His­toric Lake Charles Church dis­solved by Pres­bytery

Wiarton Echo - - FRONT PAGE - ZOE KESSLER Ed­i­tor

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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