Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

The death of Pat Jory last week brings back mem­o­ries of why Stanstead is a nice place to live. When we moved here, she and her sis­ter were a per­ma­nent sight in down­town Stanstead, when it still had a commercial life. Parked next to what was still the Royal Bank, they of­fered the Watch­tower, po­litely, with nary a word invit­ing us to take a copy.

Pro­foundly Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses both, they sim­ply tes­ti­fied of their faith, week af­ter week, in hot and cold weather.

The piety was there, an al­most for­got­ten word, the de­sire to con­vert also, but not overt.

When we got the Stanstead Jour­nal, we found out that they were car­ri­ers of the paper.

The point is that, as al­most all churches in town are for sale, of­fi­cially or not, this town’s be­gin­nings were marked by a mul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent re­li­gious con­fes­sions com­ing here to spread the Gospel ac­cord­ing to their be­liefs. The times they are cer­tainly a’ chang­ing, as Bob Dy­lan sang.

Still, one can only won­der what will hap­pen next. Churches are not eas­ily re­pur­posed. This is not Mon­treal with a huge condo mar­ket that could swal­low all that is for sale in a day. We don’t need more artis­tic ‘venues’, the Haskell Hall is not used at what is the be­gin­ning of its po­ten­tial, but then a way of heat­ing and cool­ing the fa­cil­ity would have to be found. Ways ex­ist; it’s the money that is lack­ing. Or the will.

The fact is that a re­flec­tion on what the churches are should have been started years ago, by the Churches and the govern­ment. Some would ar­gue that churches are pri­vate prop­er­ties, not sub­ject to govern­ment scru­tiny. We will ar­gue other­wise. Those build­ings are part and par­cel of what our com­mu­ni­ties are. Mark Twain’s most fa­mous quote on Mon­treal is: “This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn’t throw a brick with­out break­ing a church win­dow.” Had he stopped in Stanstead he would have said the same.

A lot of coun­tries have seen to it that the churches are con­sid­ered na­tional trea­sures, part of the her­itage that can­not be split from the ur­ban and ru­ral tis­sue.

We have the sad sight of the old Tomi­fo­bia church that we have slowly seen dis­in­te­grate in front of our very eyes over the years, as if play­ing a real game of SimCity in slow mo­tion. Yet that church was the cor­ner­stone of what was a pros­per­ous small vil­lage years ago. Soon vis­i­tors will won­der why there are so many houses near each other in the mid­dle of nowhere. The church gone, the marker of what a small vil­lage was, will no longer tell what Tomi­fo­bia was.

And when churches go, so do those of faith, what­ever church it is. Those who prac­tice merit our bless­ings. Our prayers go out to the Jory fam­ily.

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