The movers came to Blackville this week. They came to tear the guts out of the old church.
When they left, the old church looked almost untouched, except for the boarded- up windows and doors. But inside, it is completely hollow; the flooring, the pews, the ornaments – all gone.
When the snow goes, when the ground thaws, when the buds come again to the trees along the banks of the Miramichi, the movers will return. And when next they leave, there’ll be nothing left of the old church but a small empty patch in the midst of the rows of tidy gravestones that date back to its birth in 1842.
They will tear the old church down and put it back together in some other town. Maybe they’ll keep the New Brunswick Heritage plaque.
The Blackville Anglicans will watch. The new Trinity Anglican Church is only 100 metres down the road. They will file out of church on Sundays and look over and see their old church disappearing bit by bit.
Not that they’ve been using it. The new church was built in the late sixties to hold a growing congregation. There were sporadic services at the old church after that. Then, for the last two decades, nothing.
Lawrence Stephens was already an adult when the church crossed the centennial mark. He’s a former munitions worker who has spent his whole life in Blackville. His relationship with the church goes even further back than that.
He recalls as a child waking up before light to get the old wooden stove fired up in the church. “I would’ve been oh, 13, 14 then. And you’d have to get down there at 6 a.m. for an 11 o’clock service. And you’d have to take a lantern down with you. Fire up the stove, light the oil lamps.
“I’d be pretty scared some mornings; the church sounded so hollow. In those days the church wasn’t locked and sometimes you’d have some tramps come down from Newcastle, and spent the night in the church.
“You’d go in there and you didn’t know who you’d meet.
“A young lad would go in there and start the fire, and light the lamps, replace the oil. And there would be frost on the walls from a week in the cold, and it would melt and the water would come dripping down the walls.
If anyone has a history with the old church, it is him. If anyone might be sorry to see it go, it should be him. But although he feels some regret at the passing of the old chapel, he doesn’t oppose it.
“Well I don’t know,” he says. “A lot of people were right up in arms. ‘Tear the old church down?’ they said. Well, better to tear it down than let it rot and fall down.
“Some people, they make a big fuss about tearing the church down. But the people that kept the church going didn’t say much about it. You hear that kind of thing a lot from the folk that don’t go to church half the time.
Father Ian Wetmore is one of two clergymen serving the area. He says after the church was deconsecrated, the parish began to get offers to buy it. One of those offers came from Halifax- based Renovators’ ReSource, a company that tears down old churches, finds buyers for them and reconstructs them elsewhere.
“Everybody hated to see the place go,” he says. “But we really couldn’t maintain it. The big fear was that someone would come along and drop a match in it. So the parish decided that was the best way to address the situation.
“If we couldn’t preserve it here, maybe someone else could use it and treat it with the dignity deserved by a heritage site.
And in the meantime, they will have a few more months to watch Old Trinity disappear, piece by piece, from the inside out.