St. George's community celebrates 150 years of faith 0
Sharon Weatherall Photo. Left to right: Archdeacon Stephen Haig, Joan Liddiard, Betty Harvey, and David Morgan.
What better way to kick off a 150th church anniversary than to celebrate an $850,000 expansion?
Parishioners of St. George's Anglican Church in Thornbury recently hosted a special open house event to introduce their new parish hall - an addition to the church that will allow them to better serve the congregation and community at large.
"There has been talk of building an parish hall for years and it is now complete. Through support from pledges and cash during a year of active fundraising, we raised enough," said church Archdeacon Stephen Haig.
"It is serendipitous that the parish hall is coming to fruition during our 150th anniversary year," said Haig. "One of the big things with the open house is to let people know it that we have a building God blessed us with for the community to use if needed, as well as the members.
"This building will be used for the people."
The new parish hall is a renovation of the old hall, which was built in several levels, and the addition of a new hall totalling 1,200 square feet - plus washrooms, a new staircase, new entry and a wheelchair-accessible elevator, making the building fully accessible.
The hall includes a beautiful new kitchen complete with cupboards and ample counter space, three ovens (two convection) and a warming oven, a microwave, and other appliances to make work much easier for the ladies of the congregation. An old section of the church has been renovated into the change room for the choir.
Project manager David Morgan says the addition has been "a dream" of church members for almost two decades, and it had undergone several 'almost starts' that had not come to anything until the arrival of Archdeacon Haig nearly four years ago.
"He helped us get fired up and get it started," said Morgan. "We went through five different designs, loads of applications for federal funding including the (federal) stimulus program but we could get no approval... we tried for provincial Trillium funding and were unsuccessful as well.
"After trying several charitable organizations with a moderate response, our biggest and most successful response was from our own parishioners; the people from the congregation were very generous," he said.
Congregation members donated "large and small amounts," said Morgan, which ultimately tallied to more than $600,000.
"With that money and a couple of grants, about 18 months ago we decided we had enough pledges and donations to get going," he said.
The church was also helped out with a loan from the Anglican Foundation Diocese of Huron.
Morgan worked with local builder Steve Garrow of Design 2000, using the budget to produce a design at a guaranteed price. One year ago the congregation met and voted to go ahead with the project, signing a contract with Garrow. Following several months of approvals with the Town of the Blue Mountains, construction began last August, and the addition was complete a week before Christmas.
After the new hall was finished, renovations began on the old section; that work was mostly undertaken by church volunteers as well as members of the community. A contractor was hired to install the kitchen cabinets.
"One of the drivers to do this was to make the church accessible," said Morgan, who is also a retired architect who has worked in the business for 60 years. "Some of the older members of the congregation were not physically well enough to get into the old basement. Now they can use the elevator,.
"It was very rewarding to be involved in the project and see it come to fruition, especially for the 150th anniversary,"?he said. "It has given us another reason to celebrate."
The official dedication of the building with the Bishop will take place on April 22.
Morgan says the idea is the new addition will also be used by the community at large for weddings, funerals and group/organization meetings.
About 120 people turn out each week to St. George's two services on Sunday, at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
"We have a great congregation that is very active, and for years we have been trying to get this done," said Morgan. "We had also been looking for an organist for the church for the past three years and recently a lady moved to the area and asked if we were still looking for an organist. So things are really coming together.
The open house was the first of several monthly events celebrating the church's sesquicentennial.
"So far we have had a very positive response to the new hall and we hope it will be well used and seen as a community facility," said Morgan. "That is important because the church has been here as part of the community for 150 years."
The land for the church was donated in 1859 by the Marsh family, who were early settlers to the area. Mr. Marsh's great, great-granddaughter, Nan Maitlin still attends services at the church. Morgan said the first church was a little wooden building that was loaded onto a wagon and moved to another Anglican congregation in the area when the existing church was built in 1895.
"The new church was being built at the same time as the Presbyterian church across the road with crews working each morning on the new Anglican Church and the Presbyterian Church in the afternoon - so they were both finished around the same time. It was very unique," said Morgan.
On Sunday, May 27, the congregation of St. George's Anglican Church will be dressing in period costumes and gathering at the 'Grape Grange', where services were celebrated for the first time in 1862. From there they will make their way to the church using modes of transportation appropriate to the time. A communion service will be held at 10 a.m. For information visit the web site: www.bmts.com/~stgeorge