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After completing a major restoration project to its 130-year old building, First Christian Reformed Church, Hamilton, Ontario received a Heritage Conservation Award to recognize its preservation of the architectural heritage of the region. The award is one of nine presented this year in the city.

First Christian Reformed Church kept its architectural heritage intact during a renovation.

Originally owned by a Baptist congregation, the building was taken over by the congregation in 1949 after the 20-year-old congregation had outgrown its first building. Significant fluctuations in membership almost closed the church doors a few decades ago, but in the early 1990s the congregation made a commitment to stay and to become more engaged with the neighborhood, explained pastor Chris Schoon.

“The renovated space is allowing us to more effectively engage a portion of our community. In all our conversations about the renovation, one of the primary decisions was to integrate old and new. We kept looking for ways to combine old [and original] themes and motifs into the new look,” Schoon said.

The neighbors noticed. Several visitors were present at the dedication and celebration ceremonies and are showing up on Sundays.

Paul Wilson, a neighborhood resident and member of the Municipal Heritage Committee said that at a time when so many churches are being torn down, “it’s no wonder that the city’s heritage community wanted to recognize a church that chose to make an investment in the neighborhood it serves.”

“I really didn’t know much about First [CRC], even though I live just down the street. The extensive work made me take notice, and I know others in [this area] have too,” Wilson said.

Margaret Tigchelaar, who has attended First CRC for 61 years, feels that the restoration project has had a positive impact on the congregation as well as creating a much more visible presence in the surrounding community.

“This congregation is 84 years old, and we have experienced highs and lows, also in membership. Some years we hardly had any baptisms. Yet with patient wisdom God has presented us with new opportunities . . . convincing many that he really wants us to be a meaningful presence,” she said. “Can you imagine the joy of seeing so many children skip and hop into the building every week again?”

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