Parish leaves central site, moves church to suburbs

Danette Dooley
Published on November 26, 2011
Bishop Cy Pitman (left) and parish priest Rev. Tom Rose stand where the St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church will be built on the corner of Ladysmith Drive and Kenmount Road in St. John's.Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

After more than half a century on the corner of LeMarchant Road and St. Clare Avenue in St. John's, St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church is moving to a new location.

The parish has purchased land on the corner of Ladysmith Drive and Kenmount Road in St. John's and expects to be in the new building by Christmas 2012.

When the church opened in the LeMarchant Road area in 1956 it was in the heart of St. John's. The area is now home to many businesses rather than families, said parish priest Rev. Sam Rose. As such, he says, it became a "destination church" where people were driving from other areas to attend services.

Rose said the parish has been mulling over the idea of uprooting for almost a decade.

Money from the sale of the old church and land will be used to build the new church.

The parish also launched a capital campaign earlier this year. The campaign brought in about $400,000. Phase 2 of the campaign will be launched shortly, Rose said.

"We'll certainly have to have a mortgage, but it will be less than the mortgage of an average house in the city."

However, Rose said, the decision to move wasn't an easy one, as the old church held many memories for its parishioners.

"But we had some insurmountable costs in trying to keep the church open. So we put the building on the market and the people who believed in the mission of St. Michael's stuck together as a parish family. Without that, this project would never have taken off," Rose said.

Rose says the new location, surrounded by subdivisions, is an ideal spot for a church.

While the furnishings of the old church, many given as gifts from parishioners, will find a home in the new church, the building will look completely different. The church will have a main worshipping area and a chapel with a quiet, glassed-in area where parents can take their babies and still participate in the service.

"The service will be sounded-in so they'll benefit from that without feeling like they're distracting others," Rose said.

There will also be a large meeting area and offices at the back of the church.

The parish hall will be downstairs in the two-level building.

The move brings the church back into the community, Rose said.

"It just can't be a building that you put up and people come. ... There'll be programs and events to welcome everybody regardless of their faith," he said.

The parish currently holds a Saturday family service at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) playgroup room on Pippy Place - the same building where the parish's offices are currently located.

CUPW has given them the space free of charge, he said.

Carnell's also offered its chapel on Freshwater Road in St. John's for Sunday services, Rose said.

Cy Pitman, bishop for the Anglican diocese for Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, says he supports the parish's move.

"St. Michael's has a history of reaching out in areas where people are. And that's all about who we are as a church," he says.

When asked if the move has to do with a declining membership, Rose said while numbers have gone down over the years, it's more to do with an aging population and the changing demographics in the area than people not supporting the church.

Pitman said the number of people coming to the diocese for sacramental ministries such as weddings, baptisms, funerals and pastoral care has increased rather than decreased.

"Our church has been in the city since the early 1600s. This is just another part of expanding. It's a very exciting time in the life of the church," Pitman said.