Bill Scott stand before the original 1880 Methodist Church in Blackwell. The newer Blackwell United across the street is closing and its congregation disbanding after 134 years of worship in the former hamlet. – Glenn Ogilvie
BLACKWELL – When the church here holds it final service on June 29 a cemetery and vine-covered heritage site will be all that’s left of this once thriving hamlet.
Dwindling attendance has spelled the end for Blackwell United Church, a congregation that’s worshipped continuously at this former rail stop community for 134 years.
“Even 10 years ago we didn’t foresee this happening so quickly,” said Bill Scott, treasurer and chair of the church trustees.
“We had a fair number of young people and it wasn’t terrible financially. But it came faster than we thought, and it’s not easy to accept.”
The future of the church and lands is uncertain and members of the congregation will disperse to attend services elsewhere.
Though today a picturesque spot on the road from Sarnia to Bright’s Grove, Blackwell was once a busy community in its own right.
It rose around the Grand Trunk Railroad station, had its own school and stores, a flourishing sugar beet industry and as many as four brickyards operating in the area.
The original Methodist Church, built in 1880 of local clay bricks, still stands as a heritage site in front of the cemetery.
The current house of worship was built across the road and opened in 1955, said Scott, who has compiled a short history of the church.
Home to numerous groups and charitable committees, it was expanded in 1984 for a congregation that peaked at about 100 families.
But with only two dozen families remaining it isn’t large enough to sustain itself, though members continue to raise funds for the Inn of the Good Shepherd and other causes.
The United Church is closing about one church a week in Canada, and Blackwell United is up next, said Scott, who is still uncertain where he will go after the congregation disbands.
“I was saddened at first but I’m accepting it as a reality now.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Final service of Blackwell United Church
WHERE: 1825 Blackwell Rd.
WHEN: Sunday, June 29, 10:30 a.m.
OTHER: Rev. Sandra Fogarty presiding
– George Mathewson