St. George’s in Homer Disestablishes After 225 Years of Ministry
Posted January 15, 2018
“We gather here this afternoon with heavy hearts and cherished memories of a beloved church and congregation that has had a profound impact,” began Bishop Michael Bird in the last homily that would be preached to the parish of St. George’s Anglican Church in Homer.
The parish’s final worship service took place on Sunday, January 14, 2018, marking the end of over two hundred years of Anglican presence in the area. The church, its original cemetery, as well as the nearby bridge over the Welland Canal are largely what remains of the once thriving village of Homer.
“I have had amazing things happen during my time at St. George’s,” said Warden Susie Keller, a sentiment which was affirmed by Bishop Bird who invited the congregation to imagine all the prayers, services and ministries that have transpired during the parish’s long and faithful ministry. He told the congregation that, “today we will leave here with great thanksgiving for all these things but we will not leave without many tears as well.”
During the final service, the parish was formally disestablished and the church building was deconsecrated and returned to common use.
The Reverend Dorothy Hewlett, rector of St. George’s, called the parish’s legacy bittersweet. “It feels bitter because our church's ministry has to conclude. It feels sweet because the parishioners and I feel honoured to be a small part in this church's long history of people and priests dating back 225 years to its pioneer founding in 1792.” She added that “as resurrection people we know that God will continue to work in the church, which is really the people of Christ Jesus.”
Warden Bill Smith intends to move to St. George’s sister parish, Christ Church, McNab. Others are still processing the closure and will try a few parishes out before making a decision.
Over the last decade, the people of St. George’s have been discerning their future. The arrival of a letter from the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation in 2014 proved to be a pivotal moment for the parish. The letter stated the Seaway had deemed the land on which the church building stood to be surplus, and they no longer intended to lease it to the parish as had been done since 1961. After many meetings and much discussion, the parish felt it was not in a position to purchase the land.
St. George’s was also involved in a 22-month discernment process with 10 other Anglican congregations in the Greater St. Catharines area. The recommendations arising from this work are being implemented with an eye towards a revitalized Anglican presence that is better equipped to respond to God’s call for the church.
All of this led to a special vestry meeting in June of last year. Of the 22 people in attendance, 20 people voted in favor of disestablishing the parish. This decision was approved by synod council last fall and affirmed by Bishop Bird. In March, when the lease expires, the building and property will be turned over to the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation.
It’s been a difficult journey according to Hewlett but one, she says, that was undertaken “with integrity and God’s love.”