Jeff Green | Aug 18, 2011
Rumours of the end of the Land O’Lakes Emmanuel United Church are greatly exaggerated.
Recently all three of the churches that the congregation uses on a rotating basis, the Flinton, Harlowe and Cloyne United Churches, were put up for sale.
Reverend Judith Evenden (photo left), who is the minister of Land O’Lakes Emmanuel Pastoral Charge, said that the decision to sell the buildings was supported by the church council. At a congregational meeting in May, a vote requiring 75% approval was taken, and the congregation supported the move.
“Deciding to sell the buildings was a difficult decision for the council and the congregation to make,” said Reverend Evenden “but it is part of the evolution of Land O’Lakes Emmanuel. We looked carefully at all of the churches and considered what it would cost to renovate one or more of them, and there was no easy answer. Renovating one of the buildings would also have meant choosing one church over another and in those cases somebody wins and somebody loses. Ultimately it made sense to sell all the buildings and decide on our next step afterwards.”
The existing buildings have limited or no washroom facilities, which has become more of an issue with an aging church membership. Accessibility is another issue.
“The legislation around accessibility was one of the things that gave some urgency to looking at the future facility needs of the congregation,” said Evenden. “While the legislation focuses on commercial operations and public buildings, not churches, we are very much looking at a senior population in our congregation, which includes more and more people who need barrier-free access to come to church. We have very limited options to offer at any of our existing buildings.”
The churches in Harlowe, Cloyne and Flinton were built and maintained by the parishioners and have been the heart and soul of the local communities. They have been the location of weddings and funerals and all other events that mark the passage of time, and selling them has caused some rifts in the congregation.
“People are upset and grieving; I know they are,” said Judith Evenden, “and there are a small number who have walked away from the church over this. But the council felt it was necessary and the congregation agreed. We need now to get the word out that this was a healthy community-based decision recognising the church is not the building, it is the people.”
The church buildings are all owned by the United Church of Canada, and Land O’Lakes Emmanuel has successfully petitioned Belleville Presbytery to allow the sale of the buildings, stipulating that all the proceeds from the sale of the buildings be held in trust and used for a central ministry site that will serve the entire congregation.
While the Land O’Lakes Emmanuel congregation does not have a location in mind for a new or renovated space, they will be looking on or near Highway 41 in the Flinton to Cloyne area for a new facility. In the short term they are looking for a storage facility for some of the contents of the churches, should they be sold in the coming weeks and months.
“The congregation has been coming together for six years, starting with the move to a single congregation, and moving through this discussion about a new location for the church.” said Reverend Evenden. “This is really another step in the coming together of the three former congregations into one, a faith-filled decision based in hope and trust.”