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Historic All Saints Anglican Church in Springhill to be demolished

All Saints Anglican Church in Springhill will be demolished in 2019. The end of an 18-month process has come to the conclusion that dismantling the 126-year-old church is the most economical decision considering the building needs a new roof and is only used for several months. The congregation of 30 to 40 will continue to worship in the parish hall.
All Saints Anglican Church in Springhill will be demolished in 2019. The end of an 18-month process has come to the conclusion that dismantling the 126-year-old church is the most economical decision considering the building needs a new roof and is only used for several months. The congregation of 30 to 40 will continue to worship in the parish hall. - Dave Mathieson

Tiny congregation makes painful decision to worship full time in adjacent parish hall

SPRINGHILL, N.S. - A significant piece of the Springhill streetscape will disappear next spring with the demolition of the All Saints Anglican Church at the top of Junction Road.

“It’s very difficult and very sad. It was not the desired outcome, but unfortunately it’s a testament on what’s happening in communities across the country,” church rector Rev. Dr. Brian Spence told the Amherst News. “It’s a marvelous and an extraordinary building and it’s going to be a loss. I lament the loss of all that, but all that being said, you still have the question of whether a building this size is the most practical for a smaller congregation in 2018 and beyond.”

The congregation that numbers between 30 and 40 regular members will move into the adjacent parish hall building on a full-time basis. It has been holding its winter services there for several years while using the main building during the warmer months in the spring and summer.

Spence said the 126-year-old church is need of a new roof, something that would cost more than $70,000 and that wouldn’t address the continued maintenance of the building. He said selling the building is also not an option since it’s connected to the parish hall and there would be property issues.

The building was built in 1892 and its design is based on plans by renowned Prince Edward Island architect William Critchlow Harris.

Spence said the decision to demolish the church was the conclusion of a process that took approximately 18 months and included a discussion with the congregation. He said the question was asked whether the roof should be replaced.

“It has been a question for many years about what to do with the building. The roof was the main issue in that it would be a massive expense, but the operational costs to heat that building are very large,” he said. “It was felt the congregation couldn’t support the costs of maintaining the building and the ongoing operating costs.”

Spence was born and raised in Springhill and was a member of the congregation as a child. He came back to Springhill as the rector in 2017 and is also responsible for St. George’s Anglican Church in Parrsboro.

Rev. Frank Likely, who was at the church for about eight years in the late 1990s, said it was a challenge then to maintain the building.

“We used to close the church for the winter after the Christmas service and then make a Palm Sunday procession to open it back up in the spring,” Likely said. “It’s always sad to see a magnificent building like the church brought down, but it will certainly open up new opportunities for the congregation to focus more on mission than the brick and mortar.”

He said it could also open up an opportunity to develop the property to enhance the cenotaph that was put there in 1929.

Rose Nicholson has been a member of the congregation since she was six or seven and at age 84 she admitted it’s going to be hard to say good-bye.

“I hate to see the beautiful architecture go, but it’s the people who are the church and as long as we’re together that’s what’s important and matters most,” Nicholson said.

With a building as old as it is, she said, there’s always something needing repair. One challenge the church has had is keeping siding on the steeple. She said several thousand dollars have been spent to fix the siding only to have it torn off by the next wind storm.

“There were 30 people in church Sunday and 10 of them were members of my family,” she said. “We essentially have five families and five families cannot keep that big church and the hall in repair.”

She estimates it costs about $500 in oil to heat the main building for a Sunday service. She said the furnace has to be turned on Friday to get the building warm enough for Sunday. It’s not economical to hold winter services there.

It’s a big change from 60 years ago.
“Back then the mines were going strong and the coal was cheap. They’d pile the coal in there and it would heat the building, but coal is long gone and oil is very expensive,” she said.

Nicholson said the parish hall is already serving as a sanctuary. Changes have been made to that building over the year to prepare for a full-time sanctuary. The congregation hopes to add curtains or folding doors to separate the sanctuary from the rest of the building when there are other events taking place.

Besides the Christmas Eve service, the last event there was a concert on Dec. 16 featuring Leah Killen, Clare Turnbull, the Travellers, and others.

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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