The results of a recent study by the Halo Project, “Valuing Toronto’s Faith Congregations,” concluded that 10 local religious congregations contributed more than $45 million a year to their surrounding communities. The study determined that “local congregations in the City of Toronto can be viewed as economic catalysts. They serve as economic engines that not only support local economies but also contribute to the common good of all.”
While the social, spiritual, and cultural impact of religious communities is well known, very little is understood about their economic value. The Halo Project addresses that gap by studying the local economic impact of faith communities. It determines congregations’ “halo effect,” a reference to the economic contribution that they generate in the surrounding community.
Phase One of the project studied the direct services provided by the congregations. (Indirect services such as the effect of sermons and religious readings were not included.) The study used 41 economic indicators grouped into seven categories – open space, direct spending, education, magnet effect, individual impact, community development, and social capital and care – to assess the monetary value of parish goods and services.
The initial phase revealed that, regardless of the size of the congregation, faith tradition or the nature of program offerings, every congregation in the study had a positive economic impact in its neighbourhood.
FaithWorks, a founding member of the Halo Project, understands the impact that parishes can have in the community. Through the work of its ministry partners and through parishes’ own outreach ministries, communities of hope and compassion are created and lives transformed.
Through the generous support of a FaithWorks donor, two ministry partners – All Saints Church-Community Centre and Flemingdon Park Ministry – participated in Phase One of the study. The results were astounding.
The study concluded that All Saints, located at the corner of Dundas Street East and Sherbourne streets in downtown Toronto, contributes services valued at more than $13 million a year to its surrounding community. The study revealed that most of its economic benefit is concentrated in the category of individual impact, specifically in suicide prevention, crime prevention and enhancing individual health. For every dollar that All Saints spends, $34 of economic impact is generated in the community.
Similar results were revealed for Flemingdon Park Ministry, which generates $3.5 million a year in services to the community in Don Mills. Its economic impact is concentrated in the categories of individual impact as well as social captial and care. Specifically, its economic value is generated in its support for young people and in the teaching of pro-social values and civic engagement. For every dollar spent by Flemingdon Park Ministry, $9 of economic impact is generated.
The results of Phase One affirms the role of faith communities as members of the economic fabric of local communities. It reminds us that congregations are not old and dusty buildings that are insular and focused on their own members, but rather dynamic communities that are opened outwards to the communities in which they reside and to which their programs are directed.
The study also affirms faith communities as valuable stakeholders in the delivery of community services in the city. This study strengthens the capacity of city officials and politicians to make investment and program decisions concerning the delivery of services in ways that include faith communities as integral partners.
In the second phase, the Halo Project will expand its study to examine the economic impact of 50 faith communities across the GTA. FaithWorks looks forward to continuing its participation in the Halo Project with the inclusion of three ministry partners in this new phase. The results of the Halo Project are an exciting affirmation of the diocese’s commitment to build communities of hope and compassion.
For more information on the Halo Project and to read the full study, visit www.haloproject.ca.