Fundraising is underway to help in the rebuild of a historic Anglican church in Roseneath that was destroyed by arson over a year ago.
A massive overnight blaze on April 9, 2019 ripped through the 156-year-old St. James Anglican Church, located just north of Roseneath (about 50 kilometres south of Peterborough). Built in 1863, the building was considered the hub of the community.
The case was treated as arson but to date, no arrest has been made. It was the third suspicious fire in the area in a month.
According to the church’s congregation, the Toronto Diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada, which owned the church and property, recently granted approval to rebuild the church on the same site on Church Road.
“It was certainly a pillar of the community and a landmark on the hill along the highway. It was a reference point for a lot of people travelling,” said longtime churchwarden Ross Stevenson.
“It was something that people recognized as an integral part of the community so it’s nice to have it coming back.”
Since the fire, the congregation has been holding services at the nearby Alnwick community centre. Stevenson said the new church, with a community hall, will be a “modest” building with insurance covering up to 70 per cent of the rebuild, leaving the congregation to fundraise the remainder. An exact cost has yet to be determined as the project is still in the design phase.
“It’s going to take some work to get the rest but we are fairly confident we can do it,” said Stevenson. “It will certainly be a different look than the old church because we just can’t afford to build it the way it was.”
Rev. Bryce Sangster says approval from the diocese was “joyous news” for the congregation and community.
“We plan to build a fully accessible, multi-functional building which will be a church but also a hall that can be used by many community organizations,” he stated. “It will be an open-concept building with chairs and tables available for multi-use events. The plan is to have many windows for viewing the beautiful rolling hills, fields and woodlots. It is a very scenic site and the building will blend well with the natural setting.”
Alnwick/Haldimand Township Mayor Gail Latchford says the new church and hall will help serve the needs of the community.
“I am pleased that the historic landmark will be replaced and welcome the new building that will provide a mid-sized accessible multi-use facility for the northern area of Alnwick/Haldimand,” she said.
Northumberland OPP and the Ontario fire marshal continue to investigate the blaze.
“The file remains open and any new evidence or information would be investigated accordingly,” Const. Robert Simpson told Global News on Thursday.
Construction on the new church is expected to begin this summer. A Bible and the damaged bell of the former church were salvaged from the fire and will be on display in the new home of worship, Stevenson said.
“We hope to have a place people want to come to and come back to, whether it’s a church service or a bridal shower or a celebration of life,” said Stevenson. “A place that’s a bit different than most community halls and churches. And we feel we can do it without a huge cost and that’s our objective.”
To support the rebuild fund and for more information, visit the church’s website.