Fredericton — As church attendance continues to dwindle across the province, an increasing number of these former places of worship are being abandoned or restored as heritage buildings — at a considerable cost to the province.
A new change to the Days of Rest Act, which went into effect last week, has repealed the ban on Sunday real estate sales in an effort to unload the properties as quickly as possible.
In an effort to preserve optics and appease the remaining Christian population, the province has handed the contract over to the avowedly evangelical realtor EuchaRealty.
Joel Robertson, the company’s top agent, says that “by the grace of God,” he hopes to sell each one of the abandoned buildings before the year is out.
The Manatee was allowed to join Robertson last Sunday as he shepherded a flock of potential buyers through one such property: the former Our Lady of St Mary’s Church on Fredericton’s north side.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Robertson, gesturing with bejewelled fingers at the decrepit walls of the unrestored building. “We’ve gathered here to day-yuh, not to simply sell a property — but to spread a message-uh. A message that one person can make a difference. The one person — be they born in a manger in Bethlehem, or the maternity ward of the Regional — they can truly make an impact on this world. Let us pray-yuh.”
He reached out to grab the hands of the people on either side of him. The others looked startled for a moment, but shortly followed suit.
“Let us pray-yuh,” he repeated. “Let us pray that the good Lord finds a buyer for this old chapel. Let him provide us with a vessel through whom these walls might find new purpose through Christ-uh. Amen.”
“Amen,” said the others, releasing their grips.
“Now who, I ask,” he cried, raising his hands to the sky. “Who will be the one to take this property out of the hands of God and into their hearts?”
“I’d like to make an offer,” said an older gentlemen standing at the back of the group. “How does $600,000 for the lot sound?
“Sounds mighty pious, my good man,” said Robertson, rushing to shake the man’s hand. “I believe you’ve just bought yourself a church. What’s your name, my son?”
“James,” he said, as the ceiling began to crumble and fire climbed the walls. “James K. Irving.”