it is Sunday night in downtown Montreal. I am at a C2C church-planting training event focused on equipping and mobilizing the Church in Quebec. Evangel Pentecostal’s reception hall is packed to the brim with pastors, church planters, members of congregations and church leaders. We have all experienced our fair share of meagre crowds at Christian events in this city, but tonight people
around me seem surprised and impressed at the turnout. New
church-planting movements like C2C and Transforme Québec
– whose vision is to see 25,000 new churches in Quebec over
the next 40 years – are making waves within evangelical circles.
It is a unique and challenging time for the religiously
minded in Quebec. Politicians argue about the wording of
the Charter of Values in the National Assembly. Radio-Canada
reports one Catholic parish closed its doors every week in
2013. Human rights groups and media note a rise in acts of
racism against religious groups, namely Muslims.
One thing is for sure: religion is on our minds.
In Quebec cities like Mascouche, Shawinigan and Sherbrooke, new evangelical church plants are chock full of young
francophone families. Last November Radio-Canada featured a
two-part news report on the launch of Église évangélique baptiste
de Shawinigan-Sud, with nothing more than, “Why are people
going to evangelical churches?” as its main inquiry. That people –
particularly young people – would begin to openly practice their
faith is still an enigma in the eyes of larger Quebecois society.
And as the French-speaking evangelical movement enters its
fifth decade here, it remains a very small but increasingly more
visible movement – even if Quebec still demonstrates malaise
toward the presence of religion in the public sphere.
Nothing demonstrates this better, of course, than the recent
Charter of Values.
Bill 60, otherwise known as the Charter of Values, is the talk of
Canada. The bill among other things proposes to limit wearing
overt religious symbols, such as the
hijab, large crucifixes or turbans for
employees of the State, including per-
sonnel in government offices, health-
care and daycare workers, teachers
and university professors.
For Evangelicals whose faith
does not require them to wear any
overt symbols or religious garb, the
debate is more philosophical than
practical. Linguist Anicka Fast con-
sidered the implications of the bill at
a Mennonite Brethren conference
on the Charter last year: “There is a question of visibility...
we [Anabaptists] have always believed that a strong vision
of the Church means that the community will distinguish
itself visibly by specific practices [baptism, for instance]. And
we have always cherished our freedom to criticize the State
and existing structures, all the while refusing to simply resign
ourselves to strictly ‘private spiritual matters,’ believing that
Jesus Christ is Lord of all the cosmos.”
Even if religious clothing is not an issue, the bill could be
viewed as the State interfering in an individual’s right to express
his or her own chosen faith and to live it out in public life. And
for a movement as young and as little recognized as the Quebec
evangelical one, this could matter in ways difficult to predict.
Beer and the Bible in rosemont
If you find yourself in the Montreal francophone neighbourhood of Rosemont on a Wednesday evening, wander upstairs
at the Gainzbar, a stylish urbanite’s restaurant. You will find a
group of university students and young adults who meet over
a pint of beer and conversation on all matters of theology,
faith and the Bible.
These are the children of the children of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. Their parents turned Quebecois society on its head in the
Some of Quebec’s
most steadily growing
between 400 and
2000, such as
Nouvelle vie in
In a province unlike any
other – at a time in Canada’s
history when everything is
up for grabs – Evangelicals
are carving out their personal
and communal identities.
By Jenna Smith