Historic Lake Charles Church dissolved by Presbytery
Lake Charles Presbyterian Church in Big Bay celebrated its 146th anniversary this fall, on Aug. 12. Eleven weeks later - the church was dissolved at a service held at the church site by the Presbytery, Oct. 28.
Members of the “Friends of Lake Charles” stood outside the church, placards in hand, in a peaceful protest that symbolized the culmination of about two years’ efforts to save the little church, Dawn Loney, a member of the Friends group said in an email.
“This is much against the hopes of a local supporters group who tried valiantly to support the continued life of the wee church within the Presbyterian organization,” Loney said.
The church was the second oldest in the Grey-Bruce-Maitland Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the last remaining public building in the community of Lake Charles.
“My husband’s grandparents were married in that church,” Loney said in an interview.
“I’m really disappointed in the total lack of interest that they [the Presbytery] had in contacting people personally to see why we all feel this way,” Loney said, adding she was very frustrated with the process.
Various meetings had been held with Presbyterian Church representatives, “but people have to listen,” Loney said.
“It wasn’t for want of trying,” she said of the Lake Charles site’s dissolution.
About 54 people attended the penultimate service, Loney said.
“People love that little church; people come from Ottawa to attend.”
Susan Porter, of Georgian Bluffs, wrote a letter to the congregation of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Wiarton on Oct. 4, under whose auspices the Lake Charles site fell, outlining her concerns with the dissolution process. Porter is a member of the Friends group and secretary-treasurer of the Lake Charles church.
Porter, too, was unhappy with the way the dissolution process unfolded, and called the situation “complicated” in an interview.
Although her letter was not shared with the Wiarton congregation, Porter said she had recently heard from the Wiarton clerk of session.
“The Presbytery has advised us that the land will revert to the heirs left in the deed,” she said.
The land in Big Bay where the church is situated was donated by the great-great uncle of Keith Davidson, of Kemble, with the original deed dated 1872. Davidson is also a member of the Friends group.
While a number of transition issues remain unresolved, Porter said she hopes the church can continue to provide services at least once or twice a year going forward.
“It’s in their best interests to let us carry on,” she said.
“I would like to see the ownership go back to the Friends of Lake Charles group regardless of what denomination it’s associated with and to continue to have the freedom to have services there on a regular basis,” Porter said.
The eight members of the Friends group plan to meet again on Nov. 15 to discuss the future of the site and its involvement in it.
Mike Pearson (left), Sylvia Deakins, Dawn Loney and Keith Davidson, all of Georgian Bluffs, members of the ’Friends of Lake Charles,’ held a peaceful protest outside the Lake Charles Presbyterian Church during a dissolution service held by the Presbytery, Oct. 28.