It took just days for Sarnia’s Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church to find a buyer apparently interested in maintaining the elaborate building as a place of worship.
“It sold right away,” said John Blysniuk, a Holy Trinity trustee and church member the past 35 years. “It was a pleasant surprise, for sure.”
The church and its two acres at 1244 Exmouth St. are located on a high traffic corridor close to residential and commercial areas.
When it went on the market shortly before Christmas multiple offers created a bidding war, allowing trustees to accept an offer above the asking price of $399,000, said Blysniuk.
Several offers came from people who wanted to demolish the church and develop the land for housing, he said.
“But our first priority was to choose one that would retain the building as a church. That’s actually in accordance with the bylaws of the church.”
Blysniuk conceded he wasn’t optimistic such a buyer could be found, especially since the church property is zoned for urban residential use. But he was proven wrong.
The church features three ornate domes and a large collection of cultural and religious relics. It was built in 1969 and had about 100 members and a full-time priest during its heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s. Built in the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it features the bright colours and beautiful renderings of the Byzantine period.
But like many churches, its membership began to decline in the 1990s, said Blysniuk. More recently a Windsor-based priest has held services once a month while also serving parishes in London and Chatham.
Ten to 20 families still attend Holy Trinity and many have only one or two members, which is not enough to cover expenses, Blysniuk said.
“It’s no fun but it’s the reality. Selling our church is a sad day.”
Sarnia’s Ukrainian Orthodox parish might continue to hold services in a rented hall after the deal on their building closes Jan. 25. It’s also possible the building’s new owners will accommodate services for the parish, Blysniuk said.
“It’s my understanding that the building is sold to a family that is going to try to continue it as a Serbian Orthodox Church,” he said. “All eastern nationalities following Greek Orthodox are very similar.”
Some Ukrainian artifacts are being removed but most of the religious items will remain for the new church.
A realtor representing the buyer confirmed the purchasers are Serbian and hope to open a new orthodox church. However, she said the couple prefer to remain anonymous for now.