The Port McNeill church named for the patron saint of loggers in Port McNeill is about to undergo some major changes.
“The A-frame (St. John Gualbert’s) church has been around since 1964 and it’s a historical and religious edifice, but it’s time she got a face lift,” said Craig Murray, who’s one of the people leading the charge to raise funds to transform the church, better known as the place to find the community garden and the second hand bookstore, rather than as a place of worship.
The denomination of the church is Anglican United, but that hasn’t always been the case, said Murray.
“It used to be Catholic and other denominations have been in there — it’s been used a lot by different denominations over the years,” he said.
“A lot of people on the North Island have ties to that church because they were married there, they were baptized there, funerals were there — there are all kinds of reasons people want to see this church retained.”
Despite the history and memories associated with the church, it now hosts a small number of devotees every Sunday.
“There are about a dozen in the congregation,” said Murray.
“The reason we’re doing all the work and getting a new minister is to show that we’re alive and well and to grow the congregation.”
Murray said improvements will include a new roof, upgraded breezeway, a new meeting room and a paint job.
“There will be new electrics, new telecommunications stuff, upgrades to the inside to get it up to modern day standards,” Murray said.
“Some labour is volunteer, other work is contracted out, but we’re trying to bring it back to where it should be.”
The makeover also includes a novel roof with no steeple, but instead features crosses built into the shakes on both sides.
The cost to do the repairs is estimated to be in the $120,000 range.
“The majority of the money is in place … but as much as we can, we’d like to fundraise,” said Murray, who added there are a couple of planned fundraisers.
One is asking folks to buy bundles of shakes for $35 or a square of shakes for $135.
“For the Raise the Roof fundraiser, they can purchase any one of the many needed upgrades such as carpet, a church bell, loft stairs, interior decorating and more for the roof.
“Everybody I’ve approached has really come to the plate on that one,” said Murray.
There’s also a musical fundraiser next week at the Gateway Theatre in Port McNeill featuring Murray’s daughter, Georgia Murray, who was recently seen on the CBC’s Cover Me Canada.
Georgia will be accompanied by two other women, one the violin player who accompanied Georgia on the television show, and the other is one is a woman Georgia been singing with since they were teens.
The concert takes place April 14 at 8 p.m., but there is a 4 p.m. matinee for families with younger children.
“It’s gonna be a helluva night of music, but I might be a bit biased,” said Murray.
Tickets are at the pool in Port Hardy and at Guido’s, and in Port Mcneill at The Shed, Mugz, the Flower Shoppe and at the high school from the dry grads, many of whom will be serving mocktails at the show to raise money for the dry grad.
The work on the church is expected to be completed by summer’s end.
For donations, the purchase of shakes for the roof or other church related infomation, please call Deborah or Craig Murray at 250-956-3297 or Chris or Karen Stewart at 250-956-2912.
A (very brief) history of St. John Gualbert’s church
Mrs. Jenny Betts and her husband Wallace were founders of the church in 1946 when it was held at the community hall where Mr. Betts conducted bible study for the adults and Mrs. Betts held Sunday School.
The church was a community church with no firm denominational direction.
It wasn’t until the Cominco Mining Company came to Port McNeill in 1961 that discussion was held to build a church building.
The people of Cominco, led by manager Howard Barker, felt every community should have a church. United Church Rev. Robert Burrows — who never lived in Port McNeill, but ministered in Alert Bay — encouraged the community to build a build a church and fundraising began.
The church was completed in the fall of 1963. The first service was held on Nov. 22, 1963. In a scenario familiar to all North Islanders, the power went out so the service was conducted by candlelight, as was the dinner which followed.
The church became known as the Anglican/United Fellowship in 1972 and was renamed St. John Gualbert in the 1980’s.
Under the ministry of Clare Holmes in the late 60’s and early 70’s there was much ecumenicalism. Holmes (United Church), Rev. Marlowe Anderson (Anglican) and Father Andre Dion (Roman Catholic) worked together as they visited and ministered to their respective communities involving the mutual use of the Anglican United Fellowship building.