Joan Cooper at the Uniting Church in Balwyn.

The Uniting Church's Joan Cooper outside the Balwyn church. Photo: Angela Wylie

WHAT better time than Christmas to buy a church? And there has been a steady stream going on the market in Victoria this year.

Dwindling congregations may be a worry for the churches but there is an upside - millions of dollars are being reaped as emptying places of worship go under the hammer.

The Uniting Church is hoping for some Christmas cheer on Saturday when its church in Balwyn is auctioned. The sprawling, relatively new 1950s brick church in Nungerner Street is expected to fetch more than $1.9 million.

Church for sale in Armadale.

St Albans in Armadale has already been sold this year. Photo: Angela Wylie

It is just the latest church to go on the market. Between them, the Uniting and Anglican churches have sold 15 this year. Other denominations have also been in the action. The Catholic Church sold St Mary's Church in Lethbridge, outside Geelong, in March.

Nungerner Street joins 10 other churches and buildings sold by the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania this year, a number ''generally reflective of each of the last five years'', a spokesman said. ''Every denomination is going through similar things.''

Most of the sales have been in rural areas, but two months ago the church sold an 1871 bluestone former Presbyterian church in Napier Street, Fitzroy, for more than $2 million.

Uniting Church on Napier Street, Fitzroy.

The former Presbyterian church in Fitzroy, which has also been sold this year. Photo: Eddie Jim

The Anglican diocese has sold four churches this year. All Saints Church in Darling Road, Malvern East, was sold last month for $4.05 million to a childcare centre.

The sale followed that of St Albans in Armadale in October, St Paul's in Kingsville and St George's in Footscray West earlier this year.

The sale of churches is a sensitive issue. ''The decision to sell is enormous,'' said Anglican diocese chief operating officer Lesley Tarves. ''It's about reallocation of capital.'' Proceeds of sales were used to restore nearby churches or help other congregations.

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The dwindling numbers and changing demographics are transforming worship for many Melbourne faithful as religious groups merge congregations.

The Balwyn congregation has merged with three others, including a Korean congregation in Deepdene.

Joan Cooper, chairwoman of the Deepdene Uniting Church council, said: ''We are really excited by the new multicultural congregation we have. I don't think there's anybody that will be sad [about the sale] other than it's a place that has memories.''

''Simply divine or simply divide'' reads estate agency Christopher Russell's advertisement for the Balwyn church. But other denominations interested in the building will have to compete with developers and couples interested in converting the church into homes.