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Fugitive Slave Chapel in 1926

Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project



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Black History Month, 2017

The Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project

Presented the premier production of

"My Name is Margaret Harman"

A new play written and directed by Jason Rip

This production was very successful. Opening night was sold out and attendance was high for all performances. Over 300 people saw the show. All proceeds went to the Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project.

A book including the short story, "Singing in the Chapel" by George McNeish and the play "My Name is Margaret Harman" by Jason Rip sold very well. It is available on line from Amazon and at locations in London. Click here for details.

Open House

The Open House on Friday March 27 and Saturday March 28, 2015 was a huge success. The flow of people throughout the two days was steady but not overwhelming. The evening programs were attended but comfortable numbers. We had prepared for many more as we anticipated the possibility of being overwhelmed, but divine providence prevailed and we easily accomodated those who showed up

The evening programs went without a hitch. I had worried about the program dragging out too long with three speakers each night, but the speeches were short and potent. The Friday evening was shorter than expected and Saturday program ran a comfortable 1 1/2 hours.

On the Friday evening the Mayor of London, spoke briefly about the City's involvement and although he had other commitments, he remained to hear the other two speeches. He laughed when Councillor Tanya Park was mistakenly introduced as the mayor of ward 13. Park's speech was well thought out and went more in depth into what the fugitive slave chapel means to the city in general and to her ward in particular.

When MP Irene Mathyssen Spoke she highlighted the important developments in a few minutes. Commenting on "if the walls could speak" as presented on the back page of the printed program, she indicated the importance of carefully investigating the building itself to gain information about those who built it. Ms. Mathyssen has been a regular at FSCPP events and her comments are alway highly anticipated and warmly received.

On the Saturday evening we were privileged to hear from MP Susan Truppe. She highlighted to role of women in the underground rail road and the importance remembering the past to advance the rights of women today.

Next Councillor Harold Usher, another friend of the FSCPP, talked of the major importance of the project and of the importance to the city of London.

City Heritage Planner, Don Menard, highlighted the steps the city has taken to see the project through. He mentioned the names of many key players that were essential to the success of the project.

Paul Fleming was responsible for the first musical interlude each evening and was met with a standing ovation after his first performance. The second music break each evening featured the voice of Delvis. Although she had not had a lot of experience signing solos, she thrilled us with original compositions about the Slave chapel and was also met with a standing ovation.

Heritage planner and 2 MP's.
Click here for poster.

Home at Last

On November 12, 2014 the Fugitive Slave Chapel made its two hour journey from 275 Thames Street to 432 Grey Street. The celebrations lasted all day as we talked to the media and had speeches from our Mayor elect, a member of parliament and city councillors.

dvd label

Bringing it Home

DVD now available
$10.00 cdn plus shipping and handling.
$5.00 goes to the Fugitive Slave Chapel fund.
Email us for a quote on shipping.
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See preview on our new video page



The Fugitive Slave Chapel
After a frustrating Spring and Summer, Fall brought the Fugitive Slave Chapel home. After raising the money to move the Chapel, we got bogged down in paper work. None of us have moved a building before and were unaware of all the permits, engineer reports and other legal documents needed to begin the project. However a volunteer joined us in the summer who agreed to take on the role of project manager. Although he had not done anything like this before, he had some expertise in the building trade and promised speedy progress once the paperwork was complete. With a building permit on its way, we started excavation on Monday October 20, 2014. The building permit came through just in time to have the sewer pipes inspected on Friday October 24. The pipes were buried allowing access for the cement trucks and the footings were poured Friday night. Our project manager was at the site again at 4:30 Saturday morning to remove the forms for the footings and get the forms ready to pour the concrete walls. The trucks arrived at 10:30 the same morning with the concrete and the walls were poured. On Sunday October 26 we rested. It was Tuesday before we began removing the forms. That job was completed on Wednesday October 29. The ties were broken off and the concrete made ready for the water proofers the next day. We expect that drainage tiles and gravel will be installed on Monday November 3rd and backfilling to proceed soon after.
day two
Meanwhile, the Building Movers commenced work at 275 Thames Street and got the building ready for the move. It was loaded before November 11 and started its two hour journey to Grey Street at 9 o'clock on Wednesday November 12. It reached 432 Grey Street before 11 am on that day.
We had a lot of media coverage as well as a many curious spectators. The open house at Beth Emanuel Church was well attended. Refreshments were served to those who worked so hard to bring the old Chapel Home to a location beside its 145 year old daughter. In 1869 the congregation that worshipped at the old chapel moved into its new building on Grey Street. 145 years later, the building followed the congregation to the current site.
The Fugitive Slave Chapel was built about 1848 at the Thames Street location making it the original church for the African Methodist Episcopal Congregation. In 1856, due to problems facing fugitive slaves who would travel to the USA, the AME of Canada broke away from the parent group and formed the British Methodist Episcopal Church. After about 20 years of worship in the original edifice, the congregation moved into a more substantial structure on Grey Street. The Dedication Service was held in the new building on May 16, 1869, one day after the original building was sold to be used as a residence.
day thirteen
275 Thames Street remained as a residence until 2002 when the building was purchased by the owner of Aboutown Transportation. He determined that the building was not worth saving and planned to tear it down to make room for parking. It was March of 2013 before he applied for a demolition permit. News that it was to be torn down sparked interest in the community and God raised an army of angels determined to save the edifice. The interested people formed the Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project and fundraising began immediately. By February of 2014 enough money had been raised to move the structure and plans began in earnest to make it happen. However many delays and complications kept delaying the move until, finally in October of 2014 the paperwork had been completed and the project finally began to come together with unbelievable speed. We have always had the sense that God was heading up this project and it is coming together in a manner that will glorify Him. I would not be surprised to witness miracles as the Chapel makes its way to its new home. Much work still needs to be done, but instead of asking for money we are inviting the public to participate in this history making project. If we can get enough people to willingly give us 15 minutes of their earnings, we will have plenty to do a glorious restoration. In 1848, 15 minutes work was worth about 2 cents, and so we started the 2 cents worth campaign to invite participants to take part in this project.
Most people get two paid breaks every day they go to work. We invite you to give us what your employer paid you for sipping coffee at one of these breaks. For those who want to continue to support us, they can choose to give us one break every year, every month or every week. Of course any amount is appreciated, whether large or small, however the 2 cents worth campaign makes it affordable for anyone who wants to participate. We believe that God wants to give many people the opportunity to take part in this project. We will all see our Creator glorified through this project.

2¢ Worth Campaign Continues

With a picture on the front page and a leading story in the local news section of the London Free Press, the 2 cents worth campaign was officially launched on November 7, 2013.

In 1848, when the chapel was built, 2 cents represented an unskilled labourer's earnings for 15 minutes of work. A typical wage was one dollar for a 12 hour day. At today's minimum wage a labourer would earn about $2.50 in the same 15 minutes. The two cents worth campaign is to invite 18,000 people to give us there 2 cents worth, or what they earned in 15 minutes at their occupation. Of course any amount is welcome.

When we started this campaign we had already raised more than $20,000 and needed about another $45,000 to meet our first phase goal of $65,000. As of May, 2014, we have raised over $72,000 exceeding our Stage one goal and starting on the next phase which will go towards much needed repairs and restoration of the building. The support of the public, with about 600 individual donors, is overwhelming, but still short of the 18,000 that was the goal of the campaign, so we will continue to give the public an opportunity to participate to meet the needs of the next phases of of fund-raising efforts.

Currently our project is being held up due to paperwork, but as soon as the permits are in place, construction will begin. There is still some legal issues to deal with and we are working on getting those resolved as soon as possible.

We will not be able to determine the costs of renovations until we have possession of the building, but they are expected to be extensive. Aside from renovations we need sufficient office space to administer the needs of the Fugitive Slave Chapel and the Historic Beth Emanuel Church which will be its neighbour. It is hoped that both buildings can be restored to a point were they will accurately reflect their histories and both buildings could be opened to tourist and those researching the the religious history of the eras they represent.

In order to make the best use out of the historic buildings we need separate research facilities and office space. Also Beth Emanuel Church needs facilities for the current programs they are running and other programs they would like to initiate in the future. As an example, one current program is the Thursday evening meal that has seen up to 200 people come for a meal on a single evening. The current dining space can seat 40 people at a time. In conjunction with this, the church also gives away donated clothing on the same evening. The pews of the sanctuary are all draped with clothing every Thursday as there is no other place to accommodate this. These programs are not compatible with having valuable artefacts on display for logical reasons, so in order to keep the buildings open to those who wish to view their history, we would need other facilities to accommodate the programs of the church.

Rev. Dr. Delta McNeish, pastor of Beth Emanuel Church has complete confidence that our Heavenly Father will provide for the needs of the programs run by the church. So far food, clothing and money have come unsolicited to meet the needs of the programs. The biggest challenge has bee to find space to store the donated items. Sometimes the volunteer staff will panic when they realize that there is no food to serve the Thursday evening crowd, but Pastor Delta reminds them to have faith and food or money will show up just in time to meet the need.

Thus our attitude is that God will provide the means to do His Will. Our intention in informing the public about our project is to give them an opportunity to participate in this great opportunity. God has and will continue to move the hearts of His loved ones to participate in whatever capacity He has chosen for them. We find he often sends non believers to us and atheist, as well as believers in all faiths, have contributed to our project. We have a grand vision for this project but God will have to show us just how grand He wants it to be. We are sure that, at the completion of this project, we will have an edifice that will show us how great our God is.

With complete victory assured, we extend this invitation to allow the public to share with us in our vision. We do not wish to beg or try in any way to entice people to give unless they are completely happy to do so.

We wish to thank Chip Martin of the London Free Press for the great coverage of our campaign he has authored. It has helped to get the campaign started with a big bang. We have recently been informed that Mr. Martin has retired and we extend our best wishes and our pray that he will find great happiness in all he does.

To donate to to our project, go to our donation page. To participate in the programs of Beth Emanuel Church, you may donate on line through their Web site. You may also donate to either this project or Beth Emanuel's programs by mail. Please make your cheque payable to Beth Emanuel Church and indicate on the memo line which fund you are contributing to. You may mail your cheque to
Beth Emanuel BME Church
430 Grey St,
N6B 1H3
Non earmarked funds will go to the Church to be used were most needed.

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