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St. Luke's Anglican Church, diocese of Fredericton New Brunswick.

LESS THAN FIVE years ago, St. Luke's Anglican Church, in Saint John, N.B., was on the brink of being shut down. The church had fallen on hard times. An "urban renewal" project by the city had led to the disappearance of much of the surrounding neighbourhood, leaving an economically depressed area in its wake.

By 2015, only 45 people attended services on a typical Sunday. Heating expenses for the building--a massive structure, built in 1876, that seats up to 800 people--totalled about $20,000 each winter. "That's a big hit when your Sunday income hovers around $2,500," says interim priest-in-charge Canon David Barrett, who began ministry at St. Luke's in 2016. A developer expressed interest in buying the property and tearing down the church, though that deal fell through.

What kept the church going, Barrett says, was its active outreach program. With the help of a part-time outreach worker, the church provides hot lunches on Mondays and Thursdays and hot breakfasts on Tuesdays, coordinating with a local Baptist church that provides meals every weekday. An estimated 65-70 people come out to St. Luke's for these meals.

St. Luke's also offers free clothing to whoever needs it. It provides free haircuts once or twice a month and foot care provided by a local volunteer. Every Christmas, the church hosts a Christmas dinner for 50 families.

The turnaround for St. Luke's, Barrett says, began with the appointment of a full-time priest-in-charge. The filling of this previously vacant position, he suggests, provided some stability for the parish and a sense among some congregation members that the church would not be closing after all.

Another stabilizing factor was a $60,000 grant from the diocese to install heat pumps, which significantly reduced the cost of heating and further reassured people. The diocese provided funds to hire a young, full-time assistant curate, Cole Hartin [see Hartin's reflection on p. 20 of this issue], who is active in the community and has provided another boost for the church. "People have really responded to him being there; Barrett says.

Finally, attendance at St. Luke's has increased due to a number of families from India, largely of Orthodox backgrounds, who moved to Saint John and gravitated towards the congregation. About a dozen Indian families now worship at St. Luke's and their ranks include a warden and members of the vestry, he says.

Today, 100 people attend St. Luke's on Sundays. Barrett hopes to increase that to 120 next year. Increased attendance and fundraisers enabled the church to pay off its five-year loan from the diocese in two years.

Barrett points to outreach as a major factor in the church's revitalization. Local residents, he said, "see what a great benefit it is to the people of Saint John, so people have really rallied behind that to keep it going and contribute to it, both with their time and their financial resources."

The outreach program, he adds, has drawn people "because they see we're a church who's doing something for the community. We're not spending all of our time wondering, 'How are we going to keep our building open?'.... We're not focusing on ourselves. I think that's the answer."

Caption: As part of its outreach program, St. Luke's offers two hot lunches and a hot breakfast each week.

Caption: PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

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Publication:Anglican Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2020
Words:564
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