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This article first appeared in the July 6, 2016 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Unknown fate for Wakefield church

By Ben Bulmer

The first step towards the possible sale of St Andrew's United Church in Wakefield was taken by its governing body rendering an uncertain future for the 112-year-old building. St. Andrew's minister. Rev. Caroline Penhale, told the Low Down that although the church is one step closer to being put on the market, "the church is still not for sale."

St. Andrew's
Larry Seguin, chair of the church council, said selling churches like Wakefield's is always a difficult process. He is looking for alternatives that may mean the Wakefield church doesn't end up on the market, but said there is no easy solutions. Photo Ben Bulmer.

Penhale said the church council had passed a motion June 21 to approach the Ottawa Presbytery for permission to list the building for sale. The reverend said the sale would still need to be approved by the Presbytery and, even if approval is granted, a decision still hasn't been made on the church's future.

"It's a mixed feeling." said Penhale. "There's always sadness because you know that it's an ending of a chapter for a community of faith and for people who have been faithful in a particular location... Trends in participation in the church have shown for many, many years [to be in] decline. The church therefore is needing... to help foster and create ways of seeing church together that are maybe not as tied to buildings."

The church's congregation merged with four others in Gatineau, Cantley, Rupert, and Chelsea in 2011, forming Église unie de la Grace United Church. St. Andrew's United in Cantley was recently sold and the church in Gatineau is currently on the market. The congregation spreads its services between the churches, rotating from church to church every four months.

Larry Seguin is chair of the church council and said the selling of the churches is very difficult for some members of the congregation.

"People are emotionally attached to the building," said Seguin. "It's a very difficult process."

The Gatineau resident said making the buildings cost-neutral was one method the church was trying to save the buildings. Seguin points to Chelsea United Church, known as the Mill Road Community space, as an excellent example of sharing the space and repurposing the building. The church is currently used for everything from a nursery school to a place to hold dance classes. Seguin said initiatives like this could mean the Wakefield church doesn't end up on the market, but reiterated there are no easy solutions.

"It's hard to say exactly what we're going to do and how we're going to do it," he said.