A History of West Point Grey Baptist Church

Written and Compiled by Paul Birch, Judy Koren, and George Ward

December 21, 1926. At a meeting of ten people in the home of Dr. W.S. Watson at 4494 West 9th Avenue a decision was made to rent a little-used Presbyterian church on Fourth Avenue near Sasamat. Six of the men present signed an undertaking to underwrite the building rental.

Rev. J. R. Turnbull accepted the call to be pastor, the salary to be what was left over after expenses.

May 31, 1927. At a meeting chaired by Mr. E. Davies the following motion was passed:

Resolved that we, the under-mentioned Baptists in good standing having been or intending to be dismissed by letter from other sister Churches as indicated, or wishing to unite by experience do hereby organize ourselves into a regular Baptist Church to be known as the West Point Grey Baptist Church.

Forty-eight signed as charter members.

Rev. J. R. Turnbull
Mrs. T. E. Pulfer
Mr. W. J. Powell
Mr. Eric Davies
Mrs. M. E. Hill
Mr. J. L. Morgan
Mrs. Eric Davies
Miss Alexander Hill
Mr. N. W. Morgan
Dr. W. S. Watson
Mr. Delmar Hill
Miss Mary L. King
Mrs. W. S. Watson
Mr. F. H. Hayward
Mrs. J. F. Brown
Mr. J. B. Litch
Mrs. F. H. Hayward
Mr. W. E. Ingram
Dr. S. J. McKee
Mrs. Swerdfeger
Mrs. W. E. Ingram
Mrs. S. J. McKee
Mr. G. H. Andrews
Mr. Wm. Turnbull
Mrs. M. R. Cunningham
Mrs. G. W. Andrews
Mr. E. Judson Turnbull
Mr. E. B. Northrup
Mr. M. G. Hunt
Mr. O. R. Turnbull
Mr. D. T. Lutes
Mrs. M. G. Grant
Mr. A. L. McLean
Miss H. Lutes
Miss Emily Palmer
Mr. G. H. Franklin
Mrs. D. T. Lutes
Miss Bessie Grant
Mrs. G. H. Franklin
Mr. A. Earl
Miss Rita Richards
Miss Isabelle Orr
Mr. T. E. Pulfer
Miss Mary Mount
Miss A. Lillico

At that meeting a Declaration of Faith, presented by Mr. Turnbull, was accepted by motion and a further motion stated that until a Constitution was adopted, monthly business meetings would be held after prayer meeting on the Wednesday preceding the last Sunday of the month and until a constitution was adopted, parliamentary rules would apply.

ARTICLES OF FAITH

1. We believe that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired and are the only sufficient rule of faith and practice.

2. We believe in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. We believe that man was created by God in His own image, but fell through sin from his first estate and therefore needs a Saviour.

4. We believe in the virgin birth, incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death and the resurrection and personal and visible second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5. We believe in, and insist upon, a regenerate Church Membership.

6. We believe in and practice the ordinances of Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper symbolizing our identification with our Lord in His death and resurrection.

7. We believe in the priesthood of believers, freedom of conscience and the individual responsibility of each person to God for his faith and life.

8. We believe in and practice the principles of self-government in each individual church, and in seeking unity and cooperation in Christian work and fellowship with other churches of like faith and order.

Jan. 5, 1927 - The first communion service (48 present)

July 22, 1928 - Rev. Turnbull resigned and Rev. David Long became interim pastor.

Nov. 31, 1928 - A committee was formed to locate property for a new church building. Subsequently property on the corner of Eleventh Avenue and Sasamat Street was purchased.

Dec. 1928 - Rev. W. L. McKay arrived from Medicine Hat, Alberta, to become pastor.

Sept. 3, 1932 - Dedication of the new church building on Eleventh Avenue

Oct. 12, 1932 - A constitution and bylaws were adopted.

Feb. 1, 1936 - Rev. A. W. Ward, secretary of the B. C. Convention, wrote a letter to the church saying that the $1200.00 loan to the church was now considered to be a gift.

Sept. 6, 1936 - Rev. T. J. Hind becomes pastor.

In 1942 the church basement becomes a community Air Raid Shelter and First Aid Station. Four church members were trained in First Aid to administer the station.

Sept. 4, 1948 - Dr. Orville E. Daniel becomes pastor.

Jan. 10, 1954 - Rev. R. C. Standerwick becomes pastor.

Nov. 18, 1959 - The church decides to erect a new building. Membership is about 249 active members and 137 non-active.

One of the milestones of the 1960’s was the vision and realization of this new place of worship for the congregation. The previous building had been situated on the lawn directly to the east of the present church. It had become quite inadequate for the growing number of worshippers. The building was dedicated on April 16, 1961.

The neighbourhood at that time consisted largely of families and there was a strong tradition of the church being a focal point in any community.

This was reflected in a large and lively Sunday School with some 200 students taught by about 30 volunteer teachers. A few classes had to meet in nearby homes. Of course there were other young people’s activities as well such a Boy Scouts, Explorers, and C.G.I.T. (Canadian Girls in Training).

There were no church staff directly responsible for such outreach activities but they were guided by a large number of volunteers who organized staff and support positions.

A College and Career group attracted young people from across the city so that after Sunday evening church services there would be about a hundred people packed into the Watson Room and the narthex for an enthusiastic time of singing, fellowship and study.

WPGBC at this time also stressed the work of overseas missions. There were at least half a dozen church members at any time who were serving as missionaries in India, Angola, Taiwan, Bolivia and other places around the world. Of course their regular communications and occasional visits kept the whole congregation aware of and interested in God’s work world-wide. Financial contributions from our church set a per capita level unmatched by sister congregations. ‘Missionary work’ still had the strong implication of travel so some far-off country to work in a different culture. One of the by-products of this image was that it entailed intentional and sacrificial dedication on the part of those who went overseas and those who supported them in finances and prayer. Several women’s mission circles composed of about 120 women kept the topic of overseas mission activity at the forefront of the church’s consciousness.

The formal worship services of the church included morning and evening gatherings that by today’s standard were very regimented and formulaic. When the minister and the choir filed in, it was clear that the service had begun. The sermon stood as the focus of the time together, a gowned choir sang at each service, and there was hearty singing of hymns and choruses, often encouraged by a designated song leader. Until 1962 Rev. R. C. (Dick) Standerwick served as the pastor of the church and Rev. A. J. (Art) Hadley was called to succeed him (February, 1963). In keeping with the times, women played a vital role in the activities of the church family, but they were rarely evident in primary functions.

Wednesday nights were the traditional time for Prayer Meetings. They provided an opportunity for care and involvement in both personal and corporate matters. Although they usually included a consideration of Scripture and some general fellowship, their focus was on matters to present to God in faith that prayer as a group was a valuable addition to personal prayer. Prayer meetings provided opportunity to share one another’s burdens on an individual level, to consider matters that involved the church as a whole and topics of general concern to society at large. These gatherings created a sense of solidarity as members of one family with care for one another as well as for the world we are called to serve.

Since there were relatively fewer women who worked outside their homes, many of them gave invaluable time to the functioning of volunteer positions. They were largely responsible for the social activities of the congregation – dinners, teas, seasonal entertainments, and a good part of the pastoral work such as visiting the ill and shut-in members of the church family. Women also took responsibility for much of the care and upkeep of the church kitchen and furnishings in the building.

In order to foster the feeling of the church being one family rather than an occasional meeting of acquaintances there were many social occasions that brought people together for fun and relaxation. One of the most anticipated of these was the annual church picnic. Various locations were chosen from year to year but there was inevitably a theme and a focus on fun and food. They also helped to create a sense that God’s people can relax and enjoy one another’s company quite apart from a church setting.

Another development about the end of the 60’s was the establishment of ‘cell groups’, sometimes known as ‘small groups’ or ‘house groups. These were gatherings of church members or adherents for the purpose of sharing, learning, and mutual support. They were each composed of about ten or twelve members, who studied, prayed and shared together on a more intimate level than would be possible in larger, more formal gatherings. Their value is attested to by the fact that they continue to serve this important role decades later.

One of the most significant developments of the 70’s was the founding, in April of 1970, of the West Point Grey Baptist Preschool, later known as The Little Ark. This served the community at large as well as the church family for forty years. Its purpose was to provide a service to families in the community who had three- and four-year-olds. With a capacity of forty-five children and a staff of two or three fully qualified teachers the preschool developed a reputation for top quality care and accomplishment. It required a great deal of time and attention from a number of women in the church who took on the responsibility of guiding it. Eventually, when public schools took on the task of pre-schooling and there were fewer children in the church neighbourhood, it became apparent that the Little Ark had run its course.

On August 15, 1971, Paul Stevens began his ministry as pastor and he was joined by John Hardy on September 1. This was the first venture into having a pastoral team in the church. Later it evolved into a triumvirate of John Hardy, Ernest Runions and Bruce Otto. The oversight of various church ministries was assigned to ‘commissions’ responsible for Worship and Fellowship, Christian Growth, Community Mission, and World Mission. Attendance at evening worship services dwindled and became less formal.

In 1972 there was a significant change in the by-laws of the church. Until this time the governing of the congregation, as in many organizations, had been exclusively the purview of men. After an exegesis of relevant Scriptures and the issues involved a motion was passed to include women in all church activities on the same basis as men. They could now serve equally in all church functions, chairing committees, serving communion, and acting as deacons. (“...neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28)

An active International Student Fellowship reflected the involvement with the university, and well over half the congregation was under 34 years of age. Before the end of the 70’s Bill Lewis served as pastor for a brief time followed by a couple of years of lay leadership with the help of pulpit supplies such as Frank Patch, Dick Standerwick and others. It was a difficult time of self-examination and waiting for God’s guidance before moving on to a more settled staff situation.

In June of 1982 Keith Churchill came to lead the church as senior pastor. Although there had been valuable opportunity for members to assume leadership roles while we were without a minister it was good to have a permanent leader again. With the changing character of the West Point Grey area there were fewer and fewer young families near the church. Many women were employed outside the home and consequently there was a greatly reduced number of people able to volunteer their services to the church. Commissions were discontinued, largely for lack of people to serve on them and a loss of community coherence made it more difficult to maintain many of the groups and gatherings that had existed previously.

Despite these social and demographic changes in our community West Point Grey Baptist Church has always possessed the stability that comes to all of the people of God. His faithfulness is a constant. The decades since 1990 have seen the pace of change increase and WPGBC has been caught up in that change.

One source of stability during this period was the fifteen-year-long pastorate of David Morrison, the longest in WPGBC’s history. He arrived from Cranbrook on September 30, 1991, and departed to begin chaplaincy training at the University of Calgary in August, 2006. Mark McConnell, who had been Associate Pastor under David since September, 2000, and Rich Polson were co-pastors during 2007. Then Mark served alone as interim pastor until he left to teach at a university in New Zealand in April, 2008. Matthew (Matt) Kitchener was called as WPGBC’s Lead Pastor around this time, finished his M.Div. studies at Regent College and took over in September, 2008. He has continued in this role to the present, although in 2011 he cut

his time to 80% and became Pastor of Preaching and Pastoral Care. At this time the hierarchical leadership structure was replaced with an innovative flat one, resembling a web more than the traditional pyramid.

During this whole era West Point Grey Baptist Church maintained continuity while embracing many changes. The beginning of the Morrison pastorate saw an active membership of 158, by 2001 it was 146, and in 2011 it was 108. In 2014, when inactive members were removed from the roll, the active membership total stood at 90, the lowest since WPGBC’s first decade. An upward trend began then and in 2016 the total number of active members stood at 104. However, those numbers do not tell the whole story. WPGBC has always had a committed core of resident attendees, who, for whatever reasons, have never formally become members. Their presence together with that of many transient students and other temporary visitors means that Sunday morning attendance is about double the official membership total.

WPGBC has achieved much during these past three decades, far beyond ordinary expectations for a church of its size. These years have seen the end of many long-cherished institutions and the beginning and growth of some initiatives designed to harmonize with the changes in WPGBC’s community and with society in general. Many of these endeavours have been initiated and then allowed to lapse after a few years as needs and tastes change and the pool of volunteer help also changes. But some trends have risen and flourished.

From 1964 to 1976 the church had held fall retreats at the Firs Chalet, Mount Baker, attended by 80 to 100 people from the congregation. Under David Morrison’s ministry these retreats continued at Camps Sasamat, Chehalis, Howdy, Squamish, etc. They were wonderful for building community and unity but were abandoned before 1998 because they were volunteer-intensive and could no longer attract the attendance for a whole weekend of sufficient numbers from the increasingly over-pressed and frantically busy congregation.

WPGBC’s traditional music ministry was still strong through the 1990’s and into the new millennium. The choir anchored the Sunday morning service, as it had for decades. There was a high quality mixed ensemble. Starting in the early 1990’s pre-service ‘praise music’ was introduced and as the decade went on choruses were increasingly incorporated into the worship service itself. Since WPGBC had only one morning service the solution of two different music styles in two different services was not an option. So WPGBC had to compromise in this area in order to engage its increasingly intergeneration/intercultural congregation.

Through this period, the Sunday evening services reflected this compromise, with meditative, reflective Taizé services alternating with a youth-oriented service. This latter service began in 1996 as “Songs in the Night”, a follow-up meeting place for summer campers from Keats and Pioneer Pacific Camps. With the end of Songs in the Night in 2006 and the departure of Dale Throness as music director in 2007, the decades-old Sunday Evening Service ended.

The period of the 1990’s saw the beginning of a unique local ministry to addicts and alcoholics, led by individuals who truly empathized because they were ex-addicts themselves. Dan and Fran Gowe were commissioned to this ministry in 1995 and by 1998 the ministry became “Seeds of Hope.” Through the decades this ministry adapted and changed as society changed and needs didn’t so much change as modify and amplify. In 2007 the focus of this ministry became pornography addiction, after Dan received training from the “Living Waters” organization.

As always, the church continued its interest in and support of foreign missions, giving generously to support the work of CBM and supporting a series of Partners in Mission. In 1994 the church sent several of its own members on the first of what became a series of medical missions to Guyana. By the late 1990’s the mission field was coming directly to the very doorstep of the church as more and more Mandarin-speaking students and others were attending. Paul Yang, a PhD student at UBC began a Sunday afternoon Chinese Fellowship to provide teaching in their own language to these individuals and especially their older unilingual relatives. When Paul finished his studies and moved on, others who had been assisting him took over this ministry and it became the Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF).

One of these leaders, Lynn Li, graduated from Regent and, under the mentorship of David Morrison, was ordained and became the pastor of the group, and the CCF became an internal church plant in WPGBC, as an ethnically distinct fellowship in 2003. This group adopted increasingly more Pentecostal practices and worship style and was reduced to a small core group under the name of “Father’s House of Glory.” It finally ended all association with WPGBC facilities in 2012.

By the year 2000 David Morrison had won approval from the church to call an associate pastor, whose major responsibility was to be the resourcing and equipping of volunteers for various ministries. This associate enlarged the adult Sunday School and was in charge of formally reorganizing the old commission structure and replacing it with a committee structure Around this time the church librarian, Harriet Cowan, left her position after several decades of faithful service and a Tuesday morning men’s ministry re-emerged.

Other innovations introduced were the “Worship Centre” model for children’s ministry and a church health survey known as Natural Church Development (NCD). In the NCD surveys the church rated highest in the areas of loving relationships and holistic small groups, revealing that its strength, as always, was in its welcoming fellowship. Regrettably, its weakness at the time, revealed in the same surveys, was in the area of empowering leadership.

The church celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2002. This was truly a transitional time for WPGBC. Its Roll Clerk (since 1968) resigned in 2008, as did its long-time Music Director. 2007 had seen an end to an institution, the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Shrinkage of the choir continued. (Its participation on Sunday mornings would end in 2010.) But these were also

years when preparation for the future was occurring – vision and mission were articulated and a decision was made to deliberately focus resources on young families and transitional visitors.

When Matt Kitchener came in 2008, he came as lead pastor – membership did not justify the hiring of an associate, but the desire to assign resources to two specific areas led to other staff being taken on. Youth/family focus resulted in Matt’s early innovation, the introduction in 2009 of a second, earlier, Christmas Eve Service, tailored to children and families.

A new Youth Director, Peter Anderson, was taken on, who set out to reorganize and revitalize WPGBC’s Youth Ministry. His position was increased to full time with the addition of responsibility for Young Adults. The Music Director’s position was broadened to include a community life component as volunteers willing to co-ordinate these kinds of events were becoming very difficult to find. A part-time Children’s Ministry Director was hired and the Worship Centre programme was replaced by “Jesus and Me” (JAM) with four levels of classes – Love (infants-age 2), Joy (3-4 years), Peace (5-7) and Hope (8-11).

The expansion of this new Children’s Ministry was aided by circumstance. Little Ark Preschool had closed in 2013 and WPGBC’s children’s ministry immediately utilized the classrooms vacated by the preschool. In 2014 the former LAP art room was converted into a multipurpose community space known as the “Community Diner,” used by the Youth Group and by the church community at large.

Significant renovations were made to the church building itself during this era. After a ramp was built beside the front steps to provide accessibility for handicapped attendees, an elevator was installed in the year 2000. A grand piano for the sanctuary and a replacement piano for the Watson Room were major purchases in 2008. The front of the sanctuary was renovated and re-carpeted in 2014 and the refinishing of all the sanctuary pews was completed the following year.

However, the most extensive renovations were accomplished by the Lord himself as society changed and the surrounding West Point Grey neighbourhood changed. The foreign mission field was now located immediately outside WPGBC’s doors and even inside the church itself. Through the recent decades the nature of the West Point Grey neighbourhood was in flux. It grew increasingly more affluent but at times its population contained very few children and youth. Then there were many youth in the area again, with an altered ethnic makeup, as more immigrant, one-parent families, originating in China, moved in.

Starting in 1998 WPGBC offered an interrupted series of Alpha courses, which brought some newcomers into the church. Alpha was offered again during the period 2003-2006, but the problem of finding volunteers to sustain them brought them to a halt again. It was not only the ethnic and economic makeup of the neighbourhood that was changing. People were becoming increasingly busy, with fewer and fewer uncommitted hours at their disposal.

The revival of Youth and Children’s Ministries also brought in some of the participants’ parents. WPGBC took on a Chinese ministry intern, Ella Cho, who, in 2015, became a paid Chinese (Mandarin language) Director. Most recent outreach endeavours have included Cross Cultural Cuisine (CCC) and hosting a Tai Chi group, as well as initial attempts at collaboration with a new church known as University Chinese Baptist Church (UCBC). In addition a Wednesday morning playgroup has been well-attended by local infants and toddlers together with their parents/caregivers.

West Point Grey Baptist Church has now been in existence for ninety years. The Lord is always at work everywhere. He has been and is working through this church. We know He has used and is using this local outcropping His church universal. Our prayer is that He may continue to use WPGBC for His glory.

(PB, JK, GW, 2017