A church is supposed to be known as a place of safety and refuge.
So it’s understandable that Rev. Wade Allen is not overjoyed to have a door to Grace United Church in Coombs boarded over with the spray-painted message, “Unsafe — Do not enter.”
Allen, a former parishioner at the church who returned as its pastor in October of last year, is faced with replacing the failing septic system at the church, which was built in 1947.
The estimated cost of a new system is $12,000, money the church is now trying to raise.
“We still have the original septic system, which is supposed to last about 30 years,” said Allen. “Which means we’ve gotten 40 years of grace from it.”
But that grace period seems to have run out. If the toilet is flushed twice in succession, Allen said, sewage gases can be smelled in the kitchen.
The sewer vent, essentially a two-inch flexible hose, runs through the kitchen to emerge in a utility area on the opposite side of the building from the washroom.
The kitchen sink itself isn’t even connected to the septic tank. In digging some exploratory holes behind the church, Allen found the kitchen drain runs into a loose assemblage of old automobile bumpers and tin cans.
The actual septic field, which appears to be fed by a single pipe, is situated in a side yard, between the church and the popular tourist destination, Goats on the Roof.
“Can you imagine what would happen if there was a breach there?” Allen said. “We can’t do what we need to do here because we can’t flush the toilet. We can flush, but we never know if that’s going to be the one. Or the two, if you will.”
Allen and his congregation have begun scheduling fundraisers to tackle the budget need, but can’t even hold the events at the church because of the risk.
A lasagna supper with a loonie/toonie auction has been scheduled for April 29 at the nearby Agricultural Centre, at the Coombs Fairgrounds.
A silent auction is also on tap, with the date and location still to be determined.
And the septic system is not the only cost the church is facing. To get at the secondary drain field behind the kitchen, Allen and volunteers had to tear out the ramp leading to the church’s rear entrance.
He estimates the cost at another $4,500 to $5,000 to replace the ramp and provide access to the mobility challenged.
Once the church addresses these pressing issues, Allen said, he wants to return the church’s focus on community.
He would like to show documentary films in the downstairs hall to educate the public on important issues, hold family movie nights, children’s play dates, and offer stress management workshops and meditation.
Allen would also like to see the hall used for public forums.
“I think Coombs values this little church,” he said. “We’ve seen the funerals, the weddings. I think the community wants the church to be a part of its ambiance, its identity.
“If we’re relevant to the community we have an opportunity to grow the church.”
To donate or to learn more, call Allen at 250-738-2550.