VANCOUVER 1 – snapshots of faith
By Peter Biggs
TABLE of CONTENTS (click to go to):
• BACKGROUND to the city:
Vancouver is large and complex. This is the first of three ‘Snapshots of faith’. The following two months will include snapshots of faith in the ‘Downtown/West End’ and the ‘Downtown Eastside’). This month will snapshot the largely residential area of Vancouver from UBC to PNE.
We highly recommend a series of specific articles on the neighbourhoods of Vancouver to be found at: churchforvancouver.ca/?s=vancouver+neighbourhoods
These do not correspond to the legal divisions of Vancouver, but are a convenient way of sub-dividing Vancouver for travellers.
(they exclude Downtown / City Center – the Downtown peninsula, includes the West End, Coal Harbour, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and Stanley Park and the Downtown Eastsidethe subject of coming snapshots)
• UBC – University of British Columbia and the surrounding area.
Located between the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University Endowment Lands (UEL) is an unincorporated community of nearly 4,000 people. UBC has 55,887 students and 15.000 faculty and staff.
• Kitsilano – the “young urban professional” neighbourhood. Bordered by East Van to the east, UBC to the west and Dunbar to the south. This area (like much of the west side of Vancouver) comprises of mostly residential lots with a well established commercial area on West 10th. It has some of the city’s most beloved beaches (Jericho, Spanish Banks, Locarno).
• Vancouver South – a mostly residential (upper middle class) area, includes the Kerrisdale, Dunbar, Oakridge and Marpole neighbourhoods.
• East Vancouver – historically a working class area; Commercial Drive is the bohemian part of town with a very mixed population, Main Street is an up and coming artsy part of the city (most likely to see ‘hipsters’).
One of Canada’s ‘Top 10 Endangered Places List’ Chinatown is being more recently overshadowed by the newer Chinese immigrant business district along No. 3 Road in the City of Richmond http://ourvcrc.com
Since the 1980s, many Chinese immigrants have chosen to live outside of Chinatown, including elsewhere in East Vancouver and Richmond. Immigrants from Hong Kong began to move to the Vancouver area from the 1990s, concerned about the transfer of the territory from the U.K. to the Chinese. These immigrants were often wealthier than previous waves of Chinese immigrants and typically moved to non-Chinese communities in the West Side and elsewhere.
Chinese remains the dominant ethnicity in the City of Vancouver. Greater Vancouver has North America’s highest percentage of residents of Chinese descent (16%) and of this, 80% are foreign-born.
Since mid-2014, condo prices in Vancouver have soared more than 50 per cent, This is a MAJOR challenge in Vancouver. The price for condominiums sold within Vancouver averaged $857,503 in June, townhouses climbed to $1,162,466.
Monthly rent for a tiny 480 sq ft studio suite can range from $1500-2000/month. www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/vancouver
A recent RBC report stated. ‘Housing affordability in Greater Vancouver reached a crisis level in the first quarter, with additional interest rate hikes expected to take another bite out of Canadian housing affordability in the months to come’.
The share of household income required to cover mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities in the Greater Vancouver Area reached a record high of 87.8 per cent.’ says The Financial Post. July 3
Projections are dire, with service industry workers and others simply unable to live anywhere near their work.
Parts of Vancouver have the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre
As the most populous city in the province, in 2016 the Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 (up 6.5 percent from 2011)
Previous Censuses recorded 52% of its residents have a first language other than English and roughly 30% of the city’s inhabitants are of Chinese heritage.
Vancouver has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park, which covers 404.9 hectares.
S N A P S H O T S:
There is an active Christian presence amongst 55K + students, with 13-14 (Christian) Student Clubs.
Jones Chan helps coordinate the Chapel Movement. This involves large (1000+) gatherings at the beginning of each semester (Sept & Jan) held at the Chan Centre. The last one had newly appointed UBC president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono as speaker (Ono attends Tenth Church).
Chan shared, “All the campus ministries/clubs collaborate and came together for the last Chapel. Clubs have between 20 -100 members and they are very active in inviting friends to come out. Our unity as ministries makes us far more visible.” They elected to use the ALPHA course as their ‘branding’ and saw around 200 students enrol.
He also spoke of the challenges inherent in Student ministry. “One of the main things is the constant circulation of people. Every two years we have a brand new group.” Westside people and many students say they are ‘spiritual’ but are generally not open to Christianity.
Gieven Vancouver’s housing crisis and the extremely low rental stock, how do all these students find housing?, “All first year UBC students are guaranteed campus residency. After that there are numbers of what are called ‘community houses’ – where a rented house (with shared bedrooms) might accommodate 5 – 8 students , with the den also being used. It each pays say $500+ a month then the overall rent for the house is covered.”
Chan is one of many Youth Leaders that belong a ‘HUB’ …
These are localized fellowship groupings of Youth Leaders. There are eleven regional Hubs in the Lower Mainland.
‘The vision for HUBS to facilitate collaboration through intentional relationship. To make sure that local leaders are being able to foster relationships that have a common heart and mission, there are several local HUBS that contextualize a city-wide vision to meet the needs of their own region.’ All regional Hubs are gathering at Broadway Church for COLAB2018 conference Sept 15. www.youthleaderhubs.com
Right next to First Vancouver Christian Reformed church (on Victoria Drive near the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station) is the new six story 130 bed state-of-the-art
Operated by Immigrant Services Society of BC, the six-storey, $24.5 million facility will be the first stop for many refugees arriving in Vancouver. Seeing an opportunity for ministry with this development, the church has appointed Dena Nicolai to be Chaplain and Refugee Support Mobilizer. Prior to moving to Vancouver Dena lived for a time in the Middle East.
“My time in Cairo also involved volunteer work with two different refugee organizations. In my position as Chaplain and Refugee Support Mobilizer, I seek to offer a ministry of presence for refugees new to Canada, and provide a bridge for them between churches in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley,” she says.
“In talking to newly arrived refugees it is not taboo to talk about ‘religion’ – I am often able to pray with people.”
Tenth Church has grown to be a major central Christian presence in the middle of Vancouver. They now have three locations and are strategizing a fourth one out at UBC – to commence in the new year.
Senior Pastor Ken Shigematsu, “Vancouver has quite a secular context. People are in search of a ‘community’ and ‘spirituality’ but not church. Tenth has shifted ministry addressing such things as ‘sustainable employment (‘Just Work’), the Oasis Cafe and our Community Garden.”
Dan Mathesen has pastored Tenth Church’s Kitsilano venue for 11 years. They have around 250 attendees a week. We spoke to him about this distinct neighbourhood on Vancouver’s ‘westside’.
Kitsilano is one of the most desirable places to live in Vancouver, with nearby beaches, boutique shops and emphasis on health and fitness.
“There are people (UBC students mainly) who live in rental units. Owners have often lived there for a long time and despite property values sky-rocketing, they are loath to give up on their location,” Mathesen says.
He also describes Kits as ‘the scandal of Vancouver!’ for having the highest caucasian demographic in Vancouver.
Broadway’s building is an iconic Vancouver presence. Attendence at Broadway has grown to over 2000/week (they also have another campus in Port Coquitlam). Each Sunday they have four different services (Traditional, Contemporary, Emerging & ’Club Freedom’ in their ‘Warehouse’ next door where meals are also erved for the poor. The church offers live translation into Korean, Cantonese, Manderin, Spanish and Portugese.
“We have been known as a ‘destination church’, but now 50 percent of our congregaton is local,” Senior Pastor Darin Lathem told The Light. “We focus on evangelism, and have ‘an altar call’ every service, with monthly baptisms.Ten years ago the church comprised of an elderly white congregation. Now only around 25 percent are caucasion!”
Meeting monthly at Harvest Church (7416 Victoria Drive) this faithful group has grown to be more than a local ‘Ministerial’. With an intercssionary prayer focus they invite Pastors, Ministry Leaders and Intercessors who want to hear and pray into what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Vancouver. 10:30am For info contact Dave Carson at email@example.com
Tim and David (with others) have led their own East Vancouver churches for many years and help facilitate the East Vancouver Pastors Fellowship that meets monthly.
Describe your East Van ‘mission field’ to a visiting Pastor.
Tim : The vast majority of people have never been part of a church and so their perceptions are based on media or hearsay. They are frequently surprised when they come in. But you also have a lot of resistance to get by – it’s a ‘very secular’ context.
David : It’s hard to describe it – we have 20 nationalities in our congregation of 150! I think of our mission field as the contacts we have mostly in our neighbourhood. Half the congregation is within a walk or a bike ride. So, we’ve changed from a ‘destination church’ to a ‘neighbourhood church’.
Tim : That is impressive! It’s the same with us. We’ve got ‘the poor’ and a lot of social housing aound us. Then a thin slice of middle income people and then you’ve got people who own houses with a lot more income.
One of the differences for us from 29 years ago when I came here, is that then an average house was $86K now it’s $1.5 million. We’ve always had couples who would have two or three singles living with them to help one of the spouses to work less and devote more time for people and involvement in the church. Now, those couples rent every spare room and they are still struggling. There is just SO much more financial pressure.
David : The other one I have run into is people in their 40s who say “I grew up in the United Church, but haven’t been there since I was 14, bu they actually do have an openness.
What are your thoughts about ‘evangelism’ these days?
Tim : We find that given the secular nature, it takes a longer time for people to come to commitment, it takes them a while to figure out things… so it’s more belong – behave – believe vs the believe – behave – belong (which is what evangelism used to be about).
David : When we talk about the gospel to a non-Christian audience I think we are more clear than we were 20 years ago. For me what’s changed is accepting one another as Christ accepts you. We then welcome people who come in. They hear members talk about their failings their imperfect marriages, instead of testimonies of people who’ve got it all together!
Tim : Yes, people are into ‘spirituality’ and bondages. They don’t come in with a ‘clean slate’?
Are you saying some people are demonized Tim?
My wife has written a book on ‘inner healing’ with a chapter on ‘Deliverance’ yes we do pray with people for this.
David: I also feel we are seeing more mental illness than ever before.
Compare the church in East Van to 5 years ago.
Tim: Most of the churches are more intentional about the mission of God. Churches that are just operating on a ‘christendom model’ of attraction – you know good worship & preaching to produce faith – it’s not going to happen.
David: Churches that didn’t have a multi-cultural neighbourhood focus were over taken over by ethnic churches and have died.
Looking at the health of the city – yes, we’re very secular and need more churches. I look at the church and it is about the same.
Are we losing the Millennials?
David: There are many church plants by young adults who want to do something new. A lot don’t survive. Churches where the seventy year olds didn’t move aside – that phase has past. I don’t see it as the resistance of the older generation as much as the young people disconnecting themselves.
Tim: When I came to Grandview in 1989 almost 20 churches that had been in the neighbourhood had died, changed into Buddhist Temples, Hindu Temple, torn down… we lose a church building it will be hard to reestablish anything.
What does inter-congregational collaboration mean to you both?
David: Collaboration is first of all speaking and teaching our people to speak well of others. We live in a consumer mentality where it it assumed each will be ‘advertising their product’ and competing with the others.
Tim: We facilitate meals for the poor. Different churches cover different nights – those kinds of things rather than big city wide initiatives. In collaborating there is the gift of relationships.
Is there a dream you have in your hearts?
David: For 20 years I’ve had this vision of our neighbourhood coming alive. An agricultural view of beautiful crops and flowers in people’s front gardens. That day three people gave me flyers about urban gardening! I get little glimpse of it. A block away from the church a Hindu lady been there her whole life. She’d heard music and wondered what was going on there. She came in and a year later became a Christian, now her husband also. The guy across the street just said to me “can we get together and talk about that God stuff?”
Tim : It’s interesting, my wife had a vision the first year we were at the church. The walls of the church falling down and being permeable and we have seen more and more people in the neighbourhood coming in. We had a woman who said “I’m an atheist, I’m here because I just long for community… then she told us about six months ago – OK I’m starting to get the God thing.
We had another young woman who came and said “I’m not a Christian, but I’m here to figure out what is going on here – why you guys are so involved in the neighbourhood – you care for the poor, most people are so angry with them.” She recently gave an awesome testimony of repentance and faith at her baptism.