BURNABY – snapshots of faith
BY PETER BIGGS
Burnaby is the third largest city in British Columbia (after Vancouver and Surrey), with a population of approximately 223,000. Visible minorities comprise 64 percent of the population. Population has grown 4.27 percent in the last 5 years.
Located at the geographical centre of the Metro Vancouver area, Burnaby occupies 98.60 square kilometres (38.07 sq mi). Its ratio of park land to residents is one of the highest in North America with 25% of land designated as parks and open space (the city has over 200 parks). Deer Lake, Burnaby Lake and Burnaby Mountain are outstanding urban get-aways.
Canada’s second largest commercial mall is Metropolis at Metrotown located in SW Burnaby.
Burnaby doesn’t have a strong identity, likely because of its fractured nature with four centres (Brentwood, Metrotown, Edmonds & Lougheed) and being sandwiched between Vancouver, Coquitlam, and New Westminster. It is also divided by major roads: the east west arteries of the No 1 Hwy and to a lesser extent Kingsway, Canada Way, and Hastings St..
The SkyTrain rapid transit system is administered from Burnaby and crosses the city from east to west in two places: the Expo Line (completed in 1986) and the Millennium Line (completed in 2002). SkyTrain stations always produces housing densification (condo towers). This is particularly true of Lougheed Town Centre on the city’s eastern border, Brentwood Town Centre in the centre-west and, most notably, at Metrotown in the south.
four town centres
The city of Burnaby has been planned around four town centres. According to the City’s comprehensive website:
‘Burnaby has one regional town centre (Metrotown) and three municipal town centres (Brentwood, Edmonds, and Lougheed). Each town centre serves one quadrant of the City and offers a full range of housing and services. Generally speaking, these areas provide for higher density forms of housing and are the primary commercial focus for the City and their respective quadrants. As distance from the Town Centres increases, there is a generally progressive decrease of residential densities toward single and two family neighbourhoods’.
The City of Lougheed’
The transformation of Burnaby’s four major town centres continues, with a massive redevelopment called ‘The City of Lougheed’. It will transform the existing Lougheed Town Centre mall. Shape Properties, the same company behind the redevelopment of Brentwood Town Centre, is planning to redevelop the existing 40 acre shopping centre site with 23 new high-rise residential towers, the first of which will be 55 storeys tall.
and ‘Amazing Brentwood’
‘The Amazing Brenetwood’ is a $2.5B project to expand the Brentwood Mall area with over 250 shops, resturants and services, along with more condo high rises.
The largest of Burnaby’s four major town centres is Metrotown. It’s prominence centers around the large mall – Metropolis, opened in 1986. It is a four-stories and 450 stores along with the convenience of being adjacent to Metrotown Skytrain Station ensures it’s populatity. Many ‘anchor’ stores remain such as The Bay, Superstore and Toys R Us. along with Cineplex Cinemas.
Simon Fraser University (SFU) sits atop of Burnaby Mountain. It has around 30,000 students along with 5400 Graduate students. They grant 5000 undergraduate degrees and 1300 Post Grad.
SFU has been described as a very ‘secular environment’. However there are a number of ‘Christian Clubs’ at SFU including Power to Change and Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. IVCF has been replanting, and currently is around 25 students, a mix of which are Christian and non-Christian seekers. The group has one community house on Burnaby Mountain, and one in New Westminster. Students use these homes as hubs of hospitality.
On campus the group has weekly scripture studies, and regular campus outreaches that often include art exhibits that convey messages around kingdom-centred justice.
Each year the group takes part in MARKwest in early May. The camp is a week long inductive study of the Gospel of Mark with other students from campuses across the country. The group also takes part in global urban partnerships each year, and in the past has lived and served in the Downtown Eastside for a month, while this year they are in Tijuana partnership with Mexican and American campus ministries that are doing border ministry with recently deported Mexicans.
UniverCity is a recent residential community is comprising of four distinct neighborhoods: West Highlands, East Highlands, the Slopes and the High Street. It’s population is projected to grow to 10,000+. univercity.ca
The Point Church meets in UniverCity. pointchurch.ca
British Columbia Institute of Technology (ususally just referred to as BCIT) has become a top Canadian training school. The post-secondary institute has five campuses located in the Metro Vancouver region, with its main campus in Burnaby. BCIT has more than 170,000 alumni and over 4,000 new graduates each year.
Burnaby has around 70 churches with the largest being Willingdon Church located next to BCIT.
Cariboo Christian Fellowship’s Senior Pastor Paul Mahon has seen many changes to Burnaby in the 12 years he has ministered. His church of around 500 is situated right next to Hwy 1. “We’ve become more of a Metro Vancouver church, with many of our members coming from the Tri-Cities,” he says. “He described the significant influx of mainline (Mandarin speaking) Chinese over the past 5-7 years. “It can be a a great opportunity. We recently ran the Mandarin version of The Alpha Course – 30 guests came, 22 of them were saved! It is a ripe harvest field.” According to Mahon Burnaby has a very low proportion of ‘low income’ housing.
We recently ran the Mandarin version of The Alpha Course 30 guests came, 22 of them were saved!
Kingsway Church is prominent opposite Central Park on Kingsway. Veteran Lead Pastor Barry McGaffin has
been in ministry 40 years.
“For a long time a few Pastors would gather monthly for prayer, but around five years ago it kind of evaporated,” he told The Light.
“Different factors have likely contributed [to churches lack of connection] Burnaby does have an identity problem with an obvious north/south divide, and the ‘ethnic’ Pastors tend to be connected to their own people group. However I am encouraged that Brad Bates at Willingdon is calling us together.”
Willingdon Church, part of the Mennonite Brethern denomination is the largest Burnaby church with weekly attendance at around 3-4000. Brad Bates is part of the church’s Staff team in the role of ‘Community Planner’.
“Our church actually reflects the community in being increasingly multi-ethnic. We cater to nine different
languages with simultaneous translation services,” he said.
Last November Bates sent out emails and cards to Burnaby Pastors and the church hosted a time of sharing and prayer for Burnaby. “We hope to see the Lord catalyze relationships – Willingdon is happy to host and help facilitate this.”
There is also a group of Pastors in the Lougheed area that are starting to come together.
Cam Roxborough has pastored in Burnaby’s Edmonds area for 25 years at Southside Community Church. “We are witnessing a rise in population density around the town-centres with high-rise condo towers. I have heard that the Kingsway/Edmonds area is the second highest landing spot for refugees. Indeed the area is very ethnically diverse. Edmonds Elementary School has 50 different language groups!
Edmonds Elementary School has 50 different language groups!
Housing cost is a amjor challenge in Burnaby, although almost all of those who attend Southside are local, despite people not seeing the importance of the church as an institution so much.
ECBC Church is situated in south Burnaby off Marine Way. Senior Pastor George Wong has been there for over 30 years. “Most of our people are Mandarin speaking Chinese we are inclusive and run English services too,” he shared.
People attend from all over the Lower Mainland,” he said. Many of the 1000 or so who attend the church each week are from Mainland China, although Wong is quick to point out, “there are many sub-cultures in China and we have to be sensitive to that.”
Last year the church saw 180 people converted and at the recent Chinese New Year Pot Such dinner 600 joined in. Like most Chinese churches, they connect with the Vancouver Chinese Evangelical Ministerial (VCEM) monthly. Yearly VCEM conducts an evangelistic ‘Revival Meeting’ usually hosted at ECBC.