The steeple of a 116-year-old Anglican church in St. Philips lies on the ground after being intentionally toppled this morning. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The town council in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's has taken urgent steps to protect the old Anglican church on Coady's Road, which was the scene of an unusual act of property damage early this morning.
Council gathered for an emergency meeting this afternoon and voted unanimously to seek heritage designation for the 115-year-old structure.
Council will also offer a $500 reward for information on the identity of the person or persons who carried out the damage, and has pledged to provide around-the-clock security for the site.
Many in the town are in an uproar after someone intentionally ripped the steeple from the roof of the church sometime after 8 a.m. today.
The damage followed a decision by council on Tuesday to reject an application from the church for a demolition permit. Parish officials want to remove the church in order to expand the cemetery.
But a new group in the town, the Church by the Sea, is fighting to save the building and wants to transform it into a community heritage museum.
Debate over the future of the church has become heated, with many claiming that the church rector, Rev. Edward Keeping, has become too intransigent and emotional on the issue.
Although outspoken on the matter, Keeping has kept a low profile throughout today. An official said the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland will comment after Easter week.