In front of the newly restored stained glass windows are the Canterbury Center committee members (left to right): Christian Veilleux, Tony De Melo, Gilles Gaulin, Candy Coleman, Ed Pedersen, and Bobby Jacklin, with John Mackley of the Bury Historical and Heritage Society.
They scaled the 55-foot tower, broke a hole into the floor of the bell chamber, and climbed in.
And there, atop the little Christ Church Canterbury, Gilles Gaulin, Steven Aulis, Ed Pedersen and Tony De Melo discovered an amazing bell. “To see the immensity of it!” said Pedersen. It was three feet across, five feet tall, and some three inches thick in places. Aulis said 6-inch beams support it.
The bell was installed in 1896 when the church was built. Later, its chamber windows were boarded over. It hasn’t rung in decades.
The four men are volunteers for the Canterbury Center Committee of the Bury Historical and Heritage Society. Their discovery in late September was the climax of a four-year marathon to repair and restore the distinctive church with its flying buttresses. It is situated at the corner of Route 214 and Canterbury Road.
“In 2015, the Society bought the church from the Anglican diocese for $1 on the condition that we use and repair and maintain it,” said Candy Coleman, member of the six-person committee.
Supported by other volunteers, the group raised funds by organizing a series of community events: flea markets, concerts, community suppers, and public markets. The idea was to open the new cultural center to the community and visitors. “We had good foot traffic,” she said. “It’s a little church in the middle of nowhere. Lots of time you have small churches, people drive by, but they’re never open.”
The idea was also to raise funds. And they did. They raised $70,000, with no grants or governmental help. Some was from an anonymous benefactor. The rest was donations from far and wide, from people whose families had once lived in the Canterbury area.
Then, the renovations. The foundation had rotted, so in 2018 they constructed a cement slab foundation beside the original site and moved the building onto it.
They also sent its three stained glass windows to Hugo Baillargeon, a stained glass artisan in Verdun, for restoration. In 1922, the windows had been created by the N.T. Lyon Company in Toronto, known for their “extremely high quality,” work. Baillargeon recommended new window frames be built for them.
Carpenter-craftsman Steven Aulis built the frames. He also re-built the Gothic front door from old floorboards, repaired many of the buttresses, re-built the cross atop the tower, and is now building new louvered windows for the tower.
Other achievements were new electricity, heating, a ditch and a culvert. Landscaping was done by Gilles Gaulin, Steven Aulis and Peter Lupi. And there’s more to do, said Coleman. More repairs, more landscaping. Plans are to paint the church in its original colours: white with green trim. “We want the church to reflect its authenticity, its heritage.”
“Thank you to the volunteers, in capital, huge dark font!,” she said. “There are a lot of little jobs, and it’s not really something you see, but it all adds up. Little unsung-hero work. It’s a big thank you to everyone who pitches in and helps out. There are only six of us on the committee. Without all the other volunteers, we’d be burned out!”
“The fact that it has happened is not an accident; it’s a result of people working together. People who are inspired and supportive of the whole project. Without the community, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Pederson.
“Our vision for the future is that the church will be an historical site and a center that will keep going, that someone will take over for us. That it will be there for another 100 years. The Historical Society has done so much already, it almost cries out, ‘I’m important now!’.”
And when will the Canterbury bell ring again? The weekend of August 2nd, 2020, suggested Pedersen. That’s when the Canterbury Committee plans to organize a celebration of the revitalized Canterbury Center. And that’s when the louvered windows will be installed, so the bell can be heard in all its glory.