Third Avenue United Church in downtown Saskatoon has a new owner.
The heritage site has been bought by the St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church, which plans to restore the building.
“I want to assure the community members who have loved and cared for this space that we will restore this building to a state worthy of its original purpose and glory,” Parish priest Fr. Herman Fields said in a release.
“(That) includes respecting and maintaining the heritage features of the building, restoring it as a sacred space for community and worship, and welcoming in the wider community when it does not conflict with our use of the Church.”
The church’s board says it’s an important part of the community.
“It had always been a central focal point of the city, being the largest of the churches downtown, having the biggest of the organs,” said Kenneth Holmes, chair of the unified board of Third Avenue United Church.
In its prime, the church hosted concerts, including jazz musician Duke Ellington.
The Saskatoon Heritage Society said it’s pleased to hear the church will be restored.
“We’ll hear the organ no doubt through open windows and hopefully the congregation will become a part of the community downtown,” said president Peggy Sarjeant.
She said she hopes the church reopens for public concerts and other events.
Holmes said he’s happy another congregation is stepping in to continue using the church as a place of worship.
“It is a young congregation that’s going in there too which would really be nice because they will have the room to expand into,” he said.
The church was designated a heritage property in August 2017 by Saskatoon city council.
The title applies to the building’s exterior, hammer-beam rafters, stained glass windows and the Casavant organ.
Fields said there are no plans to make alterations to any of the heritage features, but said the congregation has a number of projects planned towards the church’s restoration.
The most urgent is repairing the leaking roof.
The City of Saskatoon approved $20,000 from the city’s heritage reserve in September 2020 to go toward the repair, which is estimated at $105,000. The remainder will come from the congregation.
Other projects include repairing water-damaged plaster throughout the building, removing spruce trees to protect the stained glass windows and making the space suitable for an Orthodox service, Fields said.
The purchase of the church was completed on July 1 after St. Vincent determined it needed to move from its current location on Avenue E North to a larger space.
St. Vincent said it needed a larger space to accommodate the church’s programming and community use. It will also provide better access to public transportation, including those with disabilities, and increase the congregation’s visibility in the community.
Third Avenue United Church closed its doors in June 2018 due to declining congregation numbers.
At the time, church officials said 20 to 25 people were attending services, resulting in less money coming into the church.
St. Vincent said it will pay homage to the 108-year-old structure.
Fields said one way it will do this is through its church services, which are chanted or sung, and will echo in the stunning, traditional acoustic experience of the sacred space.
“We look forward to filling this beautiful, historic church with the sounds and spirit of a church community once again.”
—With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi, Ryan Kessler and David Baxter