Two ‘urban core’ churches redevelop with the times

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First United Church in White Rock.

Two churches in the urban cores of White Rock and Surrey are helping civic leaders to understand that faith-based groups contribute constructively to their communities.

  • First United Church, on the edge of downtown White Rock, is hoping to develop several low-rise condominium buildings on the site of the church, first constructed in the 1950s. Frank Bucholtz, editor of The Langley Times, and himself an active Christian, commented on the proposal in a recent column in The Surrey  Leader.

  • Christ the King (CTK) Lutheran Church, a small Whalley (North Surrey) congregation established in 1957, now finds itself across from Surrey’s new city hall, set to open
    An artist's rendering of the planned new Christ the King Lutheran Church in Surrey.

    An artist’s rendering of the planned new Christ the King Lutheran Church in Surrey.

    February 17, bringing 700 staffers and a bevy of civic politicians into Central City. The city hall is the latest in the redevelopment of Surrey’s urban core. CTK recently sold its tiny church to Bosa Brothers, who plan to start construction this summer on the first of several residential towers. Part of the purchase agreement includes the construction of a new church, with a 300-seat sanctuary plus educational and meeting facilities at the base of the tower and within easy walking distance of the city hall, Surrey Central SkyTrain, Simon Fraser University Surrey and the 48-storey Marriott hotel-condominium tower, the latter set for construction to begin in February.

While financial details of the CTK plans are not available, pastor Gordon Charles points out that the arrangement marks a significant landmark for the church as it finds ways to relate to both the residents and the people who come into Central City each day to work, study or do business.

Charles says the demolition of the old church building will likely take place in April. The church’s worship activities will move into a nearby school and its office will likely locate in a nearby mall, so there is a weekday profile in Central City.  

Frank Bucholtz

Frank Bucholtz

With respect to White Rock First United, in a January 16 column, under a headline suggesting Planners go to church, Bucholtz points out:

“The possible redevelopment of First United Church in White Rock may be a template for redevelopment of other under-utilized properties in Surrey and White Rock.

“A proposal that the White Rock congregation is studying would see the existing church demolished and replaced by multi-family housing, which would include a small church facility. The congregation has fewer members than it once did and the church facility, built about 60 years ago, is more spacious than currently needed.”

The journalist further suggests:

“Some members of the congregation do not like the idea, and some community members also have concerns. First United is a gathering place for the community and there is no other facility of its type in White Rock, although there are plenty of good-sized churches in South Surrey.”

And he concludes:

“Many people in today’s society have little interest in religion, and that is their right. At the same time, indifference to the plight of churches with larger properties and declining memberships may mean that both the physical look of the community (with a possible replacement of larger churches), and the charitable activities of church members, change drastically in the next 10 years. This will be particularly true if property values remain as high as they are at present.”

The direction taken by First United Church is one worth paying attention to, as it may be indicative of the future. 

It would be our hope to write about similar examples of church/community adaptation in the interests of faith-based mission, likely in the emerging urban cores in Burnaby, Vancouver and on the North Shore.  

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