Repairs force Westminster United to relocate services
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Just over a month before traditional Christmas services at a Wolseley church were anticipated to resume — following two years of COVID-19 disruptions — a new issue threatens to cancel the landmark’s in-person holiday programming.
Notices posted on all of the doors at Westminster United Church informed parishioners their usual Sunday service would be held at another congregation in the neighbourhood on Sunday.
Earlier this month, the sight of a drooping ceiling in one area of the building located at the corner of Maryland Street and Westminster Avenue prompted engineers to temporarily shut the entire building down.
Brandon Johnston, chairman of the church’s property committee, said engineers arrived at the 110-year-old structure on Nov. 4 to assess another issue when they came across a more immediate concern: a structural problem related to the roof.
Johnson said a preliminary investigation found some roof joists in the church’s sanctuary are in need of repair, as well as plaster that has separated and contributed to a depression that frequent churchgoers did not realize had been slowly worsening.
“We’re trying our best to keep up but sometimes, I think the building and I are in a game of chess and it makes a move, and I make a move — and right now, the building is winning,” he added, following a joint morning service held with regular members of Young United Church on the corner of Furby Street and Broadway.
Other areas in the building have resumed hosting after-school programs and other events, but the church’s sanctuary — a popular venue for concerts and community events, with impressive acoustics and a capacity of roughly 900 — remains closed indefinitely.
The Westminster church board anticipates it will receive a proposal to fix the matter in mid-December. Both the cost and timeline of the repair remain unknown.
“After two years through COVID and not being able to do anything, we were kind of hoping to build for a big Christmas service this year,” Johnson said, adding maintenance is on the rise due to the building’s age so the situation is unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected.
The congregation’s members will find somewhere else to gather for the holidays, he added.
The City of Winnipeg and Province of Manitoba have both declared the church, known for its unique Beaux-Arts Gothic style design, a heritage site.
In recent years, the place of worship underwent significant restoration on its rose window and front steps.
As Wolseley churchgoers await a return to their usual venue, Dan McIntyre said they have been welcomed into neighbouring sites.
“It was kind of fun because what happened was the choirs showed up on both sides. The singing was really great,” McIntyre said, reflecting on the Nov. 20 worship at Young United.
The church’s Nov. 6 service was cancelled in its entirety because of the sudden structural concerns. On Nov. 13, the Sunday service was relocated to Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.