wider community.” 

“Municipal leaders everywhere need to continue to learn to support faith-based organizations as vital contributors to the public good in the way they build up communities, bridge differences, and ease the load cities carry,” says study co-author and Cardus program director Milton Friesen. “Leaders of faith-based organizations also need to engage in better and more frequent interaction with city officials.”

Cardus recently released another case study focused on Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, NY, which established the Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) in its neighbourhood. WEDI provides micro-loans to low-income residents looking to start their own business, runs a small business incubator that is well used by Buffalo’s immigrant communities, and runs educational programs especially suited to students who struggle with English.

By publishing cases studies of the unique and innovative ways faith communities have responded to the needs of their cities’ residents, Cardus hopes to inspire other social service and faith leaders to explore new ways to improve neighbourhoods, find community partners, and learn more about how to serve those around them. The Guelph and Buffalo case studies are freely available online.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications
613-241-4500 x508


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.