‘Humbled by the space’: Manitoba musician turns derelict church into music venue – Manitoba

Jody Weger bought the abandoned church in the tiny hamlet of Beresford, Man., on impulse.

The foundation was caving in, the roof was going and the interior had fallen into disrepair.

But the Manitoba musician’s impulse buy has likely saved the century-old brick church from an almost certain fate and could breathe new life into the sleepy community.

The church in Beresford, Man., is one of about a dozen homes and buildings left in the tiny hamlet near Brandon. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

“The sound in here is just incredible,” said Weger, standing in the middle of the small church this week. 

Weger, a musician for than 25 years who plays everything from country to blues to folk music on instruments ranging from guitar and bass to mandolin and ukulele, has been restoring the church piece by piece over the last decade.

He started teaching music lessons in the church this week and hopes it can one day be used as a space for musicians to host jam sessions or small concerts in a venue that’s off the beaten path.  

Beresford, located along the Canadian Pacific railway about 20 kilometres southwest of Brandon and 220 kilometres west of Winnipeg, is about six homes hidden in a group of trees off a gravel road.

It once had a grain elevator (now gone) and its own school as well as the Methodist (later United) Church, but these days, the only sign of the hamlet beyond the trees is a group of community mailboxes along the side of the road. 

Church for sale 

Weger saw the church while with a friend one day more than a decade ago and said the building spoke to him. As a music producer, the prospect of a space with high ceilings and good reverb was a thrill. 

The original floor of the church still shows where the pews were once nailed in. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

“As luck would have it, shortly after the visit, the church came up for sale,” he said, explaining that the local non-profit board that had owned and operated the church for many years had decided to sell it. “It was like, ‘Do I do it or not?’ ” 

He did.

And after years of restorations and renovations, including a hiatus to tour with the band he was in, Weger is nearly ready to open the space to the public.

Weger has kept many of the original finishes, such as the fir trim and floor, leaving much of the character of the 1903-04 church intact.

“I’ve tried to keep as much of it original as possible,” Weger said. “I enjoy looking at the history of the building as much as…

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