Saying farewell to a Falmouth landmark

Carole Morris-Underhill
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Published on April 28, 2014

Church elder Sharon Armstrong displays an eight-day clock dating back to the 1800s. This is one of the many items on display at Juniper Grove United Church as the congregation prepares to close the church's doors.

Published on April 28, 2014

Juanita Swinamer, the organist and choir director for Juniper Grove United Church in Falmouth as well as at St. James United Church in Hantsport, shows off an old choir uniform. Swinamer grew up attending the Falmouth church and recalls wearing the polyester outfit. She returned about 13 years ago to help lead the choir.

Published on April 28, 2014

Juniper Grove United Church, located at 269 Town Road in Falmouth, will be closing this month after more than 150 years of service to the community.

Published on April 28, 2014

Sharon Armstrong, left, and Juanita Swinamer hope to see lots of friendly faces Sunday as Juniper Grove United Church hosts a gratitude service at 2 p.m. The church will close before the end of this month. This view was taken from the church’s balcony.

Published on April 28, 2014

Sharon Armstrong, left, and Juanita Swinamer hope to see lots of friendly faces Sunday as Juniper Grove United Church hosts a gratitude service at 2 p.m. The church will close before the end of this month. This view was taken from the church’s balcony.

Published on April 28, 2014

Juanita Swinamer, the organist and choir director for Juniper Grove United Church in Falmouth as well as at St. James United Church in Hantsport, looks at the silent bells display to honour former longtime handbell choir members.

Published on April 28, 2014

Hundreds of weddings, anniversary celebrations and happy occasions were held at Juniper Grove United Church since the late 1800s. Pictured here is a photograph of Larry and Sharon Armstrong on their wedding day.

Published on April 28, 2014

Church elder Sharon Armstrong looks out over the empty pews at Juniper Grove United Church. The historic Falmouth church was once a centre for activity in the community.

Published on April 28, 2014

The congregation of Juniper Grove United Church has just two remaining services in the historic church before they amalgamate with the congregation of St. James United Church in Hantsport.

Published on April 28, 2014

Juanita Swinamer examines old communion sets that were used over the years at Juniper Grove United Church. There will be plenty of mementos and memorabilia on display during the church’s celebration service May 4 at 2 p.m.

Published on April 28, 2014

This is one of the two stained glass windows that will be moving with the Juniper Grove United Church congregation when they amalgamate with the congregation of St. James United Church in Hantsport.

Published on April 28, 2014

This is one of the two stained glass windows that will be moving with the Juniper Grove United Church congregation when they amalgamate with the congregation of St. James United Church in Hantsport.

Published on April 28, 2014

The cornerstone that was laid in 1859 to mark the construction of Juniper Grove United Church is still visible.

Congregation hosting Juniper Grove United Church celebration May 4

Sunday's service at Juniper Grove United Church is meant to be a day of reminiscing and of fellowship. Although a celebration of the church's history, it will also be a bittersweet reminder of prosperous days gone by as the congregation prepares to bid farewell.

Due to a declining population and mounting costs, the difficult decision was made to close the church after more than 150 years of service.

“By people moving away, kids not being involved, death of members; it's been an aging congregation for years. It's come to the point where it's just not financially viable for us to continue for any length of time,” explained Juanita Swinamer, the organist and choir director for Juniper Grove United Church, in Falmouth, and St. James United Church, in Hantsport.

Like many members of the church, she wears many hats and is also on the Juniper Grove's board of stewards and trustees, and serves as the secretary of the Official Board of the Hantsport Pastoral Charge.

“We made the conscious decision that before it came to the point where we had no choice and couldn't actively control the closing of the church, we decided to do it while we were still able to have control of it,” said Swinamer in an interview.

That decision wasn't made lightly. After years of discussing the pros and cons, in January 2013, the congregation voted to amalgamate with St. James United Church by June 2014. Since that vote, which both congregations took part in, church stewards have been actively planning the Falmouth church's closure.

“The decision making was stressful and full of angst,” said Sharon Armstrong, a church elder and member of the Session of Juniper Grove United Church. But, she said, it was also “full of hope.”

Both Armstrong and Swinamer have played key roles within the church, and have helped with the amalgamation process.

“We've been working together, deciding what assets to take and how to disburse them,” said Armstrong.

While some of the church items will be used once the Hantsport and Falmouth churches amalgamate, Armstrong said other items will be returned to their givers, displayed at the Falmouth Baptist Church, brought to Dykeland Lodge, or otherwise kept in the community.

Armstrong noted that the honour roll featuring the community's First World War soldiers that hangs on the wall will soon reside at the Falmouth Baptist Church.

Upon entering the church, located at 269 Town Road, a visitor quickly gets a sense of the church's history.

“Among those first people that worshipped in this sanctuary was an Armstrong, an Alyward, and a Curry. When we close, there will be an Armstrong, an Alyward, and a Curry on the roll." Sharon Armstrong

Lining the walls of the sanctuary are displays featuring photos, notes, and memorabilia. At a table near the front, there are communion sets showing the evolution of the glassware over the century. Near the back of the church hangs a polyester light blue children's choir uniform — another glimpse of yesteryear.

These mementos serve as a way to connect current parishioners to the past, and it is hoped they will help spark conversation amongst those who visit on May 4, at 2 p.m., to celebrate the rich role the church played in Falmouth's history.

The celebration service will also feature a reunion of sorts, as Swinamer has arranged for former handbell choir members to perform.

 

 

A look back

The cornerstone was laid in 1859, and the church, which bore the name Juniper Grove Wesleyan Methodist Church, was said to have cost “247 pounds, 15 shillings, and two pence” to construct.

The first service was held in 1862, and Rev. Henry Pope, Jr. was at the helm for the first year.

“Among those first people that worshipped in this sanctuary was an Armstrong, an Alyward, and a Curry. When we close, there will be an Armstrong, an Alyward, and a Curry on the roll,” said Armstrong.

“It's kind of interesting that we've kept the tradition up of going (to church),” she said.

The members she is referring to are Larry Armstrong (her husband), Rose (Alyward) Brownless, and Barbara Curry.

Over the years, the church was renovated and added onto. It also changed its name. In 1925, the congregation became the Falmouth United Church, and during the 1960s, adopted their current name: Juniper Grove United Church.

With the pending amalgamation, yet another name change is in the works. The congregations of both Juniper Grove and St. James must agree upon a new name as part of their amalgamation agreement.

The official service for the amalgamated churches will be held on June 8 at 10 a.m. in Hantsport.

Juniper Grove United Church has already been sold and, both Armstrong and Swinamer are happy to report, the historic building was purchased by a descendant of Benjamin Curry — the man who donated the land that the church sits on. The women say the new owner of the property plans on transforming the site into a venue that the community will still be able to enjoy.

Organizations: Juniper Grove United Church, Falmouth Baptist Church, Official Board of the Hantsport Pastoral Charge Juniper Grove Wesleyan Methodist Church St. James United Church

Geographic location: Falmouth, Juniper Grove, Hantsport 269 Town Road Nova Scotia Juniper Grove United Church

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  • Theresa Saunders
    April 30, 2014 - 20:02

    My mother Irene Reynolds was the one who was choir director for many years before Juanita and who founded the handbell choir. It would have been nice to have made mention of all the wonderful work she did for the church.