There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the future of the church, but as I drove around Metro Vancouver this summer I found several signs of hope – community outreach and new churches. Here are some of them:
A thrift shop at the corner of Imperial and Jubilee in south Burnaby offers a lot more than used clothes.
I walked into One Love last week to check out their books, and noticed that one wall was completely covered in skateboards. As I spoke to store manager Bora Pageau, I discovered that worship meetings take place there as well.
She told me the church is connected to Westwood Community Church in Coquitlam. Her husband, Dan Pageau, a former pro skateboarder, runs the business, but is also campus pastor of Westwood Burnaby.
Both Dan and Fuleio, who was behind the counter when I arrived at the shop, teach skateboarding.
While I was there, a mother arrived with her two sons. Fuleio walked across the street with the boys to the conveniently located Bonsor Park Metro Skate Park.
Westwood Community Church lead pastor, Giulio Gabeli, told me Dan leads worship at the main campus along with his role in Burnaby. And together they are planning to create an indoor skateboard park in Whalley. Westwood Surrey is awaiting final approval of its plans but they hope it will be open in October.
“This has been on our hearts for a long time,” said Gabeli. “People need Jesus, regardless of anything else.” He said the main church just recently baptized 21 people who had been raised in other religious traditions.
Oakridge Adventist Church will officially open a Community Fitpark September 20. The church is on 37th Avenue, halfway between Oak and Cambie (and shares its building with St. John’s Vancouver).
Facility manager Gloria Cruz and her husband were putting up a sign by the new park when I dropped by in late August. She said she hoped the new facility would prove beneficial to the neighbours, and added that they also have a community garden.
A page on the Oakridge Adventist website devoted to the new initiative states:
The idea to convert our front lawn into a Fitpark was born during the Covid-19 pandemic with a desire to support health and wellness in our neighbourhood. . . .
We hope this area will be a place for intergenerational connection and community building around shared wellness goals. It is our joy to offer you free access to this fitness equipment. All we ask in return is that you use the equipment as intended and leave the area clean and tidy.
We expect at least 5,000 uses of this fitness park based on a modest estimate that 15 individuals on average will access it daily. The fitness equipment is manufactured and guaranteed for decades of use.
Many grandparents in our neighbourhood are supportive caregivers to their grandchildren. We intend to purchase fun and aesthetically pleasing products that will help motivate participation and use, supporting both fitness and mental wellness.
This area can provide a range of opportunities to meet the fitness goals of all ages and skill levels. There are 500 households in a one kilometre radius and 120 high school students who are attending classes in our ground-level classrooms.
The page suggests a number of exercises suited to the equipment, with pictures.
I stopped in at Barrio Coffee while poking around North Vancouver recently. Describing themselves as “conveniently perched between Grouse Mountain & Capilano Suspension Bridge” on their Facebook page, they are located right on Capilano, inside Avant Life Church.
Daniel Fynmore was serving coffee when I arrived. He is a barista, but he is also community engagement pastor for Avant Life.
During the hour or so I spent at Barrio, I observed him serving, just as in any other coffee shop, but also fielding questions about the church. One neighbour said he’d noticed a lot of young people at the church and other wondered how/whether Barrio and Avant are connected.
(If this all sounds slightly familiar, it might be because I wrote about an earlier incarnation of this coffee shop back in 2015 – Capilano Grind, based in Canyon Heights Church. The church closed and the coffee shop has changed hands, but Avant Life, like Canyon Heights, belongs to the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.)
Here is how Avant Life describes its culture:
Avant Life Church is a strong, outwardly focused community that believes the answer to the hard questions is in the life-changing message of hope which is Jesus Christ.
We are a church that influences through creative communication; where we challenge mindsets from all walks of life with the ancient and steadfast message of hope and salvation through a variety of contemporary means. God’s not finished yet.
Daniel, like lead pastors Ben and Emma Narayan came from Canberra, Australia to pioneer Avant Life. Along with the North Vancouver location, they have planted a church in Squamish and will soon launch one in Surrey.
Peace Church on 52nd has added several picnic tables this May. They say on their site:
We have four beautiful new picnic tables out front of the Community Hub [actually on 51st], which our neighbours have already been using for meetings, phone calls and meals.
We would love for people from our church to start spending time at these picnic tables regularly, just coming to hang out for an hour or so with a book or a drink (or both), and saying ‘hello’ to those who walk by or sit down.
Located just west of Fraser Street, the Mennonite church actually has several neighbour-friendly features, including a notice board, a little library (my favourite feature) and a food hub.
Several other churches come to mind as I write this:
- New Life Community Church in Burnaby has just agreed to supply vegetables from their community garden to House of Omeed, which is a ‘Food Hub’ and provides resources to refugees and newcomers to Canada.
- Kitsilano Christian Community has a little library, community gardens and a daycare [Sept 9 note: I was mistaken about the daycare; see comment below].
- Canadian Memorial United Church has a little library.
- Royal Oak Ministry Centre hosts Journey Home, which works with refugees, and a food bank.
- TriCity Church will put on a Fun Fair for the neighbourhood September 12.
- Gracepoint Community Church in Surrey is holding a block party September 19.
I would love to hear from anyone about creative community projects and new church plants so I can help share the good news more broadly.