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150 Year Old South Bolton Church Does Not Want to Die!

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larger_img_3013.jpg--September 30, 2010

A few months ago Holy Trinity Church in South Bolton was to be sold and moved. It appeared as though the weekend of September 24-26 commemorating the church's 150th anniversary was to be its swan song. With festivities spread over the same three days as the Journées de la Culture, two opposing sentiments prevailed: resignation in the face of the church's possible closure and mobilisation for its survival.

The programme, which mobilized dozens of citizens, was organised by the East Bolton Association for the Preservation of Heritage Buildings (EBAPHB) in collaboration with the local congregation. It benefited from financial support from Canadian Heritage, the Municipality of East Bolton, MLA Pierre Paradis and other partners such as O'Donoughue & Associates.
The mayor of East Bolton, M. Royal Dupuis, was present at the inaugural event as were three other mayors from neighboring municipalities: Jacques Marcoux ( Potton), Dom André Laberge (St-Benoit du Lac), and Lisette Maillé (Austin). All had been especially invited because of the historical ties their municipalities share with the establishment of the Anglican Church in the region. Jacques Marcoux first praised the regional aspect of the celebration and expressed his intention to work towards an enhanced sense of regional belonging throughout the northern Missisquoi Valley. Then Dom André Laberge expressed his pleasure at the ecumenical aspect of the event. "The times are changing," he said, finding it urgent that the "different Christian churches meet each other on such occasions to reaffirm their faith together."

For her part, Sheila Needham, Rector's Warden at Holy Trinity, recalled the tempestuous reception of the Anglican community in 1860 when members of other Protestant denominations threatened to destroy the newly constructed building! She also cited the contributions of many generations and finished with a hope for the future of Holy Trinity. Archdeacon Stuart Martin, representing the Anglican Bishop of Montréal, paid tribute to all those who had permitted Holy Trinity to survive. In closing, Royal Dupuis underlined the challenge ahead to ensure the survival of the building.

During three days the little church vibrated to the sounds of music, musicians coming from the immediate region and elsewhere in the Eastern Townships or beyond: world music with Choromundo, a women's choir from the Eastern Townships and Vermont; country gospel with Russell Coates and his friends Les Duke et Alec van Zuiden; some classical church music sung by the soprano Brigitte Caron accompanied by Anne Stairs; and Celtic music with the Dave Gossage Trio.
La Troupe Enchanteresse from Mansonville brought together a dozen children who presented sketches with the puppets they had made at school for the occasion. Lizanne Ryan, co-chair of the festivities, emphasized that the children's theatre assured the presence of the whole range of ages during the weekend.

The programme also included a religious aspect, a commemorative Anglican service, which was financed exclusively by Holy Trinity Church. It was celebrated jointly by Archdeacon Stuart Martin and the Reverend Mark Gudwin with the participation of other clergy. The sermon harked back to what's at stake for the future of Holy Trinity, preaching resignation by recalling that it is not the building that makes up the Church but the people. On the other hand, the Rector's Warden expressed her hope in a viable future for the building.

Before the closing concert George Baylor, co-chair of EBAPHB, reiterated the Association's desire to create, with the support of the local congregation, a broader vocation for Holy Trinity. For example, by enlarging its spiritual dimension to a larger ecumenical one and welcoming events compatible with its religious character. In fact, he added, the program of activities over the weekend reflected quite well what is hoped for. The former mayoress of East Bolton, Joan Westland-Eby, who played a role in creating the Association, noted that the church congregations diminish in size and that the fabric of communities has changed. She recalled: "It is because our collectivity recognized that the churches do not represent only a patrimony and a place of worship but the very essence of what makes up a whole community. That's why the Association was formed and it is looking for ways to ensure that this heritage building does not disappear.

It is said that faith can move mountains. Time will tell if the coalition of people who organized and celebrated the anniversary of this heritage building in South Bolton will succeed in forging a lasting alliance between the few remaining members of the congregation and more recently arrived citizens who now live in the area. Holy Trinity does not want to die. This will to survive was strengthened by the support of the couple hundred people who came to honor its 150th anniversary.

Lizanne Ryan, co-chair, (450) 292-5559
George Baylor, co-chair, (450) 292-4822
Serge Wagner, (819) 843-9595