Historic church needs costly work
Community is asked to help raise $750,000 to repair 151-year-old downtown building
By Walter Cordery, Nanaimo Daily News August 5, 2010
Those who attend St. Andrew's United Church in Nanaimo hope for a little financial support as well as some divine guidance.
The congregation has launched a fundraising campaign called "Catch the Spirit' in an effort to raise $750,000 during the next three years to pay for much-needed renovations at the church.
There has been a church building at the corner of Fitzwilliam and Wesley streets for 151 years but it has not always been a United Church.
Initially, it was a wooden Gothic Revival church. Then in 1893, the cornerstone for a new Presbyterian church was laid at the site.
In 1925, Presbyterian churches across the country merged with the Canadian Methodist churches to become the United Church of Canada. Initially called First United, the building at 311 Fitzwilliam St. officially became St. Andrew's United in 1927.
The building has been listed in the "Historic Places of Canada" registry.
"We have about 150 regular members of our congregation," said Gaylord Merkel, chairman of the Catch the Spirit Campaign.
Merkel said the church is as much a community asset as it is a place for members of the congregation to pray and seek spiritual guidance.
"There are numerous weddings and funerals at the church every year and we host things like the Upper Island Musical Festival," he said.
The church has played a major role as a community centre and is in constant use by different groups within Nanaimo, especially members of this city's music community as the sanctuary at St. Andrew's is renown for its superior acoustics.
Other groups who use the building include: Nanaimo Concert Band, Nanaimo Youth Choir, Camerata Choir, Nanaimo Conservatory, Everybody Sings Program, Malaspina Choir, Harbour City Photographers Club, the Church of God, Chinese Cultural Society, Red Room Studio, Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Much work needs to be done at the church, Merkel said.
"I guess the biggest thing is a new roof."
Other things that need addressing are exterior repairs, an organ console, pew repairs, a balcony for the sanctuary, a new furnace, new carpets, electrical upgrades and repairs to the bell tower.
The work needs to start soon on the repairs and renovations as it's thought that if things stay the way that they are now the building may soon become uninhabitable.
On Aug. 13, Allison Crowe will perform at St. Andrew's to help raise money for the campaign.
"My understanding is that all proceeds from the show will go to the Catch the Spirit Campaign," said Merkel.
Tickets for the show cost $20 in advance and the show is expected to sell out. People can pick up tickets at West Coast Classic Floral, Lobelia's Lair, Fascinating Rhythm, Tom Lee Music and the St. Andrew's United Church office -- 311 Fitzwilliam St.
For more information call 250-753-1924.
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