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Historic St. Johns church won't be demolished for now but needs money, time and labor

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Posted at 11:24 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 11:26:25-05

ST. JOHNS, Mich. — Divine Mercy Parish, the historic church on the corner of Walker and Mead streets in St. Johns, has part of the community since 1867.

There's a chance it won't be around much longer, but people in the community are trying to save it.

It was an Episcopal church when it was gifted to Bishop George Drozd in 2011.

“The bishop there wanted this to continue this to function as a church, but they were closing it because I think at that point they were down to like two, maybe three congregants,” Drozd said.

He wanted to honor those wishes.

“We were faced with an initial outlay of probably around $80,000 to $100,000 just to make it safe enough for people to continue to worship in there," he said.

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Drozd, who is also a registered psychologist, has maintained the church building out of his own pocket, allocating 50 percent of the earnings from his practice toward repairs and restoration.

"But as the needs of the church increase, in terms of repair, the congregation is much too small and since I’m retiring that portion of the income will be lost,” Drozd said.

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His first plan was to salvage what was possible of the historic building and then have it demolished.

"When news of that got into the community, there were a lot of people that responded to that…" he said. "The comments and the reactions certainly caused me to think, 'OK, have we exhausted every conceivable possibility?’”

He has since made a commitment to keep the church as it is for the next 12 months in hopes that the community will donate time, money and skills to keeping it standing. Drozd has also offered to match every donation.

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Wendy Ward grew up worshiping in the Episcopal church and is now making it her mission to keep the building standing as a holy place with the help of another community member, Jason Denovich.

“I was baptized in this church. I was confirmed. My family went to the church. My family’s who’s passed, their funerals were in this church. We worked hard to keep this church going but as bishop said, there were a lot of little construction issues that we just simply couldn’t afford,” Ward said.

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Denovich said the repairs will cost anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000.

“I think what they’re going to try to do is raise some funds to buy them some time so that we can start to investigate, you know, the possibility of grants,” he said.

Drozd says the ideal scenario is to find a person or group of people who appreciate the building as a place of prayer.

“And if we get to that point, I would be more than happy to deed the property over without any strings to an individual or a group that may choose that direction,” he said.

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Lauren Shields

Lauren Shields

8:25 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Lauren Shields