It seemed like bad news when fire broke out at King’s Way Church of God of Prophecy, at 17th Avenue and Kingsway, on the morning of April 21.
But the “suspicious” blaze created a series of events that have helped the congregation of 50 to establish new relationships in the Mount Pleasant community where they are located.
Bishop Franklyn Allen, along with his wife Linda, has pastored the group for two decades. He told me that soon after the fire, Kingsgate Mall manager Leyda Molnar, informed him that a vacant space in the mall could be used by the church until a potential commercial tenant wanted to rent it. Since it appears the fire-damaged church won’t be repaired until August, the mall arrangement “seemed like God’s solution in the interim.”
For several Sundays the multi-ethnic church has been holding Sunday services in the mall, located at Kingsway and Broadway, six blocks southwest of the church. Then, the arrangement took another bend in the road: The manager of a nearby store complained to mall management that the noise from the congregation’s worship music was a little more than he could tolerate.
But Allen said Molnar wanted the church to stay and they are working to adjust the volume of the worship music so as not to bother other mall tenants.
He is also hoping to introduce Alpha and Purpose Driven programs and classes during the week, when hundreds of staffers and shoppers are frequenting the mall.
“And those programs could be done without the music, which seemed to have been the major objection,” Allen noted.
At least one other good experience came out of the mall activity.
“One of the people formerly in our congregation had dropped away and had not been attending. The Lord had been speaking to him about going back to church,” Allen recalled.
“He was going to go but didn’t, instead going to the gym and heading over to mall. Then, this one Sunday, he looked through door – then said to himself: ‘That is pastor Frank!’ Since then, he has been coming to prayer meetings and Bible study and is reconnecting.”
Allen said the connection with the mall had already been established before the fire, with such things as volunteer gift-wrapping and pre-Easter bake sales. So, in effect, the Alpha and Purpose Driven programs would be an extension of the church’s work, making use of the space.
Molnar “is just terrific,” Allen said. “And we believe it is a blessing for the mall, as God honours them for honouring the church.”
King’s Way has always sought to engage with social issues facing the community. Prostitution, drug dealing and homelessness have become significant in the neighbourhood. Allen said sex trade people “are taking boxes from the appliance store down the street and making shelters out of them. Then they take the johns into the enclosed areas.”
Some in the community are pressing the city to turn Mount Pleasant into a red light district. Allen hopes there are other answers. He suggested it might be time for city and police officials, community leaders and pastors, among others to sit down together and see where the solutions might lie.
While it is not clear, yet, exactly who caused the fire, Allen indicated that neighbourhood issues and the blaze might not be unrelated.
While the actual fire damage was limited, the effect of the smoke was extensive. Restoration people have had to cut holes into the walls, ceilings and roof to investigate and make repairs – the reason the congregants cannot get back in until August.
King’s Way is part of the Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP). Allen takes the title of bishop as well as of pastor, by way of overseeing six COGOP congregations throughout BC – four in the Greater Vancouver area, and one each in Victoria and Vernon. King’s Way’s makeup has been drawn from at least 15 different national backgrounds.
The congregation acquired the present building several decades ago, after meeting for many years in the Victoria Drive area of south Vancouver. Before King’s Way bought its current building, it had been home to the Third Church of Christ, Scientist.