Parishioners at St. Mark’s Anglican church will say goodbye to their building as holy ground on Sunday.
The de-consecration of the church will take place in a ceremony conducted by Bishop James Cowan, ending a long and storied history of the church building.
“It feels horrible,” says Rev. Elizabeth Heuther, the incumbent for the Valhalla Parish, which includes Nakusp. “It’s not one of our happier moments.”
The building has a long history — built in the early years of the last century, it served as the focal point of the Anglican Church in the Arrow Lakes for decades. In 1967, the church was moved by barge from East Arrow Park to Nakusp, after the community was flooded by BC Hydro.
It served the Anglican community in the village ever since.
But the congregation has aged and shrunk in size, and now, with only two-to-five parishioners on any given Sunday, the building just couldn’t be maintained any longer.
The decision to de-consecrate the building was made by the local community, says Heuther.
“The frank reality is there’s a lot of work that has to be done on the building, and the current community cannot afford it,” she said. “So they made the decision in the fall to ask the diocese to close the building.”
The de-consecration means “that the building is no longer to be used to provide sacrament services in the Anglican tradition.”
A spokesman for the diocese wouldn’t say what plans are in store for the building. While there’s talk of it being up for sale, Trevor Freeman, the Archdeacon for the Diocese of the Kootenays, would only say that the building is “not on the open market.”
The property also includes a rectory and a plot of land that houses a community garden.
The building is not the church
But Heuther is quick to point out that the fate of the church building is not the same as the church community.
“It is the intention of the diocese that the congregation will not be deprived of the ministry of the word and the sacrament,” she said. “So although we won’t have a building that is called the Anglican church in Nakusp, it by no means means that there will be no Anglican presence in the community of Nakusp.”
Heuther has performed services at the church many times over the years. She says planning for the service— being held at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday — was not an easy task.
“I found myself feeling some emotion around it,” she says of writing the liturgy, or final service for the church. “But the church is not the building. It’s the gathering place for those of us that call ourselves the church.
“Each building has its own energy. When you walk into a space that has had anything of a sacred nature, there is an energy that is felt. And that is what sustains us and carries us on.”
Heuther says the handful of Anglicans in Nakusp won’t be forgotten, and several have said they’ll join the Anglican congregation in New Denver instead.
Despite the difficult passage the de-consecration represents, she finds a bright side to the situation.
“It’s not my favourite moment in ministry, but there are times when pragmatic, practical things call us to look at how we understand ourselves as a church, perhaps in a different way.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the Sunday service, says Heuther.