With its fundraising goal in sight, Zion United Church has started to dismantle its old boiler system and expects to have the new system in place by October.
Zion’s aging boiler needs a complete replacement, as it was installed in 1979. So, the church launched a fundraising campaign in April intending to raise $100,000. As of Aug. 18, it was less than $10,000 away from achieving that goal.
“We are extremely enthused,” said church representative Jack Ross.
Work has started to dismantle the old boiler and remove all asbestos from around it, he continued. The hope is that the new energy-efficient system can by Thanksgiving.
“We’ve had tremendous support from the congregation of Zion and the community at large,” Ross continued.
This support came in many forms. For example, Carol McWilliams, a former music teacher in Moose Jaw, encouraged many former students to donate to the project. Since April, they have collectively given more than $13,000, with many donations coming from across Canada.
Meanwhile, the Rotary Club donated $2,500.
“So if we are successful, we will have been able to save the historic building on Moose Jaw’s Main Street for ours and generations to come … ,” said Ross. “(We’re) very optimistic we’ll achieve that goal (of $100,000). And when we do, we shall celebrate.”
That celebration will likely include a special service on Thanksgiving Sunday with plenty of music and singing, two activities for which the church is well-known, he continued. The church will also acknowledge everyone who gave money during that campaign.
Ross was optimistic about the fundraiser’s success from the get-go, he added. He pointed out that Moose Javians can usually be counted on to support worthy causes, especially a cause like the historically important Zion United Church.
Zion United Church was constructed in 1906 and has remained a community pillar since then, said Ross, so closing Zion’s doors would be an incredible loss.
“It really is a treasure to Moose Jaw, right on Main Street, with the design and the acoustic qualities of the building,” said Ross. “There’s just a longstanding relationship of Zion supporting the community.”
The church has been more than a religious hub, he continued. It has also served as a social gathering place, popular performance venue and important resource for Moose Jaw.
Annual music festivals have occurred there for decades, including the Moose Jaw Music Festival and the Rotary Carol Festival. Other non-profits and local groups also use Zion for events, fundraisers and meetings.
The building is also a landmark, as it has stood on Main Street with its recognizable Doric pillars for over a century. The church is the oldest in Moose Jaw and began as a Methodist congregation in the early 1880s, when the city was a fledgling settlement.
Zion is also famous for its extensive stained-glass windows and the stained glass dome that tops the building.
The massive Casavant pipe organ is also noteworthy; it uses over 1,800 working pipes and was the first of its kind installed in Western Canada.
The church was declared a heritage site in 1983, making it possible for the congregation to take on funded restoration projects over the years. As a result, extensive work has been done to repair and maintain the interior, including insulation, replacing the organ console, window upgrades and structural repairs to the dome.