The end of St. Paul's

Marshalltown church demolished; memorial planned

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on January 31, 2012


St. Paul's Church in Marshalltown is gone.

A demolition crew dismantled the 166-year-old church towards the end of January and all that remains there now is the graveyard and a level patch of earth.

Anglican Bishop Rev. Frederick Hiltz deconsecrated the small white hilltop building on Nov. 17, 2006 after one last service.

Rev. Thomas Vaughn was the priest in Digby at the time and he told The Courier then that the decision to close the church had come from the congregation of St. Paul's.

"There had only been summer services at the church since the 1960s and the last four or five years they had just had the one service because you need to have one service a year.

"It came down to a couple families keeping up that building and in reality two families cannot afford a church."

The final straw said Claudia Lutz at the time was a leaking roof.

The building was a registered heritage property and that delayed any dismantling for over a year while a committee considered other uses for it. The church stood in the middle of a graveyard meaning the diocese could not sell the property and it's sacred location also limited possible uses.

In the end the committee was hoping to create a heritage centre with a focus on local church history. The committee dropped that idea in Oct. 2008 and since then the building has sat vacant.

Rev. Mel Moulton says it was important to the former congregation that the building be torn down before it fell any farther into disrepair.

"It was becoming unsafe and no one wanted it to become an eyesore or for someone to get hurt."

The demolition crew found a lot of the wood was full of dry rot and not salvageable.

Important pieces were salvaged like the brass bell and many of the pews and other wood decorations. The parish is looking at combining some of the wood and the bell into a memorial to be erected where the church stood.

Moulton says they are considering a dedication service.

"Much like a funeral when a person passes away, it's important to have some closure and say good-bye and commend the soul to God. In this case a church building has passed away and the service will be a funeral so we can, if you like, commend the soul of the church to God."

Sattler's of Lunenburg removed the stained glass windows. The altar, which has wheels on it, is used occasionally at Digby's Trinity Anglican Church. A wooden eagle lectern and other pieces may yet find a home there too. A small bronze cross is in Saint Matthew's in Weymouth already.

Moulton, who has only been in the parish less than a year, says it is nonetheless sad to see a church torn down.

"It's heart-breaking-people's heritage and family histories are wrapped up in that church. It will be important now for the parish to do some work around healing."

She says the property atop Marshalltown is still a special place.

"With its big sky and stunning view of Digby and the water, it's a place where it's easy to feel God's majesty. It's no wonder a church was built in that spot. Although the church building is no longer standing, the fact that there's been a century and a half of prayer and worship in that place makes it special.

After finishing that main story I asked Moulton about the health of the churches in her parish and got this response:

"The health of the other churches in my parish: they all have faithful and regularly-churchgoing congregations. They managed to sustain themselves amazingly well during the last year, when there was no rector.

"Rev. Canon Ken Vaughan from Annapolis Royal was the priest-in-charge, but he has a full-time parish already. Services were taken by visiting priests from other Anglican churches further up the valley, and by the lay readers here and in Weymouth.

"The wardens (lay people who volunteer to keep things running, often putting in many hours a week) and the music director/organists managed to keep the events calendar full. So when I came, things were in remarkably good shape.

"Our attendance has increased a little since I came, which is natural when a parish has been without a full-time priest for a while and then finally has one.

"We've started a few programmes: bible study and a youth program, and things are picking up. I'm very optimistic about the future here.

"The church in Sandy Cove is a summer parish - made up largely of people who have cottages in the region, and services are taken by visiting priests who stay rent-free in the rectory there in exchange for priestly duties. This arrangement has worked very well for the past couple of years and will happen again this summer.

"So all in all, the Anglican Parish of Digby-Weymouth is doing well, and is positioned to grow."