poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘abandoned church

abandoned buildings

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We are living in a time when many of our older buildings are reaching the end of their useful lives. Old churches, old covered bridges, old schools and old houses are everywhere, facing the indignity of old age. So many succumb, end up in landfills or as rotting derelicts. Yet these are buildings where history whispers. Buildings with stories to tell, our stories.



abandoned church


highbush cranberry

first, fruit hard and green

then, red, ready for wine

then shriveled raisins

hang on a leafless vine


the wick of a candle stub

competes with cobwebs

for thickness, thin sunlight

oozes, amber glass, a saber

along the empty aisle

threatens motes

in stale air undisturbed

where stray wind never

finds its way


deconsecrated and so

not desecrated when mice

squeeze under the threshold

gnaw at the pulpit, or when

vines whisper

vague obscenities

at the lintel, tap on glass


stripped of cross and steeple

people, prayers

stained glass and benches

removed and sold at auction

mice pause at their industry

to assess ambiguous whispers


the young girl who sat on the stair

sang a song to her mother

the warden who argued to fix

the seep in the roof

the Minister

who stuttered




Copyright Jane Tims 2018

Written by jane tims

March 5, 2018 at 7:00 am

writing a novel – another look at old churches

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As I write my novel, I am amazed at how many instances of abandoned churches I have encountered in my life.  I have come to think that I live at a time that will be remembered for a great turnover in our churches.  With the need for energy efficiency and financial stability, congregations are actively seeking the ideal ‘place’.

I understand why this should be so.  But I still love the idealized rural church of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Earlier this month, we took a drive to Saint Martins.  Near Garnett Settlement, we saw yet another re-purposed church.

old church near Garnett Settlement

This one was abandoned a few years ago, after there were only four parishioners to keep it going.  It was sold and has been turned into a country treasures gift store called the ‘Old Fangled Steeple’.

windows in old church near Garnett Settlement

The church still has almost all of its stained glass windows intact.



window - 'Jesus teaching by the sea'


For some beautiful images of abandoned churches, have a look at:

For a rather sad tour of the inside of some abandoned churches, see:


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

December 21, 2012 at 7:29 am

writing a novel – stories about abandoned churches

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My husband and I were married in an older local church.  I remember its lovely flower garden, the church bell, the woodwork, the organ, and the beautiful stained glass windows.  Our wedding day began an extremely successful marriage… so far we have been married almost 33 years!

The church was deconsecrated in 1995 and torn down.  The congregation moved to a new church not far away.  The new church incorporated the furniture, hanging lights and stained glass windows from the old church.

Even today, almost twenty years after the demolition, I drive past the empty space and I always feel badly.  Sometimes there is a car parked on the very spot where we said our vows.

Once I took my son to the now-empty site of the old church and showed him where it once stood.  He asked, as a joke, ‘Does that mean you and Dad aren’t married any more?’

His question seemed funny at the time, but now I think about how closely our lives are linked with the spaces where we celebrate.  If a space disappears or changes, it may seem profoundly sad.  But it doesn’t negate the actions taken there.  The best things in our lives supersede the physicality of their associations.


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

December 7, 2012 at 7:35 am

writing a novel – telling a story

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So the poet has decided to write a novel…


Title: unknown

Working Title: Saving the Landing Church

Setting: a writers’ retreat and an abandoned church

Characters: main character a writer (not a very successful writer)

Plot (a focusing statement): the story of how a woman tries to preserve an abandoned church with unexpected consequences for herself and for the community


Churches are like any building.  They require maintenance.  In these days of striving for energy efficiency, the maintenance may require expensive upgrades – better insulation, energy-efficient windows, calking to seal the cracks…

Unfortunately, maintenance of old buildings, including old churches, can be very expensive.  And the consequences of not maintaining or upgrading a building can be high energy costs, a leaky roof, rotting beams…

Eventually, many church congregations face a difficult decision.  Do they continue to try to maintain an older building in the face of difficult finances and declining attendance?  Or do they build a new building, or perhaps amalgamate with another congregation?

These decisions are especially difficult because churches are meaningful places to the community.  Sometimes generations of families have worshipped there.  They are places of weddings and funerals, baptisms and confirmations, Sunday School concerts and church suppers.  They are places of profound personal experience.  Sometimes, they are also the location of a graveyard where family members and loved ones are buried.  It is not easy for a community to let go of its older churches.

And what happens to an abandoned church?  Some are demolished, some are sold and perhaps re-purposed, some are retained by the congregation as a place for special celebrations.  Some are protected as heritage buildings.  Sometimes church buildings are sold and must be moved to a new location.

My novel will be about one such abandoned church.

As I have learned in the courses I have taken and in my reading, every good story is about someone who wants something, how the someone sets about achieving the goal, and the consequences of achieving the goal.  I have recently taken a course from Deborah Carr, an excellent writing coach (her website (Nature of Words) is at  She puts it this way: a story follows the pattern of Desire, Struggle, and Resolution.

My novel will be the story of how a woman tries to preserve an abandoned church by bringing it to a new home, with unexpected consequences for herself and for the community.

This will be a complex subject:

  • It will deal with the transformation of a space from a sacred to a secular use.
  • It will be a story about a community and one person’s relationship with the community.
  • And it will be a story about what constitutes the sacred.


Are there churches in your area that have been abandoned or re-purposed?


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

December 3, 2012 at 7:42 am

writing a novel – re-purposing a church

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So the poet has decided to write a novel…


Title: unknown

Working Title: Saving the Landing Church

Setting: a writers’ retreat and an abandoned church

Characters: main character – a writer who operates a writers’ retreat

Plot: moving a church? (in part)


Since the main character in my novel is a writer, it makes some sense that she would like to earn her living as a writer.  However, she has not yet published her first book, so there are no book deals or royalty cheques.  She turns to an occupation pursued by many talented writers, the education of other writers.

In my book, I want to establish a situation that could eventually lead to other books.   So, I have given my protagonist the dream of establishing a writer’s retreat.  Her idea is to hold writing workshops at this retreat, perhaps every weekend once she establishes herself.    She will be able to teach writing techniques at the retreat,  or hire other writers to carry out workshops.  She wants to sponsor reading events for the community, to encourage interest in local writers.  Now, all she needs is a place to carry out her plan.  She does a little research, selects a community where the artistic sentiment has established itself, and purchases a piece of land nearby.

detail of a larger drawing Jane Tims November 29, 2012

And then she sees the Landing Church, about to be abandoned by its congregation.  She falls in love with the church.  She re-imagines it as a perfect place to hold her writing retreat.  A serene, tranquil place for writers to think and write.  A place with good acoustics for readings.  A place 10 kilometers away.

Now, how is she going to get that lovely little church to her own property???


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

November 30, 2012 at 7:48 am

writing a novel – selecting a setting #1

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So the poet has decided to write a novel.


Title: unknown

Working Title: unknown

Setting: evolving

Characters: unknown

Plot: unknown


The setting was my first consideration as I started to think about this project.  After all, I am very interested in ideas about ‘place’   …   my blog is about occupying ‘place’ and the concept of the ‘niche’, the perfect space for living.

The books I love to read and re-read have a strong sense of place.  Consider the ‘Martha’s Vineyard Mystery’ series of books by Philip R. Craig.  One of the enjoyable aspects of this series of books is the setting on Martha’s Vineyard.  Book by book, the reader grows to know the various places where the action occurs.  The reader can also follow along on a map.  The island is a perfect place for a story to unfold since there is lots of diversity in the landscape and everyone loves the ocean!

Another series of books I love are the ‘Fran Varady Crime Novels’ by Ann Granger (Headline Book Publishing, London).  The setting for these books is London.  The series unfolds as Fran evolves from being a squatter in a condemmed house, to a respectable tenant in a flat with a small garden.  Place is a strong component of the books and the reader encounters various areas again and again, some dangerous, some spooky, and some as safe as home.

As I try to think of a setting for my book, I am remembering the old saw, ‘write what you know’.  So, there is no question, the setting for my book will be rural New Brunswick.

I want to create a fictional setting within the landscape I know so well.  I also want a setting with some diversity.  I want my readers to enjoy encountering the characters in their spaces in this novel, and perhaps in other books.  I want to include elements of place which can both inspire and invoke memory.

One of the places I want to include in my setting is an old church.  I have written before in my blog about the plight of abandoned churches (see the post ‘sacred spaces’ for September 14, 2011, under

Some of these abandoned churches fall into disrepair and gradually vanish from the landscape…

Some are maintained as historic sites or as useful buildings on private property…

Some are refurbished into homes…

or even businesses…

Don’t you agree, an abandoned church would be an ideal element of the setting for my book?


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

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