Valley Journal Advertiser
Committee dedicated to preserving history
Summer services at the Covenanter Church in Grand
Pre have been running for 50 years this year. The late Dr. Jim Perkin was the one who revived them.
While I’m not a United Church goer, I like to check out the list of preachers and slot in a couple of Sundays when the family schedule allows.
There are some beautiful churches in the Annapolis Valley, but the old Covenanter Church has the most atmosphere.
The structure has been a place of worship for 215 years. One of the reasons it is as appealing as it is, is its utterly unchanged quality.
A three-tiered pulpit is the dominant feature that greets the eye as one enters the front door. The old meeting house style church was designated a national historic site in 1989.
Of late, roof repair and shingling have been the focus of the Covenanter Church committee. Fundraising has been vital. Fortunately, treasurer Betty Curry told me a Kings (County) Vision Grant contributed $15,555. The Enid Kelly Memorial Covenanter Fund, which usually goes toward annual maintenance, helped significantly
too. She said the Region 15 Hunter Fund of the United Church and the Covenanter Heritage Reserve Fund also proved important for the work carried out by Maritime Permanent Roofing.
The firm accomplished the tricky and creative job of redoing the steeple and then finishing the roof and steeple. All the work had to be done with respect and care for the surrounding graves and markers.
It was a job well done, noted another volunteer.
When taking in a service, I generally try to visit the graves of Kate and Fran MacLatchy, who were among 2,500 brave nursing sisters who served overseas during the First World War. In their later years, the sisters were unofficial guides at the church in Grand Pre. They lived next door and are buried in the graveyard that surrounds the old church.
There was a controversy that brewed a decade ago around a motion to raise the balcony guardrail by 14 inches for safety reasons. The steep and crooked stairs keep most children and elderly on the first floor anyway.
In fact, the only time I’ve seen the church full is one night a year — that’s on Christmas Eve. Since nobody
fell off the balcony in more than two centuries, a rope addition to the balcony and a generally locked staircase solved the quandary for the majority.
At the time though, heritage supporter Heather Watts recalled that, “some years ago, without sufficient thought, the historic pews at the Covenanter were sold, and subsequently had to be retrieved because of the outcry.”
You want to keep the community on board and the Covenanter committee have done a fine job over the years of organizing the repair and upkeep of the structure. Curry says that’s because church members and local volunteers care.
“Some grew up going to the church. They have an emotional or family connection that’s ancestral,” she added.
The Covenanter Church became the property of the United Church of Canada in 1995 and is connected to
the Orchard Valley United Church in New Minas. The committee aims to reimburse
contributions Orchard Valley for any it makes.
I remember in the late 1990s when the ancient heating system had electric heating units inserted into the old woodstoves to maintain the appearance. There are many who have a keen interest in the building’s history as a cherished place of worship.
The final component of the latest efforts to upgrade will be the replacement of the original weather vane.
It’s been taken down and will be inserted in a shadow box inside the church. A new one, made of aluminum, will likely go atop the steeple next year. Then the Covenanter Church will look even better.