KING’S COVE, NL — For over 100 years St. James Anglican Church has been sitting on a hill overlooking the small Bonavista Bay community of King’s Cove.
Rosalind Walter, and over 1,500 others, would like to make sure it stays that way.
Walter lives in King’s Cove and is a member of the church.
She’s been circulating a petition for the past few weeks, a petition that protests the idea of demolition of the 120-year-old church.
The church will be deconsecrated in late July because there aren’t enough parishioners to warrant keeping it open.
But that doesn’t mean it should be demolished, she says.
“The closing of the church and tearing it down is two damn different things,” she said in an interview with The Packet.
According to Walter, parishoners were led to believe the church would only be torn down if it could not be sold.
“I never even gave it a second thought about tearing it down because I thought, for sure, somebody would be looking to buy it where all these historical people are looking for these buildings.
In fact, there is someone who would like to buy the church.
Chris and Karen Ricketts of the neighbouring community of Plate Cove West, would like to turn the building into an arts centre.
Ricketts was raised in King’s Cove and some of his family still live there.
He says he’s always been fascinated by the church, and the craftsmanship that went into the building.
“That building was built by hand; it’s unique. We’re trying to hang on to our culture. The fishery is almost dead. This church is one of the only things we have left to show where we’ve been and where we’ve come from. None of those men who built this church would want it torn down,” he contends.
Ricketts, a prominent local artist, has spent the past 18 years painting a series of pictures that depict early life in King’s Cove. He wants to share the town’s story by turning the church into a gallery.
The husband and wife already have a history of success in preserving the past.
They spent the past seven years restoring an abandoned building into the well-known Round da Bay Inn, which also features a restaurant and art gallery, and employs a dozen local people.
Mike Paterson, former member of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, feels strongly that this fixture in local heritage should not be torn down.
“It should definitely not be torn down and there should be community input on its outcome.”
And on the matter of community input, Rosalind Walter says that part of the process was missing.
According to her, only three members of the parish council attended a council meeting on Feb. 18, where the decision was made to tear down the church if no one offered to buy it.
Since the Ricketts have expressed interest in buying it, Walters says she and others see no reason to tear down the historic landmark.
Jerry Dicks is executive director of the Heritage Foundation on Newfoundland and Labrador.
He indicated the group is also concerned about the possible demolition of this church.
“When these buildings come down it’s just a further message to the community that they are going downhill,” he says. “It’s important that we all realize the importance of each building and what happens when they are lost. Such beautiful buildings will never be built in these communities again, so why lose them?”
Chris Ricketts agrees.
“These works of art should be preserved so future generations can learn from their past and be proud of where they come from.”
King’s Cove Mayor and church warden Gary Monks is one of the vocal opponents of converting the deconsecrated church to any other purpose. He has told other media he wants to see the church demolished.
According to Walter, Monks was at the meeting to decide to tear down the church.
The Packet contacted Monks but, as of Thursday, he did not reply to requests for comment.
As of Thursday afternoon, June 29, an online petition to save the church had over 1,500 signatures.
The hard copy of the petition has about 300 signatures, says Walter.
The Packet contacted the Anglican Diocese of Central Newfoundland on Thursday.
Bishop John Watton said the only comment he would offer at this time is that there will be a consultation meeting on the matter on Sunday, July 2.
The Diocese will then offer an official statement on Tuesday, July 4.
The Packet will continue to update this story as more information is available.
The history of St. James Anglican Church
By Ed Vincent
From June 27, 2004, edition of The Packet
This story was originally published in 2004, during “Our Sacred Heritage”, a year set aside by the Newfoundland Historical Society to celebrate the province’s historic churches.
Above Harbour Pond, overlooking King’s Cove, Bonavista Bay, sits the beautiful St. James Anglican Church.
This building is the second such sanctuary for this congregation.
The first St. James, according to the 1844 report to the Bishop, prepared by Reverend Benjamin Smith, was built in 1815 by parishioners for the sum of 150 £.
Rev. Smith pointed out in the report that the church “was still unfinished, dilapidated and sat 120 persons in the body and the choir.”
Subsequent research indicates this church may have been older , having being built perhaps in the 1790’s.
Prior to the arrival of this mission’s permanent missionary, Reverend Henry James Fitzgerald in 1838, local residents received the services of the occasional traveling missionary.
Most other times local lay readers would perform church services. The first St. James was a basic, small building without a chancel, vestry or tower. Because the church was so small and simple, many of the residents had to travel to Bonavista for special events such as baptisms and marriages.
A successive series of ministers over the years served this mission until 1859 when Rev. William Kirby started his tenure that lasted for 46 years.
In the early 1890’s Rev Kirby suggested the church was too small to handle the growing congregation. Following his convincing interactions it was recommended that a new church be built.
Fundraising efforts began in 1893. An article dated 1896 in the Diocesan Magazine stated “we now have sufficient funds to purchase what lumber we require for the entire building. Rev, Kirby is now negotiating with the various lumber companies.”
The church foundation was laid on Sept 15, 1896. That year’s December issue of the Diocesan Magazine described the laying of the foundation as follows:
“Quite an important event in the history of the church took place this morning. The ceremony though short was impressive. A goodly number had attended the service, which to us all, unless through fire or some other accident, is only once in a lifetime
“The church flag (St George’s cross) was hoisted on site. The Rev. W Kirby, incumbent of the parish proceeded to the ground. Senior warden, Mr. Samuel Brown, deposited coins of this year’s in the joint which forms the northwest angle. The reverend clergyman offered prayer, then with the hammer and in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, drove the first nail, thereby laying the foundation. Hymn 394 was sung, after which the benediction brought the service to a close.
“The frame is an excellent one – all pine; the sills mainly juniper. The building measures 73 by 38 feet: pillar 24 feet; from base to top of spire, 70 feet. Our men are all giving free labour, so that the building can be out of debt when built.”
Rev. Kirby himself designed the new church, which was officially opened on Easter Sunday, April 10,1898.
This truly wonderful edifice was built under the guidance of Master Builder Caleb Marshall, of Brooklyn, Bonavista Bay, a man whose craftsmanship is seen in many churches on this peninsula.
The church, dedicated to St. James the Less, stands today as a memory and testament to the dedicated, and spiritually minded, forebearers of the Anglican congregation of King’s Cove.
The writer wishes to acknowledge the kind generosity and assistance provided by Roger K. Brown of King’s Cove. Mr. Brown wrote a comprehensive history of the church for its 100th anniversary, in 1998. He was most gracious in allowing portions of his written efforts to form part of this story.