What do you do when your church can no longer afford to keep its building? This is a dilemma more and more congregations have been faced with, often as a result of shrinking congregations and aging church structures. Sackville United Church faced this issue, forced to leave its beloved local landmark in the heart of the downtown area when its congregation could simply no longer afford to keep it. How they have chosen to move forward is an interesting example of being open-minded and creative in finding a solution to this increasingly common challenge.
When the hard decision to leave was made, the church property was sold to a local realty company. As part of the payment, Sackville United Church received ownership of a property adjacent to their old church that was owned by the realty company: Sackville’s former town hall and council chambers. At one time the building even served as the local jail. An unusual setting for a new place of worship, but that is what it has become. Over the past year the congregation has held services at Mount Allison’s chapel while renovations were made on the old town hall, and in June they will open the doors to their new home. The former town offices on the main floor have been opened up to become the main worship space, and the former council chambers has been converted into a bright and cheerful Sunday School and multi-purpose space.
The congregation sees the smaller and soundly-built structure as one that will allow them to live within their means, and get back to focusing on what’s important. “Instead of worrying about how to pay the bills, now we can focus all our energy back on living our mission of sharing God’s unconditional love through learning, worship and action,” says Ed Burridge, Chair of the church’s Council. “We are glad to be back downtown as well, as creating a welcoming place for community has always been important to us.”
The public is invited to see the new space at an open house on Saturday, June 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tours, music and refreshments will be offered, along with children’s stories at 10:30 and 12:30. “We are excited to start this new chapter in our history,” says the congregation’s Rev. Catherine Smith, “and we invite everyone to share this important time with us.”