My mother’s side was related to the Millers in Island Brook Quebec deep in the townships and now the United Church located about a half hour east of Sherbrooke is slated to be demolished. It’s on my bucket list if I ever win money- but it might be too late.
Once a cornerstone of the tiny Eastern Township community, it’s been mostly unused since it stopped offering regular services in the 1980s. In 2014 the United Church decided to try and sell the building.
The asking price is a paltry $15,000, but so far, there have been no serious offers — probably because buying it means having to move the old church, which was built in 1870, to a new lot.
“I guess I’d rather see it come down than be turned into something I didn’t like but I think it’d be a sad day, to see it come down,” said Don Parsons, a member of the United Church congregation in the townships.
But making the old church difficult to buy was an intentional decision, made by members of the church in the early 90s.
Around that time, a nearby Catholic church was purchased, gutted, and turned into a garage with the steeple and crucifix still atop the building.
“Everyone felt that was disgraceful… or many people felt it was disgraceful. At that point, they said, ‘We’re not going to allow our United Church to go that way,'” said Parsons.
The United Church used to own the land where the chapel sat, but it ceded that land to the cemetery behind the church.
In doing so, members of the congregation knew that the church would need to be moved if purchased.
That move, they hoped, would dramatically decrease the likelihood that it would be purchased in a firesale.
Terry Howell has been acting as the informal caretaker of the building. He lives in Island Brook, Que., and was married in the church in the 70s.
He says he’d like to see the building demolished rather than sold to someone interested in repurposing it into something that could be construed as disrespectful.
“If someone wants to take a church and make a home out of it, fine,” he said.
“I don’t think they should make a disco or bar out of them.”
Parsons says they’re open to lowering the price of the building.
“No reasonable offer refused,” he said.
If I ever win the lotto and the church is still around– look for it in my yard– as I think it would be grand to have in memory of my old Irish ancestors.
So what happened to the church?
October 25, 2016
Andrew Lyon— We attended a service in the cemetery two weeks ago And the church is down. Lumber is stacked and I believe the building could be re-assembled elsewhere.