Church's reprieve irks rector

Danette Dooley
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A motion before the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's to reject an application to demolish the 116-year-old Anglican church in St. Philip's was passed at Tuesday night's council meeting, leaving those who'd packed council's chambers and lobby bursting into applause.

However, the actions of the church's rector following the decision left those attending the meeting shocked, upset and calling for Edward Keeping's move from the church.

A motion before the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's to reject an application to demolish the 116-year-old Anglican church in St. Philip's was passed at Tuesday night's council meeting, leaving those who'd packed council's chambers and lobby bursting into applause.

However, the actions of the church's rector following the decision left those attending the meeting shocked, upset and calling for Edward Keeping's move from the church.

"Don't come near the cemetery anymore," Keeping shouted at long-time parishioner Steve Sharpe as the rector was leaving the building.

The cemetery is on the same grounds as the old church and the new one built to replace it six years ago.

Keeping's anger was evident. His words were hissed as he pointed his finger just inches from Sharpe's face.

Sharpe is president of Church by the Sea, a non-profit corporation which was struck to save the historic building.

Keeping's comments came immediately after the rector spoke with reporters about council's decision.

When asked about his feelings about council's decision to not allow the parish to tear down the structure, Keeping said he was going to the Department of Municipal Affairs today to complain about "some members" of council.

"I've been hearing from the community that the decision was made before tonight. Members of council have said that publicly to people. So, why are we here tonight if they had the decision made already?"

Keeping said almost all those attending the parish's March 14 annual general meeting voted in favour of the demolition.

Council has gone against that decision, he said, "because of the Church by the Sea committee."

During an interview earlier in the day, Sharpe said the heritage and history of the church is important to the people of the parish as well as to those living well beyond its boundaries.

"The church is actually built on the foundation of an 1848 church. The oldest headstone that's recognizable is 1801," he said.

The old church is being used by the parish to store and sort recyclables.

That's not acceptable, Sharpe said.

Sharpe and his group would like to see the church restored and opened as a museum and centre for community-based programs and activities.

The committee recently submitted an action plan and budget to the parish which outlined how it would like to take responsibility for the building - including financial obligations - while keeping the church under the ownership, guidance and direction of the parish.

The parish rejected the plan.

The mayor, deputy mayor and all councillors with the exception of Moses Tucker voted to reject the parish's application to demolish the church.

While pleased with the decision, Sharpe was upset by the rector's personal verbal attack.

A lifelong parishioner, when asked if he'll be attending church in the future, Sharpe said, "I'll have to think about that," but then added, "I don't go to church because of him."

Sharpe wasn't the only one upset with Keeping's unwavering decision to see the church demolished.

Eileen Metcalfe was baptized in the old church and has been a member of the congregation all her life.

"We're at a deadlock here. I don't see any participation from Rev-erend Keeping. I don't know if there's such a thing as going to the bishop. There has to be somebody we can sit down with and come up with a solution. I don't think Reverend Keeping is it."

Doreen Squires said the issue of demolishing the church has brought the residents of the community closer together.

However, she, too, was upset by Keeping's behaviour.

"He's supposed to be Christ-like and Christian," she said.

One woman who witnessed Keeping's behaviour said the church will suffer under his leadership.

"We'll never raise another cent for the old church or the new one because you won't get a soul to attend," she said.

telegram@thetelegram.com danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Anglican church, Department of Municipal Affairs, Sea committee

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Recent comments

  • Townie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    What's wrong with crowd in this town? They are always at one another's throats.

  • Gerry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    I have to wonder at the attitude of the Rector in this situation. Where He should be standing with the committee to keep the old church (historic site) here he is getting angry at his parishioners. Strange behavior for a man who has served the ACoC for so long.

    Change your attitude Rev., I think you have made a serious mistake.

  • Townie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    What's wrong with crowd in this town? They are always at one another's throats.

  • Gerry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    I have to wonder at the attitude of the Rector in this situation. Where He should be standing with the committee to keep the old church (historic site) here he is getting angry at his parishioners. Strange behavior for a man who has served the ACoC for so long.

    Change your attitude Rev., I think you have made a serious mistake.