The doors at Zion Baptist Church on Parade Street are scheduled to close forever to the public on Dec. 31. Before that happens the trustees want to provide tours of the 117-year-old building on Saturday, Dec. 14, 6 – 8 p.m.
The event will be a fundraiser for Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society, with donations at the door. Visitors are welcome to sit in the candlelit sanctuary after their tour to listen to Eddie Madden play Christmas carols.
It’s been a rough couple of years for trustees and the diminishing congregation since they learned the church was in dire need of costly repairs. Upkeep costs for the old building with crumbling brickwork are additional.
Faced with the task of raising the funds required, and with no potential buyers, the decision was made to have the heritage building status removed in order to have it demolished.
Church trustees first applied for de-registration in 2011 and were denied. The church faced a three-year delay in executing a demolition plan.
In mid-November, Yarmouth Town Council deferred its decision on the application to remove the church from its municipal heritage registry. This gives the province's Heritage Trust time to decide whether to make a formal offer of assistance to the church's trustees.
The trustees are doubtful this will occur.
“It’s been sad and we’ve agonized over it, but you know what? There’s nothing we can do about it,” said one of the trustees, Joan Pitman, about procedures to demolish.
She sees the Dec. 14 event as an opportunity for the church to perform a final act of good by raising funds for the Friends of the Yarmouth Light. The organization is hoping to renovate their gift shop into a restaurant for 2014 but must obtain funds for the project.
Income tax receipts will be issued for any donation over $10.
“There are so many similarities,” said Pitman of the church and lighthouse.
“They are both beacons. The church has been a beacon in Yarmouth since the 1800s. The lighthouse has been a beacon at Cape Forchu for many years.
“They have both had the job of saving lives: the church - spiritually, the lighthouse – physically.”
The trustees have been dispersing interior furnishings and items through various outlets, including “daughter” churches in the area.
Close to 150 china teacups were sold for $2 each, dishes, pictures, furniture and a portion of the 653 lineal feet of pews have been spoken for.
The stained glass windows that can be salvaged will be carefully dismantled and stored until sold.
Fifty-foot 12-inch by 12-inch beams in the attic can’t be removed until the building comes down. Trustees doubt that the large circular stained glass window on the north side can be saved, due to the condition of the surrounding wall.
Pitman says those who have received a tour of the building in the past are always amazed.
“There are so many nooks and crannies to explore. We have a huge basement; you wouldn’t believe how big it is. Reverend Harrison used to jog around it for exercise when he was here,” she said.
The church cost $23,330.94 to build in 1895.
“If someone came forward at the last minute and said they wanted to fix it we’d have a great big party,” said Pitman.
“It would be nice if someone had use for it, but I can’t imagine what the use would be. It’s made to be a church.”