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This article was published 15/12/2015 (465 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
All Saints Anglican Church — one of Winnipeg’s historic landmarks — is slowly bleeding to death, Rev. Brent Neumann says.
The proposed solution: an ambitious redevelopment of the property — including a multi-storey building at Colony Street and Broadway at a cost of up to $15 million — Neumann believes could sustain the church, which includes Agape Table, in an era when not-for-profits are struggling.
Although only in the early planning stage, Neumann said the church last week received a $10,000 grant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to develop a blueprint for a building to replace the existing parish hall that could include not only Agape, but a mixture of low-cost housing, service programs and private business. The church itself would remain.
Neumann said the proposal is radical, but doing nothing is a dire alternative.
"We realized that the building has been slowly degrading and the congregation has been shrinking," he said of the hall, which requires foundation, electrical and ventilation upgrades estimated to cost $500,000 to $750,000.
"What do we do? What kind of an intervention do we need to turn this around? We’re on a path that has moved us towards having to make some really major, painful decisions."
Neumann said the church, which was established in 1880 (the building was erected in 1926), has been losing $30,000 to $40,000 annually. Those shortfalls have been covered by endowments, "But that’s not sustainable," he said.
Yet the church remains one of the most active in the city. Along with the All Saints Anglican parishioners, the church houses the St. Benedict’s and Sudanese Community Church congregations.
"Probably the door turns more than any other church in the city," said St. Benedict’s Rev. Jamie Howison. "That’s one of the most visible locations in the city, not only for the church to be there, but to physically engage in the life of the city."
The average attendance for St. Benedict’s Sunday night service is around 180. With the combined parishioners and programs, Neumann estimates 1,200 to 1,500 people a week use services provided by All Saints.
Agape Table, meanwhile, serves 275 to 350 people at breakfast every weekday. The not-for-profit organization, which has been running out of the parish hall for 18 years and operating for 35 years, also runs a low-cost grocery in the parish hall that serves approximately 160 customers a week, up 33 per cent from last year.
Aaron Margolis, chairman of the Agape board, said the group has been reassured it will be included in any development plans. "We want to continue to serve the West Broadway area," he said. "We’re committed. It would make me nervous if it (redevelopment) was imminent, but it’s just in the planning stage right now."
A new building could allow Agape to provide expanded services, Margolis added, meaning the organization would have to conduct fundraising plans of its own.
All Saints is looking at an eight-storey building — on a 15,000-square-foot space that includes green space — Neumann said would cost $10 million to $15 million.
The church could sign a long-term lease with a developer, who could construct the building. It could own the building and hire a company to oversee the operation. The mix of tenants could be any combination of residential housing, low-cost housing, community service agencies and commercial space. "These are all possibilities, but we haven’t hammered it down because we’re just at the beginning of raising the questions and the conversation," Neumann said.
The next step will be finding suitors interested in the business model.
"I would like us to be in the ground within a year. But, realistically, it’s probably within three to five years," Neumann said. "There’s a lot of work you have to do to get to that point."
Neumann is hoping and planning for the best. The worst-case scenario, he said, would be to have to sell off the church and parish hall.
"We might have to," he said. "If you can’t pay for it, how can you maintain it?"
The notion of closing the church or turning to a more business-oriented approach is upsetting to some in the congregation, the priest said.
"It’s a harsh, hard reality," Neumann said. "And it’s one that’s painful for everyone... who looks at our past glory. But I tend to be more pragmatic and say the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing and expect different results.
"If we’re going to be different, we have to think different. If we’re going to change, we have to make fundamental shifts in the way that we do things. It’s really exciting when you think about it, but it’s a challenge, too."