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LETTER: Tearing down churches and building glass boxes

An architectural rendering of the proposed annex to be built adjacent to the Anglican Cathedral in downtown St. John’s.
An architectural rendering of the proposed annex to be built adjacent to the Anglican Cathedral in downtown St. John’s. - Juanita Mercer

It is unthinkable that at a time of the seriously diminished financial situation and attendance at our churches in the province, the Anglican Mother Church at St. John the Baptist in Downtown St. John’s in a nationally designated historic ecclesiastical church district, wants to build a state-of-the-art, modern glass-cube annex.

It is even more unthinkable that the proposed modern glass cube is being justified on the basis of the need for office space for its bishop, diocese and cathedral staff and a social meeting space for its parishioners.

This is not only incongruent with our beautiful and important downtown heritage district and historic church precinct but incongruent to the fact they are closing, for attendance and financial reasons, up to 100 vernacular and historic churches throughout the province.

These actions are also being taken without public input in the regions and beautiful outport communities where they are located.

In some cases these churches have already been torn down — like the 121 year old church in Princeton, Bonavista Bay. The church was demolished despite the fact that descendants of the families, who toiled to have the building constructed, wanted to see it saved for community purposes.

The Anglican Mother Church obviously has a lot of money for a modern, new, comfortable and actually luxurious-looking office and meeting space for their hierarchy, while parishioners in Salvage have to hold bake sales and depend on community fundraising events to repair their 160-year-old church’s foundation, so they can keep it open.

It is time we saved our heritage buildings and church districts and demanded public sensitivity, creativity or accountability on this matter by the Bishops. Any public insensitivity to the importance of these historic and architectural buildings and spaces to our future is unacceptable.

The province should be enacting regulations to demand public transparency, dialogue and rigorous processes by religious organizations if these heritage buildings and spaces are to be adapted or considered no longer functional or wanted by their owners.

These structures not only help to define our communities but provide unique architectural buildings and spaces to help vibrant and resilient communities benefit from the emerging local industries and cultural and tourism opportunities.

These architectural and heritage resources are unique and critical for our future well-being and are as an important resource as other resources in the province.

When it comes to our endangered spaces and places the churches, municipal, provincial and federal governments need to do much more to save the integrity of our ecclesiastical resources and spaces.

Heather MacLellan,
St. John’s


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