St. Barnabas Anglican Church
The story of the construction of St. Barnabas Church is one of devotion, sacrifice and hard work. Through the tireless efforts of Rev. J.T. Richards, work on the church began in 1919; however, the parishioners did not lay the cornerstone until July 23, 1923, and work on the church was not complete until 1931. The building remains a focal point for Anglican parishioners in the Flower's Cove parish.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
Local people also know St. Barnabas as the "Skin-boot Church" because of how Richards financed the project. Richards came to the Flower's Cove Mission in 1904 and served the people along the coast of the Strait of Belle Isle. Although a mission was established in 1849, there were no formal religious structures in the area. In the days before government funding for such projects, and in an area where money was scarce, Richards set himself the difficult task of raising funds to build a proper church.
With an appreciation of the skills of the local people in curing and tanning seal pelts, Richards launched an industry which made sealskin boots. He purchased pelts from Bowring Brothers in St. John's and gave them to local people to make into boots. The agreement was that the people who made these items would give half to Richards and keep half for themselves. According to some estimates, it became a $15,000 a year industry. The object was not primarily profit but to provide employment. In recognition of his efforts for the people of the Strait of Belle Isle, Richards was named an Ordinary Officer of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI in 1949.
The proceeds from the seal boot industry financed the construction of the church. The money was augmented by the generosity of parishioners scattered along the coast. These combined efforts led to the opening of the building in 1931. More than 80 years had passed since the start of the Flower's Cove mission, but there was finally a proper religious building. It was the first structure to be officially termed "church" on the island side of the Strait of Belle Isle.
St. Barnabas was built on firm bedrock sufficiently close to the harbour that "Church Boats" could use it for mooring purposes. This North American Neo-Gothic-styled church, with its inspiring stained-glass windows, is unique on the Great Northern Peninsula. American architect James Scott Cook said there was "nowhere else locally where the simple composition, the careful massing of components and the considered use of detail, when taken altogether, help construct such a singularly well proportioned and handsome church."
Unlike many other churches, St. Barnabas kept its traditional aspects while incorporating modern technology. The original lighting scheme, oil lamps resting on brackets on the aisle columns, remains and is augmented by electric lights suspended from the ceiling. St. Barnabas was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Foundation in April 1997 .