Residents of Vankoughnet are hoping the 122-year history of St. Stephen’s Chapel will continue many years into the future but they’ll need help to make it happen.
In June 2022 the Anglican Church decided that given the declining number of active congregation and the lack of income caused by the pandemic closures St. Stephen’s would cease to function as an Anglican Church.
According to a history of the church compiled by Jennifer Milne:
‘On January 12, 1891 at 10:30 am St. Stephen’s Anglican Church was consecrated by Bishop Sullivan who said; ‘It is commodious and beautiful. I am astonished at what has been done in so short a time and at so small cost’.”
In August 2023 a group called the Friends of St. Stephen’s was formed with the goal of saving the church building and maintaining it as an active part of the community.
“A place where we can continue to gather for various occasions and celebrate our long history as a community,“ said the group in a statement. “The building will be available for numerous rental opportunities including but not limited to art shows, study groups, music nights, weddings and baptisms, makers markets, and nondenominational services. There has already been substantial interest from the community for this.”
The Anglican Diocese of Algoma has begun the process of deconsecrating St Stephen’s chapel and has initiated discussions with the town of Bracebridge regarding the transfer of ownership of the cemetery and the chapel to the town.
Coun. Barb McMurray, who represents the ward, said during a meeting this summer that the Town needs to consider several factors before they can accept. Those factors include the current condition of the building, legal and regulatory concerns that may arise from the change in status to a public building, the potential uses as well as the management and funding of the facility.
Earlier this month the St. Stephen’s committee submitted their business plan to the Town along with plans to manage and operate the former location of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.
It will now be up to the Town council whether to proceed with the proposal.
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