The George's Brook-Milton Cultural house is a place that holds many treasured memories for the residents of the region, including myself, a person who grew up in the area along with some of my family members that had been there for generations. My grandparents, my great grandparents, and even my ancestors before that always had close personal ties to the place, especially when it came to the church. "A lot of happy memories within the church." My grandmother told me in an interview when prompted about her experiences. "I was a part of the choir, and my mom also became part of the choir, and just getting together once a week for choir practice was so much fun."
As I grew up, this building that was once the Milton-George's Brook United Church was a place that I frequented for Sunday School, for church fundraisers, even for singing with the choir on special occasions. It was a place that was always interconnected with my idea of home, a place where I always felt safe, and a place that I was always welcome. "It was a church family, we supported one another and that helped everybody get through." My grandmother said. This sentiment was shared by many individuals who used to attend the church as well.
"We were married in the church." My grandmother began. "Our three sons were baptized in the church, and we had two granddaughters baptized within the church, one was you, oh my, so many happy memories." She chuckled as she spoke about me, the interviewer, within the interview itself. The church was quite a lively and sociable place at one point, where functions were always held in the basement, where families would gather for marriages, funerals, etcetera. Some events were so popular amongst the entire region that even "people, not just from our community, but from outside would look forward every fall for the Jigg's dinner." My nan remarked.
But, as time passed and the surrounding population of George's Brook-Milton continued to shrink and the newer generations began to outnumber the old, the church started to notice a drastic difference in attendance. "When it came to the point where we couldn't keep our bills paid... or maintain the building, the congregation dwindled away and dwindled away. The older generations were still coming but the younger generation was not filling, was not, you know. So, it got to the point where we knew. We didn't want to believe we were gonna have to close the church but, like I said, the time came where it had to happen. So, of course, that was a sad time. Hard to accept, the closing of our church." At this point, my grandmother was evidently sad as she reminisced.
"The local service, it was, at the time, took over the church from us [the church committee]. We sold it to them for a dollar and they've put it into another use for the community, and it's still working within the community just as good." My grandfather said within his own interview, an obvious juxtaposition of emotions when comparing it to my grandmother's. My grandfather once played an interesting role within the church, as he never was a religious man but was still on the church committee, completed many renovations, aided in every way possible, while never believing in the same ideas. This attitude towards the church showed an interesting perspective, as although the man never attended church, he was always at the gatherings and always played a large leadership role. This showed that the church was not just a religious congregation, but also created a tight-knit community that cared for one another with many different individuals going out of their way to help community-based functions.
"The reason I decided to go and do that [help the church], was because it was for the community." My grandfather said in a matter of factly, practical tone. Once again, the sizable emotional difference between the two interviews was evident. It gave a lot of insight into the inner workings of how the church used to be and the social connections it made within the town that enabled all people, religious or non-religious, to have personal ties with the built environment.
Nowadays, the church has undergone a massive transformation. Although some parts of the old church are still visible and are used as decorations when one walks inside, the differences are quite astounding to those who have experienced the location before the renovations. "It's a wonderful thing! Oh yes, it's a wonderful thing. The community still comes together... It's been so wonderful that it's been kept up rather than you know, just going to waste like, to watch it go to waste. It's just done up so beautifully. I'm just so happy, that's what I hoped for. That's what I hoped for when I knew the doors had to be... you know, it's no longer a church. The doors were closed as a church. It's just wonderful that it's being used the way it is. I'm happy with it, and I think we all are within the community." She responded when I asked her about the new Culture House. "Oh ya, we go there, we listen to some of the music, go to the events [in the Culture House] and that's enjoyable, too. It's a good thing, to have somewhere to go and meet your friends and meet people and have a night out." My grandfather agreed.