Creating Conversation: Church plants are taking root in rocky soil

Creating Conversation is a weekly editorial, curated by the Centre for Missional Leadership (CML), which gives opportunity for people to speak about issues they believe are vital for the church in Vancouver.  

One of the goals of this weekly article is to spark dialogue – and action. We invite you to join the dialogue here on the Church for Vancouver website.

We also invite you to use the article as a discussion starter with your small group, church staff, friends and your neighbours. Thanks for participating in the conversation!

Vancouver is notorious for being a tough place to plant churches. More often than not, the narrative is church planters arrive, usually from the United States, give it all their best church planting moves, and within a couple of years have packed up and left.

Religion at the Edge (UBC Press, 2022) is one of several recent books assessing challenges to Christian practice in BC.

Even for home-grown church plants it seems more church plants close than stay open and many never even get off the ground. Given how rocky this soil is and the increasing secularity of this region, never mind the economics of the cost of living in Vancouver, one may question why anyone would want to plant a new church.

Yet, we have a God of resurrection, who continually is calling up new, diverse and faithful leaders to start new communities which witness to the good news of God’s love. And, some of these new churches have defied all odds and taken root in this dry, rocky soil.

These days, the church plants in the area have increased diversity in leadership and a wider expression of what Christian witnessing communities can look like. New church plants often do not pursue – nor are they content with growing through – ‘membership by transfer.’

Rather, new church plants are working hard to connect with people in our communities who have no association with the church at all. Along with the Holy Spirit, church plants are reaching out to new immigrants, those in a deconstruction or reconstruction phase (the ‘dones’), or those who are unfamiliar with the church at all (the ‘nones’).

Below is a brief overview of some of the new church plants in Metro Vancouver which are showing signs of new life in this rocky soil. This is obviously not an exhaustive list of church plants in the city and apologies if I haven’t highlighted your church plant; please tell us about it in the comments.

Traditional church plants

A recent staff photo of The Tapestry Church, from their Facebook page.

Some well-known, large-scale church plants have thrived in Vancouver, such as The Tapestry Church (three sites), Tenth Church (an older church with West Side, UBC Pt Grey and East Van plants), Coastal Church (eight sites) and the newcomer, The Way Church.

In a mixed economy of worshipping communities, there is still a need to plant congregations which look like traditional congregations.

By the grace of God, some of these communities have be able to adapt and contextualize large scale church planting in this region.

Established smaller church plants

There are also many smaller church plants which have weathered the initial five to 10 years of planting and  establishing themselves in Metro Vancouver. Below are some of the church plants which offer a distinctive worshipping experience, either due to their location or unique focus.

St Hildegard’s Sanctuary is an arts-based, contemplative church in South Vancouver, while St. Brigid’s Congregation is located in the heart of downtown. Looking further afield, in Mission there is New Heights Church with their coffee shop, The Penny.

Origin Church has been a presence on UBC campus for over 10 years now. And Artisan Church in Railtown demonstrates what a witnessing community in the Downtown Eastside context can be.

(Alternatively, I could have listed St. Peter’s Fireside, Reality Church, Open Way Community Church, or Salal + Cedar as established church plants.)

Newest church plants

Stevan Mirkovich (left) and Brenden Zapotichny manage Feast and Fallow, supported by many volunteers.

The newest church plants in the Vancouver area are the ones which have taken root since 2020. Like the literal pandemic babies and the unique circumstances in which they entered this world, these pandemic church plant babies have had a planting experience unlike any other.

There is much we can learn from these church plants as they navigate these dynamic times.

Feast and Fallow is a new social enterprise, exploring the connection between food and community. Reflector Project is known for their podcast, Rector’s Cupboard and is mostly an online community, pushing the boundaries of what makes a church a church.

Reflecting the demographic make-up of Vancouver, there is a new Chinese language ministry which started in Richmond this year. And in the Oakridge area St. Titus Anglican Church has recently expanded to include a Cantonese language service.

Again, there are many other churches which I have not listed. Who do you know who is starting something new? Or who do you know that is discerning something new?

Andrea Perrett

While the prospects of starting a new church plant might be bleak, we do have a God who specializes in the impossible. This is an exciting time for the church in Vancouver as new church plants, and new expressions of church take root, spreading the message of God’s love.

If you are interested in starting something new, or are even wondering if you are called to start something new, you can reach out through Cyclical Vancouver, the church planting network through the Centre for Missional Leadership.

Andrea Perrett is an Associate in New Witnessing Communities with the Centre for Missional Leadership at St. Andrew’s Hall. She is the Director of Cyclical Vancouver, a local church planting network.

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