In 1915, the pioneer farmers of the Grantham area decided to build a house of worship for the Anglican community.
For the sum of $200, St. Mary’s church was constructed near the modern-day Tsolum School.
When the Soldier Settlement project was established in Merville in 1919, the need of a church there was apparent and the little church was skidded up the gravel highway with a Clee tractor.
The first sacrament was held in March 1920. According to one account, a Sunday service was interrupted by loud squeals from beneath the floorboards.
A parishioner’s pigs had followed them from their farm and were being harassed by a dog, disturbing the sanctity of the morning.
The Sunday school was held in a small room off the front porch until it was no longer adequate. In 1960, an army hut originally from the Second World War Sandwick Camp was moved onto the site for the use of the congregation.
In 2003, the diocese decided the small church was no longer needed, as transportation to Courtenay’s St. Andrews was adequate.The buildings were deconsecrated, the altar vestments distributed respectfully and the church was sold.
After several owners, Alison and Brad Orr purchased the property in 2013.
They were approached by Craig Freeman of the Merville Community Association with a request. He suggested the buildings, so linked with the history of the district, be moved to the hall and renovated.
The Orrs graciously accepted the idea and recently donated them to the MCA.
“Once fixed up, these buildings will be available for smaller functions than the big hall,” said Freeman.”The church has a stained glass window and high ceilings, making it perfect for an intimate wedding.”
The community association has struck a committee to raise funds for the move and subsequent repairs and will solicit local trades and businesses for support.
Some donations have already been made, regional heritage funds have been applied for, and a quote for the relocation has been received.
“We intend to make the move a real event,” says Freeman. “Perhaps inviting the antique tractor club to participate. A parade up the highway with the church, parish hall and the heritage outhouse on the move. We will invite a local celebrity to ride in the latter building!”
However the first business is the cleanup of the accumulated detritus in and around the buildings.
On January 18 at 10 a.m., volunteers with brooms, rakes and trucks are needed to sort out the junk and transport it up to waiting dumpsters at the Big Yellow Merville Hall.
The church is located just south, a half kilometre from the Merville Store at 6567 Island Highway.
For more information, call Harold Macy at 250-337-5332 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Merville Community Association