Thunder Bay Church Deals with Ceiling Collapse

When Rev. Joyce Yanishewski preached for the call at Andrew’s, Thunder Bay, Ont., she jokes that she literally brought the ceiling down.

The week before she preached in July 2013, hunks of plaster and insulation fell onto the balcony. The week after, a section of the ceiling in front of the pulpit tumbled to the floor and scattered debris across the carpet.

“We couldn’t move forward [with clean up or repairs] until the insurance company gave us their decision,” Yanishewski said. Her induction service was held on Sept. 24 in the church hall, where the congregation had been worshipping since July.

The insurance company’s verdict came just before Christmas Eve. The cause of the ceiling collapse remained unclear and the company would not pay for the repairs. The congregation would have to raise the money itself.

By early February, donations and offers of support were rolling in. An anonymous donor wrote a cheque for $15,000. Musicians and choirs offered to organize benefit concerts. And during the congregation’s annual general meeting, someone in the Roman Catholic cathedral texted Yanishewski a picture of the bulletin. Unbeknownst to the congregation of St. Andrew’s, the cathedral was starting a restoration fund to help them pay for the repairs.

“We have this challenge. But it’s not the story,” Yanishewski said. “It’s just a challenge we’re facing and it’s bringing us together in many ways and it’s going to connect us with the community in a way they maybe haven’t been connected in a long time. I see nothing but good coming from this. And I pray for nothing but good from it.”

Yanishewski said for her, as a newly ordained minister in her first charge, it has been a blessing to worship in the hall “where we’re knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder” instead of scattered throughout the 600-seat sanctuary.

“Every Sunday, I get to meet everybody who’s come to church,” she said. “So I’m probably getting to know this congregation about five times faster that I would have otherwise, and they me. And the other blessing is just them getting to know each other. There’s this real sense of community.”

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About Connie Wardle

Connie Wardle is the Presbyterian Record’s senior writer and online editor.