Veteran’s gift sends church to suburbs

One man’s generosity is helping a parish in St. John’s, Nfld., move from an expensive downtown building to a new church in a growing subdivision. When Victor LeRoy Ash died last year at 91, he left a gift of annuities set up through General Synod’s Resources for Mission Department—a total of $145,000 for his church’s new building.

Archdeacon John Robertson presents Mr. Ash's gift to the Rev. Sam Rose on the site of the church's new home. KEVIN SMITH
Archdeacon John Robertson presents Mr. Ash’s gift to the Rev. Sam Rose on the site of the church’s new home. KEVIN SMITH

In 2008, the people of St. Michael and All Angels decided to sell their enormous downtown church. Numbers were dwindling and costs were rising. The heating alone sucked up $40,000 a year.

They wanted to go where the people were—Kenmount Terrace, a St. John’s subdivision of some 2,500 homes with colourful siding and white trim. The parish bought land right at the gateway.

To save money for a new building, the church currently meets in the chapel of Carnell’s Funeral Home. Early each Sunday a group of parishioners unpacks a van full of liturgical equipment for a worship service of some 100 faithful.

“This is a great risk,” said the Rev. Sam Rose, rector. “I have to commend people in this parish, people who believe there’s a need for people to know God.”

Mr. Ash was one of these visionaries who wasn’t afraid to move house.

A lifelong member of St. Michael and All Angels, Mr. Ash deepened his faith during World War Two. He was one of the first to volunteer with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and while overseas he met members of the Cowley Fathers. This is where he fell in love with Anglo-Catholic liturgy.

When an injury sent him back to Canada, Mr. Ash found support at his home parish. He started out with little money but found success in business, first in the paper industry and later in mobile homes and trailers.

Mr. Ash shared this wealth. He gave to the poor, especially in India, and to various Anglican bodies.

When St. Michael and All Angels made its move, Mr. Ash was the first to put down $25,000 for the building fund.

As Mr. Ash aged, he sought philanthropy advice from Kevin Smith, a regional gift planning consultant in the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Smith then connected with Archdeacon John Robertson, General Synod’s national gift planning officer, Resources for Mission Department.

The three agreed that charitable gift annuities were a good option. Mr. Ash donated an amount, received a tax receipt, and then monthly annuity payments. General Synod benefitted from interests and dividends on the investment while Mr. Ash lived and when he died, the remainder of the investment went to charities of his choice-in this case his parish, which received the $145,000, and diocese, which received about $12,000.

Mr. Robertson has set up annuities hundreds of times in his 18 years at General Synod. Usually he writes a nice letter and mails the cheque to a diocesan treasurer.

But Mr. Robertson is a long-time friend of Father Rose and was due for a visit to his favourite diocese. Last month he made his first in-person gift delivery, handing over the cheque to Father Rose at the building site where St. Michael and All Angels will lay the cornerstone later in June.

Now St. Michael and All Angels has $2 million towards a fundraising goal of $2.5 million. The building is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2013 and will be furnished with pews and lecterns from the old church, so it feels like home when the people finally walk in for worship.

“We believe that God has a plan for our parish family,” said Father Rose. “Much like Mr. Ash left this legacy, we want this building to be a legacy for the glory of God for future generations.”

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