The St. Thomas Wesley United Church congregation has met at the corner of 20th Street and Avenue H since 1908 – but their days are numbered.
“The reality is that we’re a very small group now and we’re getting older, and we have health challenges and our base is not being replenished fast enough to run the place,” minister Vicki Obedkoff told CTV News.
The building had been sold to an Eritrean Ethiopian group who leased the space to the church, which Obedkoff says worked well – until the pandemic.
“We felt it wouldn’t come so soon. We felt we could’ve had longer. COVID’s been really hard on us,” she says.
Church member and volunteer Linda Tweddell attributes much of the church’s success in recent years to the commitment to Indigenous and reconciliation initiatives.
In addition, the church has focused on outreach for new Canadians and helped start the first summer lunch program for children who may not have nourishment during the school break.
“All of those things speak to the social justice ethos that existed in the church for many many decades,” Tweddell said.
Back in the church’s heyday, Tweddell says, there were so many members that an addition was built to accommodate the large numbers.
The main feature of the church is the pipe organ and while the new tenants don’t have any use for it, the hope is that it will strike a chord with someone and find a new home.
That sale will be up to the new owners – the Eritrean members who are expected to renovate the space to suit their worship style.
Obedkoff is glad it will still be a church in this spot. She says St. Thomas members have been accompanying each other to find new churches.
The sad reality according to the minister is that some elders won’t just go look for another church.
A Christmas Eve service is being held at 7 p.m. and the final service will be held Dec. 26 at 10:30 am. A special handing-off ceremony will take place to transfer the church to the new group.