Res­i­dent wants to see closed church re­pur­posed for com­mu­nity

Angli­can Dio­cese is­sues state­ment on de­ci­sion to sell de­con­se­crated St. Peter’s

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Sports - BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS Jonathan.par­sons@thep­acket.ca Twit­ter: @je­j­par­sons

A Prince­ton res­i­dent is look­ing to find a com­pro­mise which will see a church build­ing used for his com­mu­nity in the fu­ture.

Af­ter St. Peter’s church in Prince­ton was one of four build­ings in the area de­con­se­crated on June 20, and sub­se­quently sold, Mark Clench has led a cam­paign to find an al­ter­na­tive pur­pose for the struc­ture that can ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity.

Clench told The Packet when he dis­cov­ered the build­ing had been sold with the in­ten­tion of dis­man­tling at the end of Au­gust, he be­gan a Face­book group “Save the Church, Prince­ton NL,” to make peo­ple aware of what was go­ing on.

He says the struc­ture it­self is his­toric and doesn’t think it should come down. While he’s a self-de­scribed re­luc­tant fig­ure­head of the cause, he is fight­ing to make sure it doesn’t come down.

“The build­ing is 121 years old this year,” says Clench. “It’s built mostly of east­ern white pine, which is mostly ex­tinct on this part of the is­land.”

He adds Thomas Granger over­saw the build in 1897, and Clench de­tails the “beau­ti­ful, artis­tic,” ar­chi­tec­ture which mir­ror the Pow­der­horn Hills in the land­scape.

Aside from the his­tory el­e­ment, Clench also says — while he’s not a member of the church con­gre­ga­tion — his an­ces­tors have been, many of whom are buried in the ceme­tery and likely helped build the church over a cen­tury ago.

Clench’s mother was born and raised in Prince­ton and he lived in the Shoal Har­bour area un­til he was about eight-years old. He then moved to Labrador. How­ever, he moved back to area about six years ago, liv­ing in Prince­ton for the past two years.

“I’ve fallen in love with the place,” he said. “I con­sider it my home.”

Clench says it is this love for his com­mu­nity that made him say he couldn’t sit back and see the church torn down.

He’s pre­sented his ideas to the Face­book page and has had dis­cus­sions with those in the Angli­can Dio­cese on how he thinks the build­ing can be sold to the com­mu­nity for the pur­poses of a com­mu­nity cen­tre and skills workshop where young peo­ple can ben­e­fit.

While the build­ing has al­ready been sold to an in­di­vid­ual who is dis­man­tling the struc­ture, as per the un­der­stand­ing with the Dio­cese, Clench does not be­lieve it’s too late to reach an agree­ment where everyone is Mark Clench

com­pen­sated.

And he says he has the ut­most re­spect for both the church com­mu­nity and the buyer, who he says is not to blame in this sit­u­a­tion. Clench stressed that the buyer is not at fault in any way and does not want any­one to look at him neg­a­tively.

“The aim here is for the com­mu­nity to have a chance to pur­chase the church and the land it sits on for the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Cen­tral New­found­land Angli­can Dio­cese state­ment

When asked for com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion in Prince­ton, Bishop John Wat­ton of the Angli­can Dio­cese of Cen­tral New­found­land ref­er­enced a pub­lic state­ment he is­sued via Face­book in the group “Save the Church, Prince­ton, N.L.”

While Wat­ton ex­pressed the re­spect­ful man­ner in which Clench has con­ducted him­self through­out the process, he also says this de­ci­sion to sell the church to be torn down was not one that was taken lightly.

In the state­ment, Wat­ton says since the church was forced to close due to a low num­ber of com­mit­ted sub­scribers, consultation was held with the mem­bers of the parish dur­ing which the de­ci­sion was made.

“That is not to say that we are not in­ter­ested in com­mu­nity part­ner­ships, but we are the ones who un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties and le­gal­i­ties of clos­ing build­ings and main­tain­ing min­istries to the peo­ple of the area around birth, mar­riage and death,” reads the state­ment.

He says since the ceme­tery ad­ja­cent to the church will still be ac­tive, they are un­able to re­pur­pose the church land or en­ter a part­ner­ship in which a li­a­bil­ity is­sue may arise.

As a re­sult, he says they de­cided the “most honourable and re­spect­ful thing we could do to up­hold the in­tegrity of the spirit of our fore­bears was to re­spect­fully and prayer­fully dis­man­tle the build­ing.”

He adds there is a greater ques­tion to be asked, one that sees peo­ple be­come vo­cal when a build­ing is go­ing to be torn down but not when the church it­self is de­con­se­crated due to a con­gre­ga­tion too small to sup­port it.

How­ever, in an ad­di­tional state­ment, Wat­ton sug­gested this ef­fort of the com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether can still be a pos­i­tive for Prince­ton, even if it doesn’t in­volve the church build­ing.

“Pos­si­bil­i­ties in com­mu­ni­ties are re­al­ized when peo­ple come to­gether. Good things are cre­ated through com­mit­tees, net­works, govern­ment, lo­cal ser­vice groups and Churches. Peo­ple who have taken the time to get to know one an­other, shar­ing con­cerns re­al­i­ties and re­sources for the com­mon good.”

He says in­stances where church build­ings have been re­pur­posed else­where, much of the work has been es­tab­lished by com­mit­tees ahead of time, lay­ing ground­work to sup­port a build­ing such as a church struc­ture.

“My hope for you all is that you will see a larger pic­ture for the com­mu­nity, that you will come to­gether for heal­ing and re­al­ize how much po­ten­tial you have if you can unite your en­ergy, and be­gin a brand new move­ment to build com­mu­nity. “

Wat­ton en­cour­ages the com­mu­nity to di­rect its pas­sion away from a wooden struc­ture that has al­ready ful­filled its pur­pose the com­mu­nity and to­wards more strides within the com­mu­nity.

“The time for St. Peter’s Church to be dis­man­tled has come. We know that our build­ing is be­ing taken down with in­cred­i­ble re­spect, and the ma­te­ri­als will be val­ued and well used.

“It has been a long and dif­fi­cult jour­ney for us to make, but we have made it to­gether. While we un­der­stand why peo­ple may re­act, it is a time of grief for us. We ask for your re­spect and un­der­stand­ing.”

PHO­TOS BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS — THE PACKET

St. Peter’s Church in Prince­ton.

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