The congregation of Moosomin’s Bethel United Church has decided to move forward with a major renovation to their church building, which is more than 125 years old.
The church was built as Moosomin Methodist Church in 1889, and became Bethel United Church when the United Church of Canada was formed.
Layne McFarlane, a member of the church’s restoration committee, says the church board decided to move ahead with the restoration after weighing all the pros and cons.
“We’re at the point where some work needs to be done,” he said.
“The church was originally built in 1889 and the board has struggled somewhat with the question, because of the age of the church, should we try and restore it? The obvious concern is the cost.
“There was a lot of time spent in discussion and reflection. On a personal basis I was personally swayed when Holly and I went on a city tour of Vancouver. Near the beginning of the tour, they drove us by a church, and said it was built in 1895 and it is the oldest church in Vancouver. I realized our church is older than that! It’s older than the oldest church in Vancouver.
“In many of the pictures we see of the town of Moosomin, there’s this church in the background. I’m thinking not only is this important to our congregation but I believe to the community as a whole. It’s from that perspective we decided that yes, we’re trying to go ahead, we’re establishing a fund to proceed with the restoration.”
“We all wanted to go ahead with it because we think it’s a wonderful building Moosomin should preserve,” said committee member Colleen Middleton. “It’s in our heart. We know we can restore this. The growth of Moosomin has also encouraged us to go ahead, that makes us more optimistic too.”
The congregation is hoping to raise $150,000 for the renovation.
“The $150,000 will all have to be raised locally,” said McFarlane. “We know that we need a significant contribution by our congregation and our community as a whole to make this thing work.”
The church building is used not just by the congregation but by many community groups.
The church is working on plans for some fundraisers.
“We have some ideas,” said committee member Shirley Lindsay. “We’re thinking of garage sales, suppers with entertainment, that sort of thing.”
Lindsay said she wanted to be part of the restoration project because the church is so important to her.
“I can’t explain how important it is,” she says. “That’s my family, that’s my home.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to the building.
“The windows are sinking into the frames, the wood is rotten. The grout around the stained glass windows needs to be replaced. The plumbing and electrical is all old. We need to do some work on the bell tower,” said McFarlane. “There were a few years when we didn’t do enough and now we need to do a few things to bring it up to standard.”
Overall, he says, the building has lasted well.
“When you figure that in 1889 just a few years after the railway came through, they were able to build that size of building and that, 125 years later, it’s in fairly good shape, that’s pretty amazing. After all that time, it needs a few things, but it’s still a solid building.”
Members of the committee say they believe working together on the project will help renew enthusiasm within the congregation.
“I believe the project will reinvigorate our church,” says Lindsay. “A lot of people are very excited about this.”
“There’s that spirit, that common purpose,” says McFarlane. “There’s nothing like establishing a common goal to get people to work together. There’s that feeling of relief after all the discussion that the decision has been made, and there’s that excitement of starting on something new.”
The committee is hoping to raise the $150,000 by the end of June. It must raise at least $75,000, and if it raises at least $75,000, it will make up the difference from church funds.
Anyone who wants to contribute can make a cheque out to the Bethel United Church Restoration Fund and send it to:
Bethel United Church Restoration Fund, Box 37, Moosomin SK S0G 3N0
Tax receipts will be issued.