Marlborough's Holy Trinity takes a leap of faith with purchase of former St. Ann's Church
By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – The Holy Trinity Anglican Church has finally found a permanent home. As of April 15, the church took ownership of the former St. Ann's Catholic Church on Lincoln Street in the city's French Hill Neighborhood.
The first Mass is will be celebrated Sunday, May 11, at 10 a.m. It was postponed a week to wait for additional permits.
In 2007, Holy Trinity broke ties with the Episcopal Church, left its building, and began an affiliation with the Anglican Church of North America. Since then, the church has been temporarily renting space in the United Methodist Church at 52 Church St.
“We wanted a presence in French Hill,” explained Fr. Michael McKinnon. “We had a calling to reach out to the people of this part of Marlborough. We felt there was a need for ministry here.”
French Hill has a long history of ethnic diversity. It was named for the French-speaking Canadians who originally settled there centuries ago, and St. Ann's was established by Italian Catholics in the 1920s. The working-class neighborhood is now represented by a wide variety of cultures, including a large Latino population.
Two years ago, the church also leased a small chapel across the street from St. Ann's and began offering a number of ministries in the area, including weekly meet and greet prayer walks, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, a depression and anxiety support group, and assisting at the local recovery house.
However, the effort to buy St. Ann's and establish roots in the French Hill neighborhood began much earlier.
McKinnon came to Marlborough 10 years ago, in 2004 – the same year that St. Ann's closed its doors.
“I immediately started looking into [buying the property],” he said.
Unfortunately, it wasn's financially feasible at that time, but after a decade on the market, it became a possibility.
Last October, the church started the process to purchase the property. They held a capital campaign to raise the initial funds. The response “showed that people were behind what we were doing,” McKinnon said. “We reached out to family and friends of the church as well as the community to help.”
“This was a big undertaking,” he continued. “We are stepping out in faith that God wants us to be here.”
The property includes the 7,750-square-foot church building, the two-floor 4,300-square-foot former social center next door, a 1,250-square-foot house that will serve as the church's administration building, and a parking lot with a capacity for about 150 cars.
Once it was purchased, there was still much to do. After sitting vacant for nearly a decade, the church needed electrical and plumbing repair, handicap access improvements and safety upgrades, as well as general cleaning and maintenance.
Steve Walker, who was given the church title “People's Warden,” is responsible for the property, coordinating the efforts to reopen the building.
“Our first priority – aside from functioning toilets – is to make the building stable, legal and safe,” he said.
Less than a week after the papers were signed, a crew of volunteers was there to help.
“Parishioners have been there all day, every day getting it ready to open,” Walker said, picking up trash outside and polishing pews inside.
There are also longer-term projects, such as repairing the slate roof, which will be done at a later date.
Walker's personal project is restoring the front doors of the church. He builds boats as a hobby, so he was able to sand and refinish the doors so that they will “gleam into the neighborhood,” he said. His hope, he added, is that they will draw people in.
The restored carillon will also alert neighbors that the church is open. “I hope at the first service, there will be ringing bells over French Hill,” Walker said.
The former social center adjacent to the church will now be known as the community outreach center.
“We wanted to change the name so residents would know we are there to reach out to the neighborhood,” McKinnon explained.
Ideas for the space include a soup kitchen, emergency shelter, or addiction recovery center.
The chapel inside the church is also receiving a new name – St. Ann's Chapel, in honor of the church that was a fixture in French Hill for nearly 80 years.
Holy Trinity, a small congregation with only 80 active members, is seeking to attract newcomers, in particular those who don's already have a church home.
“Our doors and hearts are open,” McKinnon said.
Holy Trinity's Mass schedule at its new location, 472 Lincoln St., will be Sundays at 10 a.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., and Wednesdays at 8 a.m.
Donations can be sent to Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 472 Lincoln St., Marlborough, MA 01752.
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