The Balfour and District Business and Historic Association (BDBHA) is pleased to announce the purchase of the historic St. Michael’s and All Angels’ Church in Balfour. The transaction was completed August 13.
Located in the old townsite of Balfour, the former Anglican church was built in 1892 and has remained a popular religious and community focal point ever since it opened its doors. The 129-year-old wooden landmark has seen many changes over its lifetime, but it still retains its quaintness and charm, from its intricately carved doors, its distinctive circular, stain-glass window above the entranceway, to its vented steeple. The last Anglican service held at St. Michael’s was on Dec. 24, 2019.
The decision by the BDBHA to purchase the historic church from the Diocese of Kootenay, Anglican Church of Canada, was not easy. The association owes a debt of gratitude to the Diocese for extending the sale agreement a year to allow for successful donation campaigns and fund-raising drives. Like all non-profit organizations, the association has had to deal with the challenges of raising money during the difficult and transitional times of COVID-19 precautionary protocols. But through the generosity of so many individuals and family groups who believed the old church was worth preserving as part of the community, and with the encouraging support of corporate and financial institutions for grants and donations, the goal was reached.
Special thanks to Columbia Basin Trust for its funding support for the acquisition of the church and post-acquisition initiatives. Other organizations that made contributions include the Regional District of Central Kootenay through director Ramona Faust, the Columbia Power Corporation, the Nelson and District Credit Union and Kootenay Lake Tourism.
Once the purchase has been finalized, the church will be re-named St. Michael’s and All Angels Chapel and Performance Centre, and the association will begin implementing a three-phase plan that will see the historic chapel transformed from its present state as a church into a community-accessible, flexible facility that will last for many years to come. The minor regeneration upgrades, which the association feels are necessary to meet the needs of the future, will not materially alter the chapel’s historical character or detract from its sense of place in the Outlet community.
In addition to purchasing St. Michael’s, the rest of Phase One will focus on improving public access to the Chapel. In this regard, the association has already received grant funding of approximately $7,560. The total amount budgeted for Phase One is $28,300. These upgrades include construction of a wheel-chair ramp along the north side of the building, foundation stabilization, emergency lighting and minor renovations to the interior of the chapel. All these will ease movement, enhance safety and improve accessibility.
Phase Two will start immediately after the completion of Phase One. This phase will focus on building a small structure, approximately 2.5 by 3 metres, on the north side of the building. This will house a handicap-accessible washroom. A septic sewer system will also be installed on the grounds. The amount budgeted for Phase Two is $22,500, of which $7,500 in grant funding has already been received.
Phase Three will see the construction of a small meeting room, approximately 3.7 by 5.5 metres, also along the north side of the building. This room will be available for those using the chapel to assemble prior to their performance or wedding, for storing equipment, wardrobes, etc. while performances are being staged and also function as a meeting room to supplement activities being held in the chapel itself.
With COVID-19 health measures still in place, it’s difficult to predict when the chapel can open its doors to host future events and performances. Some of the exciting ideas brought forward for possible usages at last year’s open house include musical performances, film screening, storytelling festivals, lectures, poetry readings, education classes and art shows. The chapel will also continue to be home to the Christian Science Church.
While the purpose of the chapel will change, its role in the community will not. St. Michael’s and All Angels Chapel and Performance Centre is on track to become an economically viable venue in the future , while still retaining its strong historic ties to Balfour and the Outlet communities.
The hard truth is that only with community support will the repurposing of the Chapel become a reality. To volunteer, make a donation or track our progress, please visit the website: http://balfourchapel.org. If you have any questions, please send an email to: info@Balfour chapel.org. or write to the BDBHA at PO. Box 2, Balfour, BC, V0G-1C0 Att: Balfour Chapel.