Bishop’s Court, empty for 18 months, will soon become a home again – this time to university students.
Diocesan Council, at its June 20 meeting, approved the use of Bishop’s Court as a student discipleship residence for a one-year trial beginning in August.
Youth & intergenerational ministries director Colin McDonald made the pitch at the meeting for a place where university students could pay an affordable rent while living, studying, growing and worshiping through the school year, with house parents guiding them.
“Among kids, their belief system is constantly under attack, especially after high school,” Colin told council. “18-24 is often the age that many young people step away from their faith and these days they often don’t come back. How can we better support them?
“We’ve talked about a residential solution for young people while in university.”
Bishop’s Court would serve as a home and a place of support for students who would participate in a regular schedule of prayer, meal preparation and service within the larger community. It would accommodate four or five students, plus the house parents.
Colin cautioned that the house project would not be successful without the support of parishes.
“We need the local Anglican churches to essentially adopt these house kids – come in, share time, cook and share a meal. And the kids would take part in parish life,” he said.
“This will work if we see it as ours. It won’t work if we just put a bunch of kids in the house. It requires parishes to see this as a ministry.”
At the meeting, questions were raised about city zoning, maintenance or repairs, and existing donated furniture.
Bishop David allayed any fears about the donated antiques, saying any furniture that needed to be removed will be before the August opening.
There are still several issues to be addressed before students would be able to move in.
“As a teacher, I think this is a brilliant idea,” said diocesan chancellor David Bell. “Everything will depend on who the house leaders are, but it’s just a brilliant idea.”
House parents will be former Camp Medley director Kurt Goddard and his wife, Rebecca Butler.
Since empty, the annual costs for heat, water and other services has been about $8,000 a year.
The house has two and-a-half bathrooms, four bedrooms on the second floor, plus two bedrooms and a large storage room on the third floor.
On the main floor, there is a double living room, large dining room, plus a large kitchen with laundry room and butler’s pantry. It has a front porch, back entrance mud room and screened porch. The house sits on a corner lot at Church and Brunswick streets, across from Christ Church Cathedral.
Bishop’s Court became empty when Archbishop Claude Miller and his wife, Sharon, bought their own property in January 2011. Since then there have been short-term rentals, but it has been empty for the past 18 months.
This or similar housing projects have been successful in Halifax and Edmonton. Similarly, the Archbishop of Canterbury, earlier this year, invited applications from young people world-wide to live and study at Lambeth Palace in the UK.
Colin hopes that eventually, the project can spread to other communities in the diocese that have empty rectories.
“This is about investing in young people and their discipleship,” he said. “We’re using the assets we already have and putting them to work.”
Colin gave an impassioned speech about the project to council members.
“This is important and I’ll tell you why. My experience so far, from Camp Medley is that when September rolls around, the youth leaders are left with no support. They’re left to the world.”
That was followed by several questions from council and unanimous approval.
Council member Rachel Barrett cautioned that the project should not focus too heavily on recruiting Camp Medley staff as residents, lest the house become a clique.
To prepare the house for the students’ arrival, clean, good quality furniture is needed, mainly sofas, living room and dining chairs, large dining table, beds, nightstands and dressers. Contact Colin (506-721-4781) if you have any items you’d like to donate.
If students are interested in living at Bishop’s Court, they must contact Colin by the end of July. A letter of application, describing themselves, why they would like to live at Bishop’s Court and what they would bring to the house community, can be sent to cs_mcdonald at hotmail.com .