Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Church Going of a Different Variety

A recent trip to St. Matthew's United Church in Halifax to listen to the Lunch Bunch community choir sent me down the memory lane of visits to various church conversions.
I was in downtown Halifax listening to a lovely choir singing a couple of weeks ago. As I sat there, I gazed around enjoying the sights as well as the sounds. There is something lovely about century old churches, almost as if they absorb the feelings of generations of people and then pass them on to every visitor.

I am not a church goer, nor a follower of organized religion. My parents were members of a church when I was young, and I attended Sunday School every Sunday until I was old enough to switch to the services. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I rebelled when I hit the age of 16 and stopped going. It was a year when the young brother of one of my friends died, the father of another friend died, and my own brother, who was 17 years my senior, lost his battle with brain cancer. I was not happy with the world, and religion wasnt my answer. That does not mean that I do not give thanks every day for the blessings in my life.

I do, however, love visiting old churches and a peaceful feeling always washes over me when I walk through their doors. I also enjoy photographing them, although I have yet to capture the essence of how they make me feel in a two dimensional image. 
And, to the bewilderment of my husband, I have always wanted to live in a converted church. I have dragged him to several abodes over the years, in Ontario and in Nova Scotia. Some were already fully converted, and some were a work in progress. Many people, my husband included, would be dismayed at changing a church into a private residence. But I believe that giving new life to any unused building is something to be celebrated.

We visited one residence during an open house. It was partially converted, which lots of work still to be done. We drove by a another while we were living in Ontario and vacationing in Nova Scotia. It was located across the road from the ocean, a more scenic spot than a lot of churches have. They catch my eye, and my interest, no matter where they are located.

We used to travel around the back roads of Eastern Ontario in a bright yellow Miata, and often drove south through small towns like Athens and Delta. Every time we drove through Delta, we would sing "Delta Dawn, whats that flower you have on?" in perfect harmony (not). It was something that one of us started, and then both of us continued doing every time we passed through the area in one of those silly rituals that only people who have been together a long time can relate to. 
We also passed an absolutely beautiful converted church every time we drove that road. But one time we went by and there was a for sale sign on the lawn. Do you want to turn around and go back, my husband asked after we breezed by. Yes, of course, was my reply. He began to regret asking that question. 
One of many rural churches now privately owned and waiting for new life.
We drove by slowly and took a long look. I checked out the listing online when we got home, and then called the real estate agent and booked a showing. I was captivated, and enthralled, and my husband was horrified. The windows were not stained glass, but neither did they open. Ever the practical one, he wondered how we would get any fresh air. My answer was to visit a window supply store with photos in hand, in order to obtain a quote to replace all the windows. Another visit was booked with the real estate agent, and I was still enthralled. My husband was not. Adding yet another negative in my husbands mind, the real estate agent told us that she had to disclose the residence had a ghost. 
Finally, figuring that this dream had been taken way too far, I was told that he was absolutely not interested in moving. His strategy of thinking I would come to my senses had backfired. I was devastated, and cried my heart out sitting on our backyard deck. We were on different pages during that whole period of time, and my dreams were dashed. It was a tough one to get over, and I kept my photographs and looked at them every day until I knew it was time to move on from that particular dream.

But dreams are dreams, and arent always practical. I still look at listings of churches when I see them, even though we have no ability to renovate. Practicalities are not my strength, but why worry about feasibility when dealing with a dream? 
Besides, if that dream had come true, then I wouldnt have ended up living another dream in Nova Scotia.

Since it doesnt look like Ill be living in one any time soon, I do enjoy visiting church conversions, and there are some lovely ones to see. Wineries and art galleries located in former churches are lovely to visit.
Now, I wonder if the former Baptist Church in Bridgewater is being converted to condos or apartments? Theres always something new to focus on.

published in the South Shore Breaker - July 14, 2017


  1. I have never heard of converting a church into a home. What a concept! I'd love to see one.

  2. I read this article in the South Shire Breaker yesterday, and I thought, oh that poor woman, wanting to live in a decommissioned church and not being able to.... then I noticed that it was you! Lol! I still regret not buying the church in Port Mouton ($40,000!) and I still grumble every single time I drive past ( often, right?) and it is made worse now that the highway is no longer THE highway. Grumble grumble grumble. But, if I achieve all of my dreams, then there will be nothing left to hope for, and move forward for.....

  3. I've seen churches and small school buildings converted into homes. I think it's a wonderful idea but probably very problematic.

    Did the thought of living with a ghost bother you ?

    I'm glad you moved to Nova Scotia. Sometimes things work out for the best.

  4. A lady I sometimes see at rug hooking is converting a church in Middle LaHave. Maybe when she's finished, I can ask her if you and I can go over for a tour :-) I'd love to convert an old barn into a home - although I think that might be a bigger nightmare than converting a church!


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