Renewed hope for St. Paul’s Cathedral

By Project Jericho Leadership Team 

20 steel shores support the trusses in St. Paul's CathedralThe ongoing restoration of St. Paul’s Cathedral is a unique opportunity: we are able to re-invigorate not only our church’s structure but also its worship, its role in the city, and its relationship among its parishioners and the Diocese, while always remembering and celebrating that the story of the Cathedral is the story of its people.

For over 175 years, St. Paul’s Cathedral has served as a gathering place for celebration, sanctuary, artistic expression, outreach, and worship.

The building itself is a remarkable example of nineteenth-century Gothic style, but the Cathedral is more than just a building – St. Paul’s Cathedral is a place for people who are searching for whatever they need in their lives, a place where people can be part of something that is greater than themselves, a place where they can feel welcome, warm, and comfortable to be who they are, a place of hope and love.

This has been true for generations and will continue to be so Sunday by Sunday and whenever we have the opportunity to welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ.

St. Paul's as it tooked from 1848 to 1892 when the gallery was removed

St. Paul’s as it looked from 1848 to 1892 when the gallery was removed, the transept and chancel added.

St. Paul’s became a Cathedral when Bishop Cronyn was elected as the first Bishop of Huron in 1857 and it continues to fulfil this role as the seat of Bishop Linda our 13th Bishop of Huron, but St. Paul’s is, at its heart, a community just like any other parish in the Diocese.

Even though we are currently worshipping in Cronyn Hall, the Cathedral’s parish hall, we are embracing this experience with hope for our future knowing we’ll be able to return to the Chancel and Nave by Easter, maybe even by mid-February. We know God works in mysterious ways and we believe God has a plan for our community and the Cathedral.

During our journey as the Project Jericho leadership team, we have uncovered interesting history and photographs, and listened as people shared stories about St. Paul’s importance to them – perhaps their great- grandparents had been married at the Cathedral, or they were baptized here before moving to another city.

We have been able to share our stories with the community and appreciate how much we are intertwined with the development of London as it grew from the early Talbot settlers to a town to a city.

We’ve been energized in our faith as we’ve found new ways to share of ourselves through our fundraising activities and how we’ve learned more about our past to help shape our future. We continue to provide outreach through St. Paul’s Social Services, Knitting for Peace, and the Tuesday Noon Hour Organ Recitals. The support we have received from other denominations has been heart-warming. We have also been truly blessed at the Cathedral to have so many skilful people willing to give of their time and talent to support Project Jericho.

We have come together with a renewed strength and hope knowing the wooden trusses can be repaired. It was a difficult decision for Bishop Barry and the Cathedral wardens to temporarily move worship services to Cronyn Hall but it was necessary to keep people safe.

No one anticipated the scope of Project Jericho when it was launched by The Ven. Nancy Adams, then Priest-in-Charge of St. Paul’s, in May 2015. At that time, we had already embarked on fixing the gutters, bricks, and mortar in the north transept corner when we realized we had greater water damage than anticipated. As anyone knows, once you start a renovation project, you can’t stop when you uncover more issues and structural concerns.

St. Paul's Cathedral in 1947

In front of St. Paul’s in 1947.

When we realized the truss ends had severely rotted, we turned to local firm SBM Engineering for their expertise as structural engineers. The solution is comprehensive but unfortunately it is also expensive. Steel plates will reinforce the joints (Queen Post and bottom and top chords) and ends of all five trusses. After starting this work, our contractor, Robertson Restoration, discovered further cracking and splitting of the truss ends that had not been visible from the outside during the gutter repairs, and the work halted until SBM Engineering could review the structural integrity of the trusses. Twenty additional steel shores were installed along with several tension ties to help support the trusses and prevent flexing in the bottom chord (horizontal beam spanning the Nave) during the repair work which is expected to continue into mid-February.

The larger cross trusses are showing signs of stress but are not in need of repair at this time. These trusses will be monitored by SBM Engineering over the next couple of years as this will establish a baseline for us to measure from over time.

We are pleased to report the gutters and cornices have all been repaired to help create a water tight environment. The new copper gives a majestic appearance to the roof line befitting a Cathedral. No further water infiltration has been found so this is good news.

St. Paul's Cathedral full of faithful during Archbishop Ramsey's visit in 1963

Inside the Cathedral during the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury A. M. Ramsey in 1963.

There will be finishing work to be completed as funds become available, including repairing the plaster on the walls and the two transept columns, repairing the sconces and re-installing them, repairing the floor where the five steel shores were installed to support the truss ends in 2015, reinstalling the pews, and some painting. Once all of this work is completed, the Cathedral will be returned to its former glory and the Nave will be structurally sound. The reinforcing work on the trusses will blend into the hammer-beam construction, preserving the awe-inspiring appearance of the architecture.

The unexpected need for the twenty additional shores was a temporary setback, but it has not stopped our efforts to save the Cathedral. We want to preserve the history, artifacts, military heritage/colours, and worship space for generations to come. We connect in many different ways, past, present, and future, and these relationships define our Cathedral. We are grateful to the many people who believe in the Cathedral’s mission and support its work, including Bishop Linda and the Diocese of Huron. We at St. Paul’s are honoured to host important events in the Diocese and be the seat of the Bishop. We continue to embody God’s mission in our ministries and look forward to connecting with our sister parishes in the Diocese. Your generosity in supporting our repair work is encouraging and most appreciated.

The Cathedral’s leadership would like to thank you for supporting St. Paul’s Cathedral. With your help, we will continue to touch people’s hearts, to experience God’s presence in our midst and to preserve an environment that will inspire generations to come.