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180-year-old Barrie church to close for good after arson causes devastating damage


A historic Barrie church is closing its doors after a fire that police say was intentionally set caused significant damage.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church was built in the heart of the city 180 years ago and stands as one of Barrie's oldest churches.

The church's board was forced to make the difficult decision.

"It's certainly emotional," said Gord Thompson, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Board of Managers chairman. "We will be grieving over the building, but the building is not the church. The church is the people."

The closure comes nine months after what police determined was an act of arson.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ont. is damaged from a fire on Sun., Feb 19, 2023 (CTV News/Catalina Gillies)

Police say 38-year-old Lance Freeman was caught on surveillance camera leaving the building seconds after the fire broke out on Feb. 19.

The accused, who struggles with mental health challenges, remains behind bars, charged with three counts of arson and a violation of probation.

The allegations against him have not been tested in court.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ont. is damaged from a fire on Sun., Feb 19, 2023 (CTV News/Catalina Gillies)

Reverend Joanne Lee said the congregation recently voted to accept the insurance payout of more than a million dollars as it decides its next steps as a church community.

The congregation of roughly 75 people has been using the church's temporary home at the nearby Steckley-Gooderham chapel.

Barrie resident Cindy Rowley said she was saddened to hear the historic church would close for good. "Because it's a shame to lose it. It's just a gorgeous building as a part of our heritage," she added.

The future of the century-old building, which has undergone several additions and repairs over its close to 200-year history, remains undetermined, but the church's leadership said its mission to serve the community and make a difference has never been stronger. Top Stories


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