The making of a rural community hub: The Kingsbridge community comes together to give a new life to their former Cathedral near Goderich, ON.
Faced with the closure of the Kingsbridge Cathedral in 2012, the 300-person strong congregation rallied together with others from the local community to save this landmark building. They quickly formed a not-for-profit corporation, the St. Joseph’s Kingsbridge Community (SJKC), with the goal of creating a multi-use facility that would serve as a community hub, incorporating faith, arts, and community gatherings.
The spire of the handsome 1905 gothic revival structure stands out in the expanse of the neighbouring farm land.
Over the next two years, the SJKC Board negotiated an agreement with the Catholic Diocese of London to purchase for $1 one acre of land that include the Cathedral and the manse. This exceptional agreement was reached in part due to a strong advocacy effort by the community, which included visits to the Diocese by the former congregation’s youth group, as well as significant coverage from local media outlets.
During this period before they acquired the site in 2014, the SJKC also undertook many other actions that were vital to the success of their regeneration project:
Renovations began in 2015 and in their first year they completed an impressive amount of work: installation of a new raised stage and theatrical lighting in the sanctuary, exterior masonry repointing, storm window re-glazing, a new emergency exit and fire alarm system, electrical upgrades, and installation of new HVAC system. Construction work has continued in coordinated phases to improve the functionality and accessibility of the building.
Critical to the success of this project so far has been the hundreds of active volunteers that have donated thousands of hours to complete most of the work. Partnerships with local governments and businesses have resulted in donated funds, building materials, and in-kind services.
And despite this beehive of renovation activity, the team has managed to increase the community’s use of the renovated spaces by programming many concerts, meetings, ecumenical prayer services, choir practices, and yoga classes – generating a stable source of revenue for their operations.
While the SJKC Board continues to actively seek grant opportunities from a multitude of sources, they are also pro-actively planning the long-term business strategies that will ensure the site’s ongoing sustainability.
Armed with their conviction that their historic Cathedral could have a new life, and by putting the community’s wellbeing at the center of their mission, the SJKC has made tremendous strides in creating a new hub for their rural community. Their inspiring successes to date can be attributed to many interrelated factors:
Community volunteers with a passion for literary history and historic buildings keep the doors open at Lakefield’s Christ Church in Lakefield, ON.
The challenges facing historic places of faith are daunting, yet across the country congregations and communities are finding creative new uses and partnerships to revitalize these important landmarks.
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