VANCOUVER downtown & west end
by Peter Biggs
Vancouver’s downtown peninsula, includes the West End, Coal Harbour, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and Stanley Park. It is bounded by Burrard Inlet on the north, False Creek and the popular district of Yaletown to the south. The West End neighbourhood and world-famous Stanley Park are to the west. The popular historic districts of Gastown, Chinatown, and Strathcona are to the east.
English Bay Beach with its large park in the West End is thronged each summer during the annual Celebration of Light international fireworks display.
St. Paul’s Hospital, sits at the West End’s eastern edge on Burrard Street and is one of Vancouver’s largest and oldest health facilities. In 2015, Providence Health Care and the provincial government announced that hospital services would move to a new site and grow in size from 400+ beds to more than 700 beds with an integrated health campus that includes a range of outpatient and ambulatory services:
The former EXPO 86 site, and surrounding area on the north shore of False Creek, is being developed. This 83-hectare (204-acre) site will include 8,500 residential units housing for more than 14,000 people, 2.6 million square feet of commercial space, social housing, parks, schools, community facilities, and a waterfront walkway and bicycle route.
the west end
The West End (not to be confused with the ‘West Side’ which denotes the western half of the non-downtown part of Vancouver city to the south) is situated between West Georgia Street, Burrard Street, Stanley Park and English Bay.
The West End has a population of around 45,000 and is a provincial electoral district in British Columbia represented by NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. There are 112 city blocks in the West End with 121 buildings located in the West End that are on the Heritage Register.
Community Centres in the West End include the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, West End Community Centre, Coal Harbour Community Centre and Barclay Manor.
Davie Village and Denman Street, together provide local shopping, services and restaurants. This area also has high-end retail on Robson and Alberni Streets.
The West End is home to Western Canada’s largest LGBTQ community. Vancouver’s gay village, called Davie Village, is centred primarily on Davie Street between Burrard and Bute.
For seven years Karen Baillie, President of BC Care Providers (that represents 30,000 seniors care beds) worked in the West End, and brings a unique perspective. “I was constantly struck with the level of loneliness I saw,” she says “It was rare for residents to receive visits from family or friends. West Enders are often single people who had moved from an apartment. They often didn’t have a social network that might follow them as they aged,” she says.
VANCOUVER – especially the peninsular is one of the most visually impressive cities in the world. It is also known as one of the most secular of cities. However it is striking that there are a number of impressive and distinctive church buildings that, despite being surrounded and overshadowed by skyscrapers, have stood firm.
Dennis Wilkerson has lived in the West End for the last eight years and leads Meta Community.
They meet at Gordon Neighbourhood House, 1019 Broughton and are about 30 in number. “There are around 45,000 people living in a 10 x 10 block area. The number one problem is loneliness,” says Wilkerson. He admits that the West End is a challenging environment for Christians. “We have greatly appreciated the prayers, and financial support of Dave Koop (Coastal Church), Norm Funk (Westside Church) and Justin Kim (First Baptist),” he states. The West End is viewed by most as quite hostile to Christianity. “We’re often viewed as irrelevant, even dangerous by those in our community. the only thing we can do is love people well. But there is a desire for the ‘spiritual’.” He invites our prayers.
Westside started as an MB church plant in 2005 in Vancouver’s Kitsilano district. As the new congregation started its services at Fifth Avenue Cinemas, it moved quickly to plant another church (Reality Vancouver) in 2009. Later, it moved to a larger rented venue on nearby Granville Island, and launched a North Vancouver campus in 2012.
Then came an opportunity that Senior Pastor Norm Funk said Westside would “never have thought of in our wildest dreams.” It was a chance to acquire their own space. Westside Church purchased The Centre for Performing Arts in 2013, formerly known as the Ford Theatre.
Funk (pictured right) acknowledges the challenges of mission to the Downtown and West End. “When our view [of sexuality] differs so drastically we are not going to making many inroads. The path will be slower. Paul never questions his message – but there are those who do question the ‘message’ because of the resistance, he says.
Funk spoke of the fact that they do have members who attend Westside at The Centre who come from the West End. Indeed he said, “75 percent of the 1200 adults (plus kids) who come are loosely local (with in a few minutes drive). This is especially true of newcomers.”
Westside has planted four churches and see this as the best way to make Jesus known. They anticipate more church plants elsewhere, but do desire to be a blessing to the Downtown core. Funk spoke of very friendly relations he has with Coastal Church and First Baptist. “Coastal hosted our leadership retreat, we invited Dave Koop to speak to them. I’m also good friends with Darrell Johnson (previous Senior Pastor at First Baptist – who are currently looking for a Senior Pastor).
Coastal Church, led by Dave and Cheryl Koop, was started in 1994. Each week they welcome around 1800 to five services, one being an ‘online service’. They have facilitated two off-shoot congregations in Vancouver and one in Pitt Meadows. One unique element is a Friday lunchtime service, designed for people who can’t attend a typical weekend service or want to try church over their lunch break. They also run the Alpha Course three times every year with around 170 attendees each time. Many have become Christians (with over 100 baptisms last year). Karen Wong – Coastal Church’s Pastor of Leadership Development says, “We have 136 ‘Life Groups. Sixty of them are in the Downtown area. Of them around 15 are in the West End.” Asked how she has percieved the church’s mission to the downtown, she is optimistic, “our churches are thriving and growing,” she says.
Their unique downtown building was previously used by a group called ‘Church of Christ Scientist, although a valuable location, the building only seats 529.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
First Baptist was founded in 1887. It now is a vibrant multi-generational faith community, as diverse as the city in which it operates. Around 500 people attend weekly. Some drive from elsewhere but according to Youth Pastor Daniel Fabiano “we see an increasing number who are from the Downtown. We have a real heart for the City.”
The church is readying for an extensive development they are naming ‘HEART FOR THE CITY’. Along with surrounding properties it will expand their community services with 45,000 square feet of additional purpose-built space and a new affordable rental building of approximately 50,000 square feet. It will also include The Butterfly, a 331 unit apartment tower (artist impresson pictured right) The whole development will include 61 units of ‘affordable housing’. The historic church building will also receive major seismic and other renovations.
ST. ANDREWS-WESLEY UNITED CHURCH
Opposite from First Baptist is St. Andrews-Wesley United Church. Although in close proximity there is likely little theological agreement between the two churches (St. Andrews described as very ‘liberal’, First Baptist as ‘Evangelical’). The church is noted for Jazz Vespers – an hour of jazz interspersed with reflections on love, faith and hope.
CITY in FOCUS
Based in a suite of offices at 107 East 3rd Avenue, they describe their unique ministry that focuses on the downtown: ‘Beyond the economic, political and social fabric there is another strand in the city – the spiritual. City in Focus exists to serve the spiritual needs of Vancouver through compassion, conversation and connection.
At its core City in Focus is a chaplaincy. Their central passion is the opportunity to reach into the secular world and bring the light – both the comfort, and the challenge – of Jesus. City in Focus recently facilitated the 52nd Annual BC Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. This event is very popular and is preceeded by the Provincial Leaders Dinner. City in Focus is headed by founder Tom Cooper.
CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL (Anglican)
This church is the Anglican Church of Canada’s flag ship. It is at West Georgia Street and Burrard Street, directly across from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, It is the church where the royal family worships when in Vancouver.
Since 2003 the church has been the focus of much controversy around same sex blessings and matrimony – led by previous Bishop Michael Ingham. Dean Peter Elliott was very involved as the Diocese of New Westminster was cited in the Windsor Report in 2003 and the Anglican Communion Primates’ Meeting wrestling worldwide with the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions. At the time, and indeed continuing, there is great tension within the global Anglican communion over this and may yet result in major split of this histroic denomination. In his position as Prolocutor, Elliott was the highest-ranking openly gay cleric in the Anglican Church of Canada. The current Archbishop is Melissa M. Skelton.
HOLY ROSARY CATHEDRAL
The Roman Catholic Holy Rosary Cathedral is at the intersection of Richards and Dunsmuir streets.
Michael Miller (pictured right) is Archbishop of Vancouver, and heads its 475,000 Catholics. He is quite involved in a number of ecumenical Christian initiatives.
Guardian Angels Parish
Located iat 1161 Broughton Street, it is one of the few visible expressions of Christianity in the West End, They offer extensive options to celebrate Mass. It’s very presence as a church building in the heart of the West End is perhaps symbolic of God’s heart for this community. gapocd.com