Officials at Trinity Anglican Church, in uptown Saint John, say they’re on track to complete a major renovation project in 2021, but they say raising money to pay for it has been difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first phase of construction of the “Save the Steeple” campaign began last year with work on the south and east faces.
Minister Steven Scribner said the Church raised $485,000 prior to the work being done in Phase 1.
Now, Phase 2 is getting underway as work on the north and west faces begins.
Scribner said another $412,000 is needed to finance the project, but the church is only at 60 per cent of that goal.
He believes they’re short on the budget because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like concerts in this beautiful church, with the digital Phoenix organ that we have here now, we would normally be doing to raise funds for the project,” Scribner said.
“We also do a speaker dinner, (an) annual speaker dinner. We do a lot of different fundraising and we’ve had so suspend those in light of COVID-19,” he said.
The original Trinity Church was built by Loyalists in 1783, when they arrived in Saint John from the U.S. after the British lost the independence war. It was destroyed in the Great Saint John Fire of 1877. The present church was built on its current site three years later.
Scribner said the church is important to the community as much more than a place of worship.
He said it’s a community centre for outreach along the uptown peninsula, offering food security and ministry to those in need.
It is also very popular with tourists, but Scribner said the church has been closed to the general public during the pandemic.
“So we do not have the doors (open),” Scribner began. “We don’t have the tour groups here every day and welcoming people, as we don’t have the cruise ships coming in as well. And that’s been a source of decline in some of our donations towards the project as well.”
Longtime parishioner and church warden Louise Dodge-Hall said the parish has been on board with the multi-year construction project from the beginning. She said they understand the importance of preserving the structure and its history.
“To keep that going is very important,” Dodge-Hall said. “I think to the city, too, it’s a great landmark. You can see it from almost every standing point in the city and it would be a shame, I feel, to have it go by the wayside,” she said.
Scribner said it’s critical to get the Phase 2 completed, to avoid damaging any work that’s already been done. He said he’s hopeful that some fundraising events can come together in the fall, so long as pandemic restrictions allow them.
He said the church would not borrow the money in case of a shortfall. “We will pay all our bills,” he said.
The final phase of the $1.1 million involves some internal work on the steeple.
Scribner said that phase is scheduled to happen next year, and that the project is still scheduled to finish on time.
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