The Spire (formerly Sydenham Street United Church) is undergoing a metamorphosis, expanding from a traditional place of worship to a hub of inclusivity and community. To achieve this grand vision, a campaign is underway to raise $1.5 million. As of August, 2017, nearly $700,000 has been raised from people who know the value of The Spire and what this place gives to Kingston.
Dr. Ruth Wilson and Dr. Ian Casson are two such donors who believe in the importance of keeping this downtown space alive for the whole community.
Ruth and Ian are professors of family medicine at Queen’s University. They moved to Kingston with their five children in 1989 after years of providing medical care in Northern Ontario.
“We knew a bit about Kingston,” Ruth said. “My parents had been ministers at Chalmers United Church so we had traveled from the north to visit. We were very happy to make the move here and joined Sydenham Street United Church for its active children and youth programs.”
As members of the church community, Ruth and Ian know just how heavily the building is used. This iconic piece of downtown offers space to many different groups including the Cantabile Choirs, the Kingston Film Festival, Beyond Classrooms, Reelout, numerous self-help groups and others. Between 1,000 and 1,200 individuals a week come through the doors of the church.
“We’re faced with an aging congregation that has diminishing needs for the available space and it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to sustain the cost of maintaining the building,” Ruth said. “It was very important to find a way to allow the community to continue to use the space so Ian and I were delighted to find out about this campaign and the unique management model the congregation adopted.”
The model Dr. Wilson is referring to has become the foundation for the new life of The Spire. Construction on an elevator and additional washrooms is already underway to make the church fully accessible and available to anyone who would like to use the space whether it be for offices, performances or yoga classes.
“It’s important to have not only a safe space,
but to say to people ‘you, in particular,
are welcome here’.”
Ruth believes that The Spire is a great gift for the community. She is proud to be part of an affirming congregation that actively welcomes the LGBTQ community.
“It’s important to have not only a safe space, but to say to people ‘you, in particular, are welcome here’.”
She adds that keeping this inclusive space available for future generations is a very good thing to do.