Congregation votes to sell church, rent worship space

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Matt Gardner
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St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church members have decided on the fate of their building.

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church members have voted to sell their building and rent worship space in light of repair costs estimated at $1.5 million.

In a nearly unanimous vote at their Monday night meeting, more than 100 members of the congregation determined their plan to deal with repair costs estimated at $1.5 million.

“They ended up going for the idea of putting the building up for sale and then renting the space from the buyer,” session clerk Norman Hill said.

The overwhelming vote by the congregation, he added, came with certain conditions attached.

“They just wanted provisos on there that they want to make sure we can still worship in the building and have our own programs there, like Sunday school and that there as well.”

The St. Paul’s congregation has been worshipping at Wesley United Church with Rev. Tony Thompson on Sundays since their own church last fall closed for a building assessment.

Engineers reported that a deflection in one of the church’s decorative covers indicated structural problems with the beams that support the roof.

They offered four possible solutions to church members -- a permanent solution costing $1.5 million, a temporary solution costing $300,000, selling the building and renting worship space or selling the building and worshiping elsewhere.

Explaining their final decision, Hill noted the cost barriers that made it impossible for the congregation to finance the building repairs on its own.

“It’s something that we couldn’t afford to do a permanent repair on it, and yet we do not want it torn down,” he said. “So the idea of having someone buying it and being able to do a repair and allowing us to use it is certainly a viable option.”

Yet Hill also pointed to the strong emotional links that bound so many members to the church.

“We have families with long ties with the building, some going back generations, and so they consider it part of their life and hate to see the idea of it being sold,” he said.

“However, we need to have it fixed … so this is a working option if we can make it work.”

We couldn’t afford to do a permanent repair on it, and yet we do not want it torn down. Norman Hill

The church plans to put out a request for bid proposals next week with a closing date of April 30, at which time it will review any bids received.

Details of how St. Paul's might cover the cost of repairs should it find a buyer remain to be worked out.

Hill said the congregation is leaving the subject open for discussion once it finds someone interested to see how they might handle the costs, depending on how the buyer wishes to approach the situation financially.

“Either they might take on the whole cost or they’ll ask us to help and pay for it and then we’ll end up looking at some kind of a fundraising plan,” Hill said. “But we’ll have to wait and see until we get some offers.”

Having decided to stay at their old building, the congregation must also resolve the issue of how to replace Rev. Sandy Scott, who left the church last year.

St. Paul’s is currently looking at hiring an interim minister on a two-year basis, with officials likely to appoint someone through the national Presbyterian church.

“We’ll be hoping that they can help revitalize the congregation, help us to grow our numbers and make us financially self-sufficient,” Hill said.

An in-depth history of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church will appear in the Saturday edition of the Daily Herald.

See also:

Church repair costs total $1.5 million

Churches worship together during building assessment

Organizations: Wesley United Church, Presbyterian Church, Daily Herald

Geographic location: St. Paul

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