Church for sale, one dollar.
Reverend Joan Griffin felt like she was losing a loved one when she put her church in Jeddore, N.S., up for sale on Monday.
On average, the church draws eight people to its services. Griffin says this isn’t enough to keep the church going so it will close at the end of the year.
As the church shuts its doors and Griffin looks to sell and relocate the building, its cemetery will be left behind for the eight aging members of the church to look after.
“There are no longer people to look after these cemeteries, so they’re virtually becoming abandoned and we just can’t sit back and watch,” she said.
The church hoped volunteers from the community would help, but Griffin said few have volunteered. In most cases the volunteers who are working are old, said Griffin.
“We are having trouble finding people who are physically able to look after [the cemeteries] and in a couple of cases there is no money available to look after them. People are just looking after them with the goodness from their hearts,” she said.
Adoption by the city
But the church members may be relieved from duty as the Halifax Regional Municipality looks into taking over the cemetery and four others in the parish.
Last year, the municipality spent $256,000 maintaining the six cemeteries the city already cares for. City maintenance includes mowing the lawn and trimming overgrown branches which may damage headstones.
Jennifer Stairs, a spokesperson for the municipality, said the city has received a number of calls from residents and groups making similar requests for cemetery care, but it is up to a councillor to get the ball rolling.
Councillor David Hendsbee has been the first to make a cemetery care request.
During the Sept. 22 regional council meeting, Hendsbee prompted council to request a staff report for the municipality to develop a policy and implement a process for the acceptance and adoption of old, abandoned or orphaned cemeteries.
Hendsbee feels it is the municipality’s job to care for those who have passed on.
“Personally, I think we as a society have an obligation, a responsibility, to ensure those who came before us and built our society, our communities, are cared for,” he said.
The buzz of a chainsaw ripped through the air in city-owned Camp Hill Cemetery last week as HRM parks and recreation workers trimmed branches around plots.
Worker Paul Tanner loaded branches into the back of a yellow city truck.
Tanner said they visit the cemeteries about three times a week for maintenance of particular plots.
“Anyone who owns the plot can call with a concern,” he said.
Tanner doesn’t think it’s a bad idea for the municipality to take on another five cemeteries, but said he isn’t sure where they will find the time for maintenance unless the city hires more workers to care for them.
No descendants left
Currently the municipality does not maintain headstones, but Hendsbee would like councillors to look at the issue. Hendsbee said he doesn’t feel it would be difficult to re-stabilize the stones.
It is up to the family members to care for the stone that marks the spot of their loved one, but Griffin said some of the dead have no one left to care for them.
“The difficulty is a lot of people buried in these cemeteries don’t even have any descendants left to care for them,” she said. “We try to do our best to look after them…[but] it’s a lot of work and few people to do it.”
Many headstones, even in Camp Hill Cemetery in the city’s core, have fallen to the ground and in some cases split apart.
A moral obligation
Griffin is hopeful. She said she can’t see why the city would turn down the request.
“If Halifax Municipality can mow baseball fields, why can’t they mow cemeteries?” she said.
To Griffin, it is a moral obligation to care for the resting places of the deceased.
“These people were the heart of these communities at one time, and they deserve the respect to be taken care of while they are resting in peace,” she said.
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About the author
Payge is a master of journalism student at the University of King's College. She's interned for Bangor Daily News in Maine and freelanced for...