St. Jude’s, a former Anglican church on Saint John’s west side, is getting a new lease on life.
A couple from British Columbia bought the property last year and are turning what was a place of worship into their new home.
Jamie and Kyla Reschny are in the early stages of renovating the main sanctuary into a mostly open-concept living space.
They discovered the property late in 2018 as Jamie was concluding some contract work in the Yukon.
“Kyla found this,” Jamie began. “I mean, I think I was asleep and she found it and told me about it and woke me up and told me about it. And I said, ‘Why don’t we just do it?’”
“Why not?” asked Kyla, an archeologist and self-described adventurer. “It’s an amazing building. It’s an exciting adventure. It’s an opportunity that I don’t think comes along every day, so grab it.”
Built in 1859, the church has sat mostly unused for about eight years. The Reschnys bought the property “sight unseen” after an unexpected bidding war.
They said they were almost overwhelmed by the items left behind.
“When we got into the church, there was no heat in the church, all these buildings, and it was just full of junk,” Jamie said.
“We went to Costco, we bought some gloves and bought a lot of cleaning supplies and just started moving stuff.”
Kyla said they found choir robes, old tables and chairs as well as a load of Christmas decorations.
“Girl Guides supplies, crafts, colouring pages. I found a whole, giant box full of glitter. Just the oddest things,” she said.
Their first redesign involved the former offices of the church.
The three-bedroom space includes an island in the kitchen with a countertop made from salvaged church pews.
Jamie said they wanted to reuse or repurpose as much as possible. They plan to live in the space with one of their three children – the other two remain in Western Canada – until the church renovations are complete.
The Reschnys lived off-site for several months while getting the property rezoned, but they were working daily on their future home.
Those renovations caught the attention of neighbours, many of whom had stories and memories to share.
Kyla said an 80-year-old man approached them while in town for his brother’s funeral, claiming to have spent many days at the church as a teenager.
“Upstairs there was kind of a room that had a little sort of a door in the wall,” she began.
“We were really curious. We couldn’t figure out what it could have possibly been. And he explained to us that that’s where the projector would shoot through to the gym and they would show movies.”
Neighbour Chris Osborne, a past president of Heritage Saint John, bought the church’s rectory shortly after the Reschnys purchased the church.
“I could see in their (eyes), there was a spark,” Osborne smiled.
“There was this light… They had a passion and a drive. I just wanted to help light that fire a little stronger.”