New vision for old church

Raissa Tetanish
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‘It's such a part of so much of the local history here, that's why we want to try and save it'

GREAT VILLAGE - Villagers here have some new visions as to what one of their iconic churches could be used for.

John Patterson and Margaret Congdon work on finalizing some plans to open a café in the basement of the St. James United Church in Great Village this Saturday. With the church up for the sale and the congregation meeting only until the end of September, a preservation society has been formed to try and find alternate uses.

Margaret Congdon and John Patterson are two members of a newly formed non-profit preservation society that is envisioning new uses for the St. James United Church.

"I envision it as the real heart of the community," said Congdon, the vice-president of the society. "Drawing in as many of the local residents and tourists as possible."

The church that sits on the sharpest corner in the village was built in 1883 and a motion was made, and passed, last July to sell the church.

"It's a beautiful building, architecturally, and it has a central position in the village," said Congdon. "It's such a part of so much of the local history here, that's why we want to try and save it."

The church is one of four provincially registered heritage properties in the village, along with the school, Layton's store and Elizabeth Bishop's house.

"Elizabeth Bishop spent her early childhood here and went on to become a Pulitzer Prize winner," said Patterson. "This church is mentioned in her work, as is Layton's store, and that's what adds to the significance."

Back in the fall, members of the community met to discuss alternate uses of the church. Form that meeting a committee formed to look at different proposals of what could be done.

"The one we liked the best that we thought would be most feasible was a café for this year," said Congdon, adding it opens this Saturday.

"Our emphasis will be on fresh, local, seasonal food and we're going to try and source it from local producers and make as much as we can from scratch."

When it first opens, the café, which will be in the basement of the church, will feature items such as lemonade and iced tea, strawberry quick bread, strawberry and spinach salad with a homemade poppy seed dressing, strawberry shortcake, fish chowder, gypsy soup, chili, and sandwiches and wraps, among others.

"We plan to start with a limited base menu and become capable of doing those well before we add in specials. The menu will evolve a lot," said Congdon.

To begin, the café will be open from Wednesdays to Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 12 to 8 p.m.

The congregation will continue to meet on Sundays until the end of September, which is why the café will open later on Sundays.

"We're just hoping to test the waters," said Congdon.

With a bit of a stage in the basement of the church, the society is hoping to include local musicians Friday evenings for a bit of a coffee house.

The café walls are also featuring photographs by Laurie Gunn and paintings by Joy Laking, all of which are for sale.

"There are more things we would like to do as we go forward, such as historical displays about the community and the area, the shipbuilding history and even Elizabeth Bishop," said Congdon. "Eventually we'd like to include walking tours of the village, that would hopefully be guided, and it would be nice to include local artisans and producers."

rtetanish@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @TDNRaissa

 

Organizations: James United Church

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