Port Moody church hopes to ring in 2014 with a new bell tower

Charlie Young, chair of the trustees for St. Andrew
Charlie Young, chair of the trustees for St. Andrew's United Church, shows a photo of the original bell tower of the Port Moody church. The tower had to be taken down because it was unsafe but Rogers Communications Inc. is proposing to rebuild it with telecommunications equipment inside it.

A handsome bell tower that gave St. Andrew's United Church its distinctive mid-century modernist look and called the faithful to worship for decades will rise again.

This time, though, it will include six cellular antennas, making it a communications tower for Rogers Communications as well.

The Canadian telecommunications giant is working with the small Port Moody congregation on a plan to rebuild the tower that was nearly blown over in a wind-storm a few years ago. If PoMo council approves the project in 2014, the tower will be rebuilt and the church will get a working electronic bell and other financial benefits from a long-term lease it hopes to sign with Rogers.

"The bell tower is part of the history of the church and he we are going to have a new one with a link to new modern technology," said Charlie Young, chair of the church trustees.

This isn't the first time Rogers has teamed with a church to be able to provide its customers with cellphone coverage. A company spokesperson said similar arrangements have been established across Canada.

"The St. Andrews Church fulfills a coverage gap in the Rogers network and the installation of Rogers antennas will provide faster and more reliable service to people and businesses in the surrounding area," Peter Leathley said in an email.

Young said the arrangement should work out well for the church, which had to tear down the old bell tower when it started to lean. The old bell, which had been installed when the church was built in1957, hadn't been used for years and had begun to rust.

The new tower will have an electronic bell but Young isn't sure if it will be used to call the faithful to church on Sunday morning.

"We have to talk about that," he said. "I'm not too sure if a community would want to have a bell ringing at five minutes to 10."

But he said the church is happy to have the tower rebuilt and get some income from the deal to enable it to continue its service work in the community. Young said the church is currently home to several groups and will shelter homeless people as part of the Hope for Freedom Society's Bridge shelter program in early spring.

According to the church's website, the PoMo United church got its start in the 1880s when the Rev. Ebenezer Robson of the Methodist church (a United church precursor) used to make his rounds and visit ships in the harbour.


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