Squamish United Church in danger of closing | Squamish Chief

Squamish United Church in danger of closing

Should funds keep dwindling, the 100-year-old local institution could shut doors in two years

Here's to hoping a good deed goes unpunished.

After donating their land to allow for the creation of a social service and affordable housing project, the Squamish United Church says that it is in danger of shutting its doors in two years due to a lack of money.

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A news bulletin issued by the church says they're losing about $8,000 a month, which is unsustainable for the institution that's been in town for about 100 years.

Revenue, the bulletin says, can only account for 48% of what's necessary to run the church, and funds are close to depleting.

"We need some help at this time as we find a way to get back on our feet financially," Rev. Karen Millard told The Chief.

Millard said that these financial woes are at least in part because they gave away their land for free to help create the Centrepoint building downtown, which opened in 2017.

The land that Centrepoint sits on was formerly the site of the old Squamish United Church, a building that at the time was aging and due for replacement.

The congregation could have opted to sell the land for cash — which would've netted a sizeable amount — and use that money to start anew.

Instead, they opted to donate the land to allow for the creation of an affordable housing complex that houses Sea to Sky Community Services, which didn't have money to buy land for its own facility. BC Housing became involved, and the plan moved forward.

"We made a very clear, discerning, faithful decision to build this facility... so it could care for the community," Millard said.

As part of the deal, the facility would also house a brand new space for the church. But this agreement did not create any financial windfalls for the congregation.

"We felt that was a way beyond any way we could ever do to care for our community," said Millard. "But...one of the consequences of that is that we then don't have the money in our coffers that we had in the past that we used to draw from when we needed the extras."

As a result, the church is in a precarious financial position.

Millard said that services the church offers, such as before-and-after-school childcare, crisis counselling, contributions to Community Christmas Care and music classes, are in danger of being shut down if things don't turn around soon.

The church is completely self-sustaining, and doesn't receive funds from the national organization, she said.

Complicating things even more is that the church is unable to qualify for many grants — even though it provides social services — because it's a religious organization.

This leaves the church with few ways of raising funds. The congregation is not large enough to fill the collection basket with enough money to ease the financial difficulties, Millard said.

Millard's hoping more members of the community can kick in donations at the church's website, https://www.squamishunitedchurch.org/.

She's also wondering if some non-profits would be willing to support the church financially, as it also provides social services.

Finally, she added that the institution's space can be rented, and encouraged those needing a place for their function to consider the church.

"We want to be a church that cares for the community," Millard said.

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