Maple Ridge – a snapshot of faith –
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With a striking skyline of mountains to the north, the majestic Fraser River to the south and the Stave and Pitt Rivers forming other boundaries, the communities have a sense of ‘small town’ living, although their combined population has grown to over 100,000.
Two impressive new bridges were opened in 2009. • The Golden Ears Bridge links Maple Ridge to Langley and the No 1 Hwy over the Fraser River. (At time of press, with upcoming provincial elections tolls may be removed) • The Pitt River Bridge, part of Hwy 7 (Lougheed Hwy) links Pitt Meadows to the Tri-Cities. The West Coast Express, is a high-speed commuter railway linking Mission, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and the Tri-Cities to downtown Vancouver.
There are no ‘big box’ stores or major malls. One resident stated: “Locals often leave to go to work, shop or visit elsewhere, but few from other places come this way.” MAPLE RIDGE/PITT MEADOWS population: 101,100 (Population growth in the last 5 years 7.4 per cent – Census 2016 – Statistics Canada)
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows are ‘bedroom’ communities – this is a critical distinctive.
Housing, being more affordable than other municipalities in Metro Vancouver (broadly comparable to Abbotsford), most residents commute to work out of Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows. Former Mayor Ernie Daykin commented “68 per cent leave to work elsewhere and have at least an hour commute.”
In the light of this reality, Roland Viprick Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran commented: “There is a real need to build ‘community’. Difficult to do with the ‘garage door’ mentality we have here.”
Another consequence of being a bedroom community is ‘latchkey kids’. “Both parents are away at work for longer periods, kids come and are alone,” said Youth Unlimited’s Dennis Hemminger, who has worked locally with teens for many years. “We are piloting a drop in after school Cafe where kids can socialize, play games, do homework and we can build relationships,” he said. Youth Unlimited Maple Ridge has two full time and two part time staff and works in five local high schools. They consult with school counsellors and connecting with kids at risk. They also do a hot breakfast program with church sponsorships and funding, serving over 600 kids a week.
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows or Ridge Meadows as locals sometimes refer to it, has a unique quality of unity amongst it’s church leaders.
The Ridge Meadows Ministerial Association represents the 31 churches of both cities. Around five protestant congregations are 300 – 500 in number (the rest being under 200). The two Catholic churches however see around 2,500 attend each week.
Pitt Meadows, now with a population of around 18,000 has only three small (under 150) churches along with a few very small Christian groups.
However as people frequently travel out of their community for other reasons, it is quite likely that many Christians travel out of the community to church.
The Ministerial’s formal name belays an informality and genuine depth of good will.
Pastor Dave King of Silver Hills Community Church is the Ministerial’s President. He told The LIGHT: “Leaders from around 15 churches, including the larger ones, along with para-church leaders, enjoy involvement and share prayers at monthly gatherings. Each month we hear a short presentation from a different church or ministry, and then in groups of three-four we pray for each other.”
Every Wednesday 12 or so pastors gather to pray together for the community. This has been a huge encouragement to the four church planters in Ridge Meadows.
Good Friday’s see the five largest churches express their unity by hosting pulpit swaps – each church singing the same hymns, and each guest preacher handling the same text.
Additionally during July’s popular County Fest Agricultural Fair many churches cancel their own Sunday service and join a joint service at the Fair.
“There are a number of distinctives to Ridge Meadows,” explained King. “Not only that we are a bedroom community, but we also have a very low percentage of visible minorities.” He spoke of Maple Ridge as a ‘tough area’ with Hells Angels owning several buildings and a clubhouse in the community.
Duane Goerzen is the long time Senior Pastor of Maple Ridge Community Church and one of the Ministerial facilitators. He commented, “Maple Ridge has been a really hard ground. Missiologist Bill Hogg said: ‘We have lost the lostness of the lost’. I think this has been true of church people, but I see things changing, each Sunday new people are coming!”
Goerzen estimates around 6,000 attend churches each week including Catholics (out of a population of 100,000).
Despite, Maple Ridge /Pitt Meadows being ‘hard ground’, perhaps because of it, people have come to church plant.
Church on the Rock Pitt Meadows was started in 2010 by Josh Arrington. Commissioned by a subset of the Southern Baptist denomination, he moved here from Texas. “Our denomination read a study that pointed to the relatively unchurched municipality of Pitt Meadows.”
Initially Josh (along with his wife and three small kids) tried to enter Canada and was soundly refused. “The Canadian Customs officer could not conceive of this Texan family coming to a church which didn’t even exist! We were told to not try to come into Canada.”
This was totally unseen. One week later after much prayer, the Arrington’s did return and try again.
This time they encountered a different Custom’s officer who cleared all obstacles to their entry to Canada. It turned out this man was a Christian whose father had been a Church planter.
The Arringtons quickly connected with neighbours in the Ford Road Housing Coop. “Every week we found other young families that were new to Pitt Meadows,” he said. After a few months they started a Thursday evening KID ROCKS for four -10 year olds. At the same time a home Bible Study was started.
“People were hungry for community”, Josh said.
Last October they moved to Grace Community Church for a 6 pm service. The church is now over 70 people. Three families left in September 2105 to plant a Church on the Rock in Maple Ridge (that church has grown to 50 people now). “We’ve just started a KID ROCKS in Port Coquitlam and hope to see a church develop there,” he said.
The church is big on summer block-parties and has developed a supportive role with the City of Pitt Meadows helping with a team of experienced volunteers at events like Canada Day with putting up tents, picking up trash, bringing a ‘bouncy castle’, and kids games.
“Our vision is to plant small neighborhood churches
in the four cities of Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge/Port Coquitlam & Mission”
Coastal Church is a church plant that meets at the Cineplex Odeon Meadowtown in Pitt Meadows and has been going for three and a half years. It is a satellite from the successful Vancouver Coastal Church. It has 150+ people. The Pastor is James Fam. “We use video teaching from Vancouvers Coastal Church’s Saturday service. At least half of our mostly young families come from outside Pitt Meadows, from Tri-Cities and the Fraser Valley.”
Jubilee Church was started out of Maple Ridge Community Church in March 2016 by their Associate Pastor Jonathan Headly. “We started with 40-50 people plus 30 or so newcomers, but have grown,” Jonathan shared. He attended C2Cnetwork.ca – the Mennonite Brethern Church Planting training. Jubilee meets 10 am at Maple Ridge Secondary School.
During the last year or more Maple Ridge has been in the news for its visible Tent City on Cliff Avenue (behind the Salvation Army). The City turned to Rain City Housing to facilitate a temporary Emergency Shelter with 40 beds. This is set to shortly close apparently due to a negative assessment of change over Rain City’s 12 months running this low barrier shelter.
A recent study showed that 93 per cent of homeless people
in Maple Ridge identified themselves as from Maple Ridge.
In an about turn the City has returned to The Salvation Army who is extending its regular 30 beds to 60. Along with this, at the request of BC Housing, they have adopted a ‘Harm Reduction’ program. “This is unique for us, nationwide and involves needle exchanging and condom distribution,” Amelia Norrie of the Salvation Army told The Light.
The Salvation Army provides a large range of services that include feeding 100 – 150 people a day.
In 2015, they provided 93,000 meals in their Community Meal Program to 500 different individuals. They found 166 individuals housing, and gave 205 backpacks to local children starting school, along with 31,000 bagged lunches for hungry kids. Fifty kids were given the opportunity to go to Camp Sunrise.
WomanCare Pregnancy Centre started in 1985 is now open Mon – Thurs 11:30 am – 4 pm. It is solely funded by donations from individuals, churches and community organizations. “We support and build caring relationships with women, the majority being single or in unstable relationships,” WomanCare’s Cherilynn Toll said. According to Cherilynn the majority of clients are 24-34 years of age, three quarters of whom are near or below the poverty line. “We are Christian, however we need to be sensitive around issues of faith. Sometimes I will ask a client if I may pray with them, other times we don’t mention faith,” she said.
Vicki Kipps is Executive Director of Maple Ridge / Pitt Meadows Community Services and oversees an impressive range of services.
Funded by both provincial and federal governments, along with foundations and donations, Kipps spoke to the LIGHT and highlighted three programs.
“We have opened a Youth Wellness Centre with ‘wrap around services’ at the Greg Moore Centre every Thursday 4 -6 pm and have welcomed over 300 youth since opening eight months ago,” she said. Alisha’s Wish is a child advocacy centre focusing on children who have been sexually assaulted opening on an as needed basis with specialist helpers (RCMP, social workers, counsellors etc). The Rainbow Club meets daily in support of adults who deal with chronic mental illness.
Asked what she has seen change over the years, Kipps responded, “Looking back… families present with far more complex needs that don’t only include poverty but addictions, abuse, mental illness and the lack of affordable housing. On a positive note we are seeing a growth in the number of volunteers – many being new retirees.” (For a full list of services go to comservice.bc.ca)
The ‘silver tsunami’ is coming in. The LIGHT talked to a number of Seniors Home, all now have waiting lists – something not seen only a few years ago.
“There are over 14,000 seniors (over 65) in our community,” Heather Treleaven the Co-ordinator of the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows Seniors Network said. “In the municipalities of Metro Vancouver / Fraser Valley our growth of seniors is the third fastest”.
She is very positive about the role churches play in supporting seniors. There are activities for seniors most days. A Community Kitchen cooking time, the year old Seniors Party Bus, and daily drop-ins at the two Seniors Activity Centres. But Heather is concerned…
“I am see a growing level of poverty among seniors, along with loneliness,
even amongst some who live with their kids in granny suites.
‘They’re always away working or taking the kids to sports, I hardly see them’ is a common refrain.”
Heather also mentioned a darker side for some seniors. “If housing insecurity or out right homelessness hits, it can lead to depression, anxiety and alcohol / drug abuse. It’s one of the reasons we work hard to connect with seniors,” Heather shared.
Maple Ridge Christian School is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. “We are experiencing exciting and renewed interest in the School. Although a small school with 300 Pre-School – Grade 12 students it means our students have strong connections with each other and teachers. Additionally we have a buddy system between older and younger students,” Verena Bergen, Development Coordinator told The LIGHT. The school has strong links with the Ministerial, with most students coming from the community.
The impact of this unique ministry, over time is incredible. They have has hosted over 8,000 kids. Timberline has been going for 56 years. With 45 horses on 73 acres, they employ 13 full-time staff that rises to 40 in the summer. Craig Douglas is Executive Director.
“Many of our young people come from school or youth groups along with groups like the Girl Guides. Around 80 percent are from unchurched backgrounds. We grow to around 75+ staff and volunteers throughout the summer.” The motto of the camp is ‘bringing hope, building lives’.
“We do see ourselves as an arm of the church with an emphasis on evangelism and discipleship. Our unique ranch attracts many unchurched people,” Douglas shared.
Marc Dalton has represented Maple Ridge/Mission as MLA for 8 years a is currently seeking his third term. Dalton is a professed Christian who attends Maple Ridge Community Church. “We face significant challenges related to growth,” he told the LIGHT. “I see churches and Christians as an integral part of our community, active in many aspects with the vulnerable and truly making a difference.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker was also contacted, he said “The City of Pitt Meadows is home to numerous churches of a variety of denominations which provide valuable services to our residents.”
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read spoke to the LIGHT. “I see the value the faith community brings – they are a strong part of Maple Ridge.”
However she has been publicly critical of the Salvation Army’s effectiveness in dealing with ‘street entrenched’ homeless. “I’ve spoken to a number of homeless people who did not like the Salvation Army,” she said, citing her understanding of the Salvation Army’s refusal to accept people after a certain hour and turning people out at 7 am. (The Light fact-checked this. The Salvation Army only requires people to leave between 1 – 8 pm and give everyone a bag lunch as they leave.)