Historic church 'unlikely' to close its doors
Saskatoon's historic Third Avenue
United Church, which is at risk of demolition as a result of growing financial
concerns and a dwindling congregation, will "unlikely" close its doors now
thanks to a mystery entrepreneur.
The congregation last week put the downtown building on the market, with the conditions that the building be preserved and that religious services continue to be performed in the 100-year-old Gothic-styled church.
Despite the restrictions -- which some say may negatively affect the selling price -- the church has "had one serious expression of interest by an entrepreneur," said John Parry, the vice-chair of the church's board, adding that he was not at liberty to identify the interested party.
As a result, the probability of the church closing is "quite unlikely," he said.
The decision to put up the for sale sign was made after the congregation was told by the presbytery, which manages the United Church, that it could not seek heritage status to protect the building from demolition.
The news was devastating for the church, which draws on average 75 worshippers every Sunday.
"[The church] is such a magnificent part of Saskatoon's heritage," said Parry of why it's so important to preserve the landmark building.
If the building is not sold under the conditions set out by the United Church's board, "the life of the congregation will be measured in months, rather than years," explained Parry.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for many churches across Canada, said Robert Patrick, an urban planning professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
"Congregations across Canada are struggling with membership issues, with financial concerns and trying to rationalize the buildings they own," said Patrick.
"It's sad but it says something about demographics today."
Patrick added that his own preference would be to see the United Church stay intact as it is, as a place of worship and as a place of community gathering.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful to have [the building] as a place for the performing arts and retain its interior architectural features."
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