Members and Adherents of Knox-St. Paul’s United Church in Cornwall, were told during their worship service on Sunday that their Sanctuary and adjacent areas would be closed indefinitely effective immediately.
Peter Morgan, chairman of the church council, reported that the action was taken by the members of Knox-St. Paul’s Church Council after they received a report from the Thompson Rosemount Group about the conditions and structure of the church. Thompson Rosemount has been monitoring the ongoing movement of the church walls for the past 20-plus years. The latest report from the professional engineers of Thompson Rosemount stated that evidence of ongoing movement of the church building was a serious concern and that there might be concealed conditions within the walls, roofs and/or foundation that could be inadequate or unstable. Although the periodic inspections have revealed minor comparative movement, the cumulative movement over an extended period of time was significant. This instability, coupled with the fact that Cornwall is located in a known earthquake zone, led the Thompson Rosemount Group to state that the portion of the building that has been monitored; the Sanctuary and associated areas, was unsafe and should not be occupied. Their report further stated that the Thompson Rosemount Group absolved themselves of any liability regarding the areas of Knox-St. Paul’s United Church noted in their report.
The clergy and members of the congregation were visibly upset upon hearing the news. Knox-St. Paul’s is the only United Church in Cornwall and serves a congregation of over 600 families with regular Sunday services averaging 125 worshippers.
Arrangements have been made to hold Sunday services at Central Public School for an indefinite period of time. Central Public is located across the road from the church.
The church was built in 1885 and opened for the first worship service in June of that year. In September 1944, an earthquake did serious damage to the building. This was followed a year later by a major fire in November 1945. After the fire, during 1946, the church underwent a major renovation and the offices were added. In 1983, after St. Paul’s United Church, from the corner of First and Sydney Street, amalgamated with Knox, the old front entrance was torn down and the new modern structure that you see today was built. With the approach of the 125th anniversary of the church in 2010, a proposal had been approved that would have resulted in the renovation of the sanctuary.
The church offices, a number of classrooms and Lewis Hall are unaffected by the sudden closure of the rest of the church building.
There are many more issues related to the closure of the Sanctuary that still need to be addressed. Morgan stated that the church council and trustees, along with Presbytery representatives would be working through these issues and any decisions would be communicated to the congregation in a timely fashion.