A group photo taken at the time of signing the closing documents for sale of St. James’ Church 184 Oxford St. Ingersoll. Left to right: Canon Paul Rathbone, Bishop Todd Townshend; Michael Watson, Rector’s Warden; Ian Blain, legal counsel for St. James’; Rev. Paul Walmsley, Rector at St. James’.
By Veronica Jackson
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward”
In 2011, the Vision Committee of St. James’ Ingersoll hired Alan Avis Architects and Pow Engineering, a mechanical, structural, and civil engineering firm to complete an engineer’s report regarding the repair/disrepair of the church and parish hall buildings.
That report was extensive and outlined the need to spend over $2,000.000 on the parish buildings over the next few immediate years. Parish Council continued to make ‘band aid repairs’ but the budget would not allow councils to make any major repairs. It became increasingly obvious that the parish could not continue to maintain the church property. This message was delivered to the congregation in October 2016.
The parishioners of St. James’ knew that the time was at hand to act. We did not want the Diocese tell us to close our buildings as was the inevitable fate of so many other parishes in Huron. We did not want our congregation to gradually drift away.
In September 2017, at a Special Vestry Meeting, The Vision Implementation Committee consisting of Margaret Burford, Cheryl Barr, Veronica Jackson, Michael Watson, Bob Welt and Rev. Meghan Nicholls received a vote of confidence and the authority to begin searching for ways and means to sell the property at 184 Oxford Street. The committee promised to work smartly and diligently, always keeping the needs of the parish in the forefront.
In October 2017, Diocesan Council and Bishop Linda Nicholls passed a motion that allowed St. James’ Vision Implementation Committee to list the property and sell it through a local real estate company.
Our beloved historic buildings went up for sale in November 2017 and over the following months they were viewed by many interested entrepreneurs and small business owners. Finally, in the spring of 2019, a conditional sale was accepted by the parish on the buildings from a developer from the GTA, Sigalas Investments Inc. The Diocese approved the sale and after a few procedural bends and turns in the road to the closing date, the buildings were officially sold in March 2020. Our final de-consecration service was led by the retired Bishop of Huron, Bishop Bob Bennett.
For the time being St. James’ has found two rental locations to serve the needs of our congregation and allow us to carry out our outreach projects in the community. One location is used primarily for Sunday worship services while the second one is used for administrative tasks, meeting and fellowship. Our former rector, Rev’d Nicholls, left the parish in July of 2019 to pursue a calling as a padre in the Canadian Armed Forces. We were very fortunate that Rev’d Paul Walmsley, a retired Anglican minister from Algoma Diocese was already worshiping in our parish. He agreed to take up the position of rector at St. James’.
So what is next for the parish? We will continue to move forward over the coming months to locate a permanent spot to carry on the tradition of Anglican worship in Ingersoll. Our Vision Committee has had to go on a brief hiatus as the entire country and world deals with the Covid 19 pandemic. Yet, we remain optimistic that the very difficult decisions that we have made as a parish over the past four years will prove to be worthwhile. We have a dedicated group of church and community supporters who have shown us that a parish is not just a building, no matter how historic or beautiful, but the vibrant people who worship Christ together as one.
Veronica Jackson is the warden at St. James, Ingersoll