See the beauty inside

Churches get a chance to show off at Doors Open Winnipeg


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EVERY Sunday morning, members of a church in the heart of the Glenelm neighbourhood climb to the top of their roof to sing and pray.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/05/2017 (2134 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EVERY Sunday morning, members of a church in the heart of the Glenelm neighbourhood climb to the top of their roof to sing and pray.

It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds, since the red brick building housing Gordon-King Memorial United Church was built on top of a high basement used as the worship space for two decades, building manager Dan McCulloch says.

“The floor is actually a tar roof with all the drains in place,” he says of what’s underneath the sloping hardwood floors of the building completed in 1927.

That’s just one of the hidden details on display at the 700-seat modern Gothic building during next weekend’s annual Doors Open Winnipeg.

McCulloch plans to give visitors a peek of the inner workings of the 1,500-pipe Casavant organ, let them enjoy the view from the horseshoe balcony and tour them through the original basement worship space, now the church fellowship hall.

The church offers tours on May 27, the first time it will be part of the annual tour of Winnipeg’s architectural treasures.

McCulloch also plans to share facts and figures gathered from the large church register at the front of the sanctuary, which features years of photographs, newspaper clippings and handwritten records collected during the congregation’s 123-year history.

“I read it in bits and pieces,” he says of the giant book that requires two hands to turn the large pages.

“There’s so much in here, I can’t read it all.”

Now home to a small but lively congregation of about 50 regulars, the building was bursting at the seams soon after construction was completed, and added wings accessed by folding doors at both side of the sanctuary.

The east wing houses Gordie’s Place, a weekly Thursday night community coffeehouse, and the west wing features offices and a boardroom.

“I’ve never met a church as committed to the community,” Rev. Dwight Rutherford says, pointing to the community garden, free library and community billboard the church hosts on its Cobourg Avenue property.

“They’re doing stuff to reconnect.”

Across the city is St. George’s Anglican Church, which sports a 1957 modernist design by architect Leslie Russell.

The third Anglican Church at that location, St. George’s features an entrance accessible from Wilton Street and Grosvenor Avenue, and sleek, clean lines, says church warden Andrew Thomson, a life-long member of the parish.

“It’s a large, beautiful space,” Thomson says of the church, which features a 10.6-metre-high ceiling, wraparound walls of pastel-stained glass and a smooth limestone exterior.

“I think it reflected the optimism and progressive thinking of this parish.”

Visitors to St. George’s can hear organist Rick Morgan play before touring the sanctuary, anchored at the front by an abstract stained-glass design by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol which incorporates an older window by Robert McCausland.

“The building speaks, but in subtle ways,” Thomson says, pointing toward floating ceilings and cove mouldings that hide ventilation and heating systems, and the vertical lines of the glass blocks in the chancel.

The structure, with its flat roof and minimalist 40-metre-high bell tower, contrasts to the rib-beamed ceiling and traditional stained glass of the 40-seat Tudor-style chapel at the south end.

That difference is the beauty of the Doors Open weekend, which allows Winnipeggers to explore the diversity of architectural styles within 75 of the city’s buildings, says Cindy Tugwell of Heritage Winnipeg.

“Churches are some of the best and most architecturally beautiful structures in Canada,” she says.

But over the past few years, she’s witnessed church boards struggling to maintain these architectural gems as they explore how to keep the doors open all year with dwindling resources.

“What I’ve been seeing is some churches are talking about converting into housing,” she says.

“That’s the not best-case scenario for a church, but I’d rather see that than the church be demolished.”

No one is talking about that extreme at either Gordon-King Memorial or St. George’s Anglican, but they keep asking how they can be faithful to the original vision of a neighbourhood church.

“I’d love to be able to explore opportunities on how we can have a future here,” says Thomson.

The Free Press is committed to covering faith in Manitoba. If you appreciate that coverage, help us do more! Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow us to deepen our reporting about faith in the province. Thanks! BECOME A FAITH JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.

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