ARICHAT: A community group hoping to refurbish a former Anglican church building on Isle Madame is reporting progress in its negotiations with the diocese that previously operated the facility.
The Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island officially deconsecrated St. John’s Church in Arichat in mid-2014, nearly a month after Bishop Ron Cutler accepted the recommendation of the Strait-Chedabucto Parish Council to sever the diocese’s ties to the building. At the time, the parish cited the high cost of addressing issues such as mould build-up, dry rot, water drainage concerns, broken siding and an unsafe wheelchair ramp.
Today, the chair of the “Friends of St. John’s Arichat Society,” Anne Leavitt, is reporting progress between the legal counsel for the not-for-profit group and the parish on a plan to allow the parish to give the building to the society.
“A couple of weeks ago, we received a call from the lawyer who’s been working with us to say that the parish had retained counsel of their own, and that counsel had advised him that the parish was willing to make a gift of the church to the Friends of St. John’s,” Leavitt told The Reporter Thursday afternoon.
“The parish has been very cooperative, particularly in the past year. So we’re really pleased with the way things seem to be playing out at the moment.”
She added that the society has “been actively fundraising” and seeking estimates from local businesses to correct the structural issues that have plagued the 121-year-old church building in recent years.
“Part of our agreement with the parish has been that we’ll help them out with the costs that they incurred to get the property ready for the sale to begin with, so we will be covering some of those costs,” Leavitt confirmed.
“But the mould issue really has to be addressed, and there’s siding that’s come off one of the walls of the church. We’ve got a couple of contractors from whom we’ve received a couple of estimates – nothing firm yet. And we will be pulling together all of those estimates to put a fundraising target together very soon.”
Noting that “all kinds of my ancestors” are buried in the Anglican church’s graveyard, Leavitt spoke positively about the potential future of the former St. John’s Church.
“The parish itself is the second-oldest in Cape Breton, and the building has fantastic acoustical qualities, and we are really looking forward to using it as a performing arts centre, among other things,” she added. “There’s really no space like that nearby on Isle Madame. So we really look forward to the community taking ownership of it as a historically significant site for the community as a whole.”