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Ministry of
Music in
   The concept design for the proposed redevelopment of Knox Presbyterian Church in Stratford, Ont., by architect Michael Wilson.
Next Chapter for Knox Stratford
By the Rev. Drew Jacques,
St. David’s Presbyterian Church in Campbellville, Ont.
The sanctuary of St. David’s Presby- terian Church in Campbellville, Ont., was built over 175 years ago and has phenomenal pre-amplification acoustics.
Very early on in my tenure, I said to Brad, the clerk of Session, “We need to get more music into the sanctuary, and not just on Sundays.”
Withinacoupleofdaysofmaking that statement, the director of a new- ly formed professional choir called to ask about using the sanctuary for practice. We said “Sure!” They asked, “How much?” to which we re- plied, “Nothing, just come and fill the space with joyful music.” They did, and the seed of an idea was planted.
As we move further into the world of digital ministry, we need to think “inside the box” and see the sanctu- ary as one of our greatest assets.
Back in “B.C.” (Before COVID-19), we were thinking about organizing concerts and having a free-will of- fering to help fundraise and keep the boat afloat. Now, it seems that those days are gone, maybe not forever, but for a very long time.
As the pandemic unfolded, we noticed many musicians performing their music via “Quaranconcerts” live streamed on Facebook, Zoom or
The truth is musicians love to per-
form. The challenge is that venues have been shuttered. So why not es- tablish a “Ministry of Music”?
The simple idea was to make the sanctuary available to musicians to come and perform, or practice their music in a big room. For free.
The response has been over- whelmingly positive. As a result, we are entering into an agreement with the choir to support and nurture young musicians. They have the tal- ent, and St. David’s has the facility. Win-win.
Musicians can perform “un- plugged” or “plugged in” to the sound system of the sanctuary. In addition, St. David’s has the capacity to digitally record the audio and up- load videos of their “Quaranconcert” to our YouTube Channel. For free.
Our only request is that they men- tion St. David’s online Sunday ser- vice and invite people to email us for the link to join our online worship.
The Ministry of Music is about be- ing hospitable and inviting musicians to come and make the most of the sanctuary. The benefit to St. David’s is doing something positive for a much larger community, while also having the opportunity to reach out and invite others to join in the “good vibrations” going on here.
Jointly released by Knox Presbyterian Church in Stratford, Ont., and the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective
The congregation of Knox Presby- terian Church in Stratford, Ont., has embarked on an ambitious redevel- opment plan that will see portions of their historic downtown church renovated into much-needed space for local performance and cultural programming, in addition to ongoing church worship programming and community outreach.
Knox initiated the planning pro- cess by partnering with the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC), which represents 30 local artistic and cultural organizations, as well as numerous independent artists that came together four years ago with a shared focus on the development of community-based performance space in the city.
Knox also engaged Trinity Centres Foundation (TCF) to explore financ- ing options, governance models and development requirements. TCF is a pan-Canadian charitable organization that specializes in preserving and sustaining churches by enhancing their community presence and im- pact.
“The cost of maintaining this beau- tiful church is a significant challenge for the congregation at Knox,” said Allan Rothwell, chair of a task group struck three years ago to assess fu- ture options for the congregation and the building.
“Conversations with SACC allowed us to see that we could respond
to the real requirement for flexible community-based performance and arts space, along with the need for socially responsible housing, while sustaining our congregation and con- tinuing to serve the community.”
A building assessment study com- missioned by Knox in 2017 revealed that the church building needs ap- proximately $1.6 million in repairs, along with additional funds to repair the numerous stained-glass win- dows. So far, the church has invested $300,000 in new roofing sections, slate and roof drain repairs.
Last year, Knox commissioned ar- chitectural concepts that envisioned new construction to replace the yel- low brick section at the back of the church with a revenue-producing socially responsible housing com- ponent.
Those concepts also proposed ad- ditional uses for the sanctuary and other parts of the church building for large and small-scale performance spaces and not-for-profit tenants and their operations.
“Stratford is known worldwide as a leader for high-standard professional arts and culture, yet we lack state-of- the-art theatre, highly flexible perfor- mance space where local, commu- nity-based organizations can flourish and be showcased,” said Ron Dod- son, who co-chairs the SACC.
“With this par tnership with Knox, we are answering that call to ‘expand the tent’ to provide facilities for arts and culture for all Stratford citizens to participate in the arts.”
Dodson also noted that there is a
strong alignment of the community service values that Knox and SACC share and a desire to be a downtown site for local activities.
This new vision for Knox allows the congregation to continue to use a multi-purpose assembly space de- signed for regular worship services, as well as the use of the performance space in the sanctuary for special holidays and events. Knox will main- tain its community outreach mission and partnerships with a wide range of community services, including the Cancer Care Mission.
Timelines for the next step of the redevelopment project will not be determined until TCF completes its initial assessments and delivers a project plan.
Both Knox and the SACC are com- mitted to proceeding with a plan that honours and protects the heritage aspects of the century-old church building while enlivening it with more modern usages.
Knox Presbyterian Church was originally built in 1871. A fire de- stroyed the front portion of the church in 1913, and so the sanctu- ary section is actually of newer con- struction, having been constructed post-fire. Architectural concepts will be developed and shared with both the City of Stratford and The Pres- byterian Church in Canada for early conversations about the potential for the building. Project proponents are enthusiastic about the prospect for a collaboration that delivers new space and services for faith, arts and cul- tural pursuits.

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