Talk has been circulating for some time now about the possibility of historic St. John’s the Baptist Anglican Church closing due to lack of funds to keep it up and running.
And the rumours have got longtime resident and church supporter Ruth Binks advocating the importance that church has for the Ravenscliffe community.
Binks explained that two years ago, the Anglican Priests of the Muskoka Deanery were concerned about the amount of work that was needed on 14 of the surrounding area’s historical churches. From that meeting, it was noted that that it was too much for small congregations to be able to handle financially. A proposal went to the bishop recommending that those churches be closed. Since then, the future of those churches has been up in the air.
“Any considerations or changes made that could lose all those little churches doesn’t seem like a practical idea,” she says.
But according to Binks, that beautiful, historic church on Ravenscliffe Road in particular has been a landmark for well over a century and to see it close would be a devastating loss.
Her ancestors were among the first settlers in the Huntsville area and Sinclair Road (located off Ravenscliffe) has been where her family has resided for generations. Her great-grandfather helped erect the church back in the early 1800s. She recalls attending regular services at the church when she was just a little girl and she even walked to school at the old school house (now the Ravenscliffe Community Centre). To see the church have to close due to money will be a “very sad day” and she’s doing everything she can to help keep it alive.
In the last five years, St. John’s has undergone a major renovation thanks to many donations from the friends of the parish as well members of the public. The donated funds allowed for an addition to be put on the back of the church, which created a small hall and meeting room as well as washrooms, a furnace room and a new heating system.
Considering the large amount of money that went into renovating the church, the possibility of it closing seems “kind of ridiculous,” says Binks.
According to information contained in St. John’s annual vestry meeting agenda, many community events were held at the church last year including barbecues, potlucks and concerts. It was noted that the concerts are a huge asset to the church’s services of worship.
Less than a month ago, Binks went to the town to try to get a number on the amount of residents residing on or near Ravenscliffe Road. There’s approximately 290 and, according to Binks, that figure speaks volumes about why St. John’s needs to stay open.
I don’t feel money has to be the ruler of everything. We need a church. It’s a rallying point in the community.
While Sunday services are still happening at the church and are usually well-attended, there has definitely been a decline in the amount of activity that takes place there. But the people can help bring it back to the vibrant place it once was, says Binks. And a collective effort of some willing helping hands will help make that possible. Back in the day, the church was a prime venue for Christmas bazaars and craft sales, weddings, luncheons and teas as well as other special events and celebrations.
The church has a long-established parish council, which consists mostly of Anglican church women, however, Binks says, the council is open to anyone who is interested in becoming involved.
Also, the church does not discriminate against people of different faith or spirituality attending Sunday services. It’s open to everybody, and having more and more people come out to support it could certainly play a key role in allowing it to remain open.
Binks is hoping that more people will come forward to advocate and support St. John’s church. Anyone who is interested can call Ruth Binks at 705-789-2063.
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