It was a bittersweet Sunday service at Saskatoon’s Third Avenue United Church. The 113-year-old church will be closing its doors at the end of the month.
Church board chair Kenneth Holmes had a pointed way of describing the atmosphere as worshippers entered for the final Sunday service.
“Sadness. They don’t want it to close. They would like to see it continue on, but as I said there’s just not a chance,” Holmes said.
A former minister of the church came to preside over the special service. Holmes said this day has come because of a dwindling congregation at the church.
“The numbers have dropped since I started here back around about 1981. We had an average of 145, 150…each service; plus a choir that had up to 40 or 50 people,” Holmes said.
A smaller congregation means less money coming into the church. Holmes said that they had roof issues at the aging building, which resulted in the building needing to be sold a few years ago.
“We never really recovered from that, because the sale didn’t go as smoothly as it we’d liked it to have, and it’s been a rocky road the last couple of years,” he explained.
As the church prepares for its next chapter, there is a degree of uncertainty. One thing is for sure, though — Holmes said it has a marvelous history.
“The people here have always been very kind, very friendly, very helpful to each other and to others. It’s been a hub of the community with its big sanctuary and the organ and the concerts that we’ve had here,” Holmes said. “It’s been a wonderful, wonderful place to be.”
Holmes said the new owner of the church plans to keep it as a place of worship, but it won’t be this congregation calling it home.
The congregation of 3rd Avenue United will be going their own ways. Holmes said he lives just outside of Saskatoon, and will be picking a new church closer to home. That’s what other members of the congregation will be doing as well.
“Everyone will be going their way,” Holmes said. “We’re not going as one unit.”
With files from Nicole Stillger