British Columbia

112-year-old church goes up for sale in Fernie

Since it was built in 1909, the Knox United Church has served as an important place of communal worship in Fernie, B.C. But 112 years later, the small congregation has unanimously voted to close its doors for good. 

The church’s board says dwindling resources and an aging congregation have forced it to shut its doors

Built in 1909, the Knox United Church board has voted unanimously to sell the building, due to dwindling resources and a shrinking congregation. (Lynda Bird (Submitted))

Since it was built in 1909, the Knox United Church has served as an important place of communal worship in Fernie, B.C.

But 112 years later, the small congregation, most of whom are over 65 years old according to the church, has unanimously voted to close its doors for good. 

"Over the past 15 years, our membership has aged and become smaller," the church said in a Sept. 23 post on its Facebook page. "We no longer had the energy, nor the finances, to put into keeping the … building viable … We voted to put the building up  for sale."

Church board member Lynda Bird says she feels sad, particularly since the church has been a prominent part of her family's life since moving to Fernie in 1975, but that it's the best move before the congregation runs out of funds entirely.

She says, in August, a daycare which had been renting part of the building announced it would no longer be able to operate there.

"A huge part of our operating income went with them," she said.

Bird says members of the congregation hope whoever buys the church will use it for a community hub, like an arts or events centre. 

Church has developed a 'rich history'

The Knox United Church's website says the building was constructed in 1909 after a large fire destroyed much of the city. It developed a "rich history" in the area when it amalgamated the local Presbyterian and Methodist congregations. 

"In the past 44 years, we have called nine ministers," the church says on its website. "These last few years, our minister, along with volunteers, have been very visible in the community to promote the face of Knox United." 

Bird said that after the fire, the church was built out of "Fernie brick" under the town's orders, and is now considered by the city to be an official heritage building.

Bird said the congregation has moved back to the church for small in-person services, after attending services through Zoom since March 2020, due to COVID-19.

"We will continue having [in-person] services for as long as we can before it's finally sold," after which the congregation will most likely move permanently to online services, she said.

LISTEN | Lynda Bird discusses the Knox United Church's closure on CBC Radio's Daybreak South:

With files from Daybreak South

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