Church property repurposed
St. Catharines’ oldest CRC church demolished, land donated for Christian Seniors home.
On March 21, the Board of Kings Cross Senior Communities (KCSC) in St. Catharines, Ontario, hosted a Recognition Service on the parking lot of the former Maranatha Christian Reformed Church (CRC) to reflect on the church’s history and to share plans for the next phase of the property’s use after the church building is demolished.
KCSC, formerly named Christian Senior Citizens Homes Society of St. Catharines, is managed by a Board of Directors elected by the deacons of three partner churches: Trinity, Covenant and Jubilee CRC, and has served seniors in Niagara for over 45 years, offering affordable, excellent housing options in Tabitha Homes, Sunset Homes and Sunview Gardens.
Maranatha’s story is not new to long-time Christian Courier readers. Almost 10 years ago, former editor – the late Bert Witvoet – offered insight into Maranatha’s history, explaining some of the reasons why the Council of Maranatha at the April 9, 2014, Classis Niagara meeting requested to be allowed to disband after 65 years of ministry (“Maranatha Today, Your Church Tomorrow?” May 26, 2014). Witvoet commented, “It was a sad moment for many former and current members of this once-thriving church. Maranatha was, after all, the mother church of several Christian Reformed churches in the area.”
A new season
Now, nearly a decade later, about 100 people gathered for the Recognition Service. Gerry Lof, who attended Maranatha CRC from 1956 till it closed its doors, said regarding the church’s closing and the upcoming build, “It’s sad, but it was inevitable. We were down to 60 members so we closed the building. But it’s good to build. There’s hope in that.”
Kim Cairns, MC for the morning and Program Coordinator for KCSC, welcomed guests and explained her role as working to improve the quality of life of seniors living in KCSC.
Opening in prayer, Pastor John VanderBurgh of Trinity CRC set the tone for the morning’s reflections and celebration by praising God, who was present through the passing season of Marantha’s history – baptisms, weddings, funerals, tears, sighs and unspoken remembrances – and is present in this new season.
Andrew Botbyl, Board Chair of KCSC, recognized Maranatha’s history and its role as the mother church of Covenant, Trinity and Jubilee CRCs. He acknowledged Marantha CRC’s generous gift of the building and property to KCSC, once outstanding costs were paid off, and, later, donating a leftover balance.
Blessing other churches
One of Maranatha’s stipulations was that KCSC continue the legacy already created by the church. The morning’s Recognition Service was one way of doing just that. But prior to that, the church’s legacy was shared when Board Member Henry Vegter and others arranged to donate many of the church’s furnishings – the organ, the pews, the pulpit, the baptismal font, light fixtures and appliances – to churches and organizations in the Niagara Region.
Pastor John VanderBurgh pointed the guests’ attention to Maranatha CRC’s cornerstone – stating “Maranatha 1955” – which had been removed from the church building and was displayed on a table. He noted that it will be incorporated into the new building, which will be called Maranatha Place. He reflected on Ephesians 2:19-21 – “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” He concluded by assuring guests that God’s grace that was received in the past at Maranatha CRC will continue to be present at Maranatha Place.
The new Maranatha
Wil Bootsma, Board Member in charge of organizing the demolition of the church building, emphasized that God has used Marantha CRC, and that God’s mission will continue through Maranatha Place. KCSC board’s vision is that it will be a missional community where people are ministered to in God’s name. He noted that a gathering place, which will be incorporated into the building, fulfilling Maranatha CRC’s wishes, will be a space where, with Kim Cairn’s leadership as Program Coordinator, community building will be encouraged. Bootsma also shared that plans include a six- storey, 85-unit building. The apartments will include market rent units and subsidized units.
As the service drew to a close, someone called out a request to sing the doxology, and voices joined in, strong and hopeful, to sing Praise God, from Whom All Blessing Flow, a song that was surely sung hundreds of times to close Maranatha CRC’s worship services.