RE: Town denies St. Mary's building permit fee rebate (June 30, 2015)
We at St. John’s Anglican Church would like to thank our mayor and members of Town Council for granting us a building permit fee rebate at a recent town council meeting. This rebate is greatly appreciated as it helps us to make our Church facility fully accessible to those who live with mobility limitations. Located directly across the street from Maple Manor Long Term Care Facility and in a town that promotes itself as a retirement living destination, St. John’s decided that our building needed to be a place that could welcome all residents of Tillsonburg including those with accessibility requirements.
While we are thankful that our church family has received this permit fee rebate, it would be our hope that this same courtesy would be extended to all faith communities in Tillsonburg. We would like to communicate our hope that Town Council might reconsider its decision made at the Council meeting held on June 22, at which time St. Mary’s was denied a building permit fee rebate for work that is being done to their church facility.
In listening to the debate that has taken place in arriving at a decision on these applications it seems that one of the arguments against granting a faith community a rebate in fees, under the Community Improvement Plan and the Building Permit Fee Rebate Policy, is that area churches do not pay taxes. That means they do not qualify for the rebate because they do not contribute or support the community.
This in our estimation is too narrow a definition of what it means to contribute or support the community of Tillsonburg. This point of view simply ignores the fact that church members are all taxpayers individually and volunteer their time and energy in so many ways to the community inside and outside of church.
We applaud the comments made by Doug Shwaluk in a recent newspaper article on this matter where he talked about how all of our local churches contribute and support the wider community “by seeking to draw families together, instilling moral and ethical values to future generations, not to mention the countless hours and work donated toward charity such as providing food, clothing and shelter to the needy.” We would like to add our voice to this perspective.
Every time a church community leads a worship service in a local long-term care facility it is the whole community of Tillsonburg that benefits by showing that we care for and value the older members of our community. The same can be said of pastoral visits that are made to those who are sick and find themselves in hospital. By the simple act of a loving visit the whole community of Tillsonburg becomes known as a community that cares. The weekly meal that St. Mary’s offers and the Saturday lunches that all of the other area churches host throughout most of the year benefit the community of Tillsonburg as we feed the hungry and care for the poor in our midst. The clergy from our churches who volunteer to be Padres to the Legion or Chaplains to emergency workers highlights our commitment to our veterans and to those who protect and keep us safe.
In addition to all of this, every time there is a worship service at a local church, be it Sunday worship or a wedding or a funeral, a contribution is being made not only to the participating residents of Tillsonburg but to the local economy as well. Many of our Sunday morning parishioners choose to go out to lunch at local restaurants following worship each week. Couples who are married in the church often turn to local catering companies to host a reception. The same is true for funerals and other events.
While it is true that local churches do not pay property taxes in Tillsonburg it is our belief that all of our area churches contribute and support the fabric of this community in significant and life giving ways not the least of which is inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ and the joy of Christian faith.
Once again we would very much like to thank Town Council for granting St. John’s a building permit fee rebate to improve our facility and we hope that this same courtesy might be extended to St. Mary’s and all other faith communities in this town who work hard every day to make Tillsonburg an amazing place to call home.
The Rev. Bill Ward, Priest/Rector
Peter Johnson, Rector’s Warden
Jim Jakes, People’s Warden