Pray­ing for help

Van­dal­ism — and ghost sto­ries — at the cen­tre of Christ Church’s prob­lems

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE

For more than 20 years Christ Church in South Head has not only been the scene of van­dal­ism and theft, but, oddly enough, ghosts sto­ries as well.

“Some­how word got around that the church is sup­pose to be haunted,” said Gail Boutilier, Wad­den’s Cove, adding there is ev­i­dence it’s of­ten tar­geted by young peo­ple hav­ing séances, in­clud­ing one held back in De­cem­ber.

“They brought the or­gan stool, Bishop’s chair, pulpit — ev­ery­thing — down by the al­tar. It was ob­vi­ous what they were do­ing.”

The church, now 169 years old, is lo­cated a kilo­me­tre down a dirt road and is iso­lated deep in the woods.

The church is owned by the Angli­can Dio­cese of Nova Sco­tia and Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

The church closed in the 1970s be­cause ser­vices were no longer

held there.

The main church, St. Paul’s Church in Port Morien, re­moved the main stained glass win­dow from the church.

“They took it be­cause there was no more ser­vices there at that time and they wanted to pre­serve it,” Boutilier said.

A group of about 25 parish­ioners got to­gether and raised the money for the stained glass to be re­in­stalled. Rev. Mar­garet Collins helped get the church re­opened about 10 years later and be­gan hold­ing sum­mer ser­vices. How­ever, in the mean­time, with the re­duc­tion in ser­vices, van­dal­ism and thefts in­creased.

Boutilier said a bishop’s chair was stole, along with a 200-yearold Bi­ble, with deep roots to the church.

“That was hor­ri­ble to think some­one would steal a Bi­ble out of a church. They also took a guest book that had been there for­ever and a reg­is­tra­tion book.”

She said over the years things kept go­ing miss­ing.

“What­ever wasn’t nailed done pretty much went.”

Boutilier said in the early 1980s they be­gan lock­ing the doors. Even­tu­ally Plex­i­glas was even put over the win­dows. How­ever it didn’t stop the van­dal­ism.

“They keep break­ing in and break­ing in — there’s even foot­prints on the door, you can see where they keep kick­ing at it.”

She said at one time they did come up win an idea to put a gate up at the end of the road, but it had to be re­moved be­cause peo­ple could not ac­cess the grave­yard.

“There was a lot of peo­ple vis­it­ing the grave­yard and it was a long walk to get in there.”

She said at times groups of peo­ple were even go­ing into the woods nearby, mak­ing huge bon­fires near the church. Branches were dis­cov­ered scorched, high up on large spruce trees.

“We had pay some­one to re­move those big trees, they were too close to the church, and if they caught on fire we’d lose the church.”

She said around Hal­loween is al­ways bad, so this year be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, a bar was put across the church door to pro­tect it fur­ther.

“Some­how they man­aged to tear the bar and the brack­ets off on both sides and they kicked the door open.”

She said there is even talk of drug deals go­ing on in the church.

“They say when cars go in the woods for only five or 10 min­utes, it’s ob­vi­ous what they are do­ing.”

She said a se­cu­rity sys­tem was even hooked up, but was soon torn from the door.

“All the wires are just hang­ing there.”

Boutilier said now ev­ery time cars are seen go­ing in the road to the church at un­usual times, they call the po­lice.

“We’re just go­ing to keep call­ing and call­ing, hop­ing they get them some day.”

How­ever, she said, as well as the dam­age, many thought the church as haunted, and you’d hear sto­ries of some­one see­ing “this or that” at the church.

“We just kind of laughed the sto­ries off but it kept go­ing on.”

She said young peo­ple hear­ing about these ghost sto­ries have been go­ing out to the church.

“We even saw videos they made on the In­ter­net, in­clud­ing one of young peo­ple out­side the church ask­ing, ‘Are any spir­its here?’

“I even had some­one call me here last year want­ing to know if they could go into the church and deal with the spir­its in there.”

Bout­lier said most of the group look­ing af­ter the church were se­niors and over the years passed away. The past seven or eight years it’s only been Boutilier and her sis­ter-in-law, Jan­ice Boutilier, and Jan­ice’s daugh­ter, Su­san Mac­Don­ald, work­ing to keep the church go­ing.

How­ever, she said, the public is gen­er­ous with do­na­tions. There are three ser­vices a year — an an­niver­sary ser­vice, a ceme­tery ser­vice and even a song ser­vice, and up­wards of 50 or more peo­ple pack the lit­tle church for each ser­vice.

“What we get in col­lec­tions is usu­ally just enough to keep it go­ing, to get a lit­tle in­sur­ance, do some paint­ing or lit­tle re­pairs.

“We didn’t have the funds to do all the wiring, just to up­grade to stan­dards that were pass­able. Lights and a cou­ple of plugs is all we have in there, we don’t have heat. We just have the bare ne­ces­si­ties in there.”

Jan­ice Boutilier said although there are only three of them look­ing af­ter the church now, it’s im­por­tant to keep it open and con­tin­u­ing on into the fu­ture.

“It’s pretty im­por­tant; when you lose the school and ev­ery­thing else, it’s the only cen­tre, gath­er­ing place we have left.”

The ser­vices are spe­cial and be­ing iso­lated in the woods, — and, yes, there is of­ten un­ex­pected com­pany at the ser­vices.

“It’s noth­ing to see a poor lit­tle church mouse run­ning around and a cou­ple times we’ve seen a bat.”

BY SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

A small but mighty group, from left, Gail Boutilier, her sis­ter-in-law, Jan­ice Boutilier, and Jan­ice’s daugh­ter Su­san Mac­Don­ald, have been keep­ing the 169year-old Christ Church in South Head go­ing in re­cent years. The church now has four ser­vices a year. In the above photo, they hold some of the few valu­able items left from the church, which they make sure to take home with them be­tween ser­vices. The church has been plagued not only by van­dal­ism and theft for at least 20 years now, but also the cu­rios­ity seek­ers who have been drawn to the church by the ghost sto­ries they’ve heard about it.

SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

An in­side view of the beau­ti­ful wooden church at South Head which is now kept go­ing by three women in the com­mu­nity and the gen­eros­ity of oth­ers.

SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

The Christ Church ceme­tery with grave­stones dat­ing back to the 1700s. The grave­yard be­hind the South Head church is still used to­day.

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