The two historic churches in Abercorn may no longer host regular services, but they are expected to remain hubs for the community thanks to the actions of concerned citizens.
Both the All Saints Anglican Church and Église Saint-Simon, a Catholic church, were sold earlier this year. The Anglican church was acquired by the nonprofit Centre culturel d’Abercorn, which plans to use it as a concert venue starting in late summer 2022.
“There were 14 or 15 people who donated money to be able to make an offer to buy the church” earlier this year, explains Patrice Lefebvre, a board member of the Centre culturel d’Abercorn.
All Saints “has been maintained by members of the community for more than 150 years, and we wanted it to remain community property,” Lefebvre says. The nonprofit became the official owner of the church in June 2021.
The church has not held regular weekly services for many years. “Even in the early 1990s, there were not regular masses; there were occasional services that were more like reunions,” says Lefebvre. He has organized occasional concerts in the church since 2013 as part of the Concerts champêtres d’Abercorn series; pianist Mathieu Gaudet and soprano Marie-Josée Lord have performed there in recent years. The church can accommodate about 150spectators. “The concerts we were doing showed us it was possible [to use the church as a performance space] but it will cost money to renovate and winterize,” he says. “We can’t install elaborate lighting or curtains because of the heritage designation. We’d like to organize acoustic music evenings, singing, poetry readings…and make it easier for other people to organize events.”
Currently, the unheated building can only host events in summer. Lefebvre says the cultural centre is currently applying for funding to repair the church’s roof, improve the lighting and add an emergency exit. In the medium term, members hope to be able to build a heated annex to serve as a ticket booth and green room. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to winterize it completely for year-round use, but we’ll hopefully be able to prolong the season a little, to hold events from April to October.” By 2023, he hopes weekly summer events will be organized in the church.
Église Saint-Simon was put on sale in mid-2020 by the Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe. Later that year, it was purchased by Pierre Bernier, a Cowansville-based entrepreneur. Attempts to contact Bernier were unsuccessful; in July 2021, he told La Voix de L’Est that he planned to renovate the church and add washrooms, a kitchen and a garden. Lefebvre said he didn’t have details
on what Bernier’s plans for the building were; although he has organized events in the Catholic church in the past, he prefers to focus on the future of the All Saints building. “If we can eventually have events every weekend [in summer] and a few weekday events, that would be great,” he says. “We want to give life back to that place.”