West Vancouver United Church turns 100 in November 2019
West Vancouver United Church was formed in 1919, when the Methodist and Presbyterian churches were moved together to the present site at Esquimalt and 21st Street. The congregations go back further than that of course, to 1908, when John Lawson held services at his house on the waterfront at the foot of 17th Street. It was known then as Hollyburn House, and is the present Navvy Jack house. The first gatherings included Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists Baptists and later a few Roman Catholics. John Lawson not only provided his house for services, but also served refreshments, so the services proved very popular, and soon the Presbyterians moved to a tent on the corner of Marine Drive and 18th. Meanwhile the Methodists met in the palatial Thompson House at the foot of 20th Street. Eventually the Presbyterians built a timber Presbyterian Hall on the same site as the tent, and the Methodists erected a building at Fulton and Marine, just west of 22nd Street.
On November 19th 1919, the Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and Baptists agreed to create a United Church, at Esquimalt Avenue and 21st Street. They used the Methodist Church building as the main sanctuary, with the addition of a transept, and the Presbyterian Hall became the church hall. West Vancouver was ahead of the rest of Canada, which formed the United Church of Canada in 1925. The present building has undergone numerous upgrades and additions, as can be seen from the photos.
Even if you never darken the doors of the church on a Sunday morning, you have probably attended concerts, weddings, funerals, community meetings, scouts, etc. in the building, which has always been an important part of our community. Many will have enjoyed the twice a year Flea Market, which is a great community event, and a chance to recycle items no longer needed.
The present congregation is down in numbers from the days of Reverend Tom Oliver, who packed 2 services on a Sunday in the 1960s and 70s with his excellent preaching. However, it currently has the largest youth group of any United Church in Canada, at a time when many churches have no Sunday school or youth groups. West Van United also had a great tradition of putting on superb musicals and shows, and one of our congregation, Michael Foster, directed 17 different shows in the past. W.V.U.C. has always been known for its excellent music, and the present choir has 8 paid soloists!
There are a number of events planned to celebrate the 100th Anniversary year. There was a congregational ‘Dinner of the Century’ on March 9th with historic photos on the walls, and some attendees came in costumes from around 1919! There was a ‘Picnic of the Century’ on June 15th, which was a street party filling Esquimalt Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets, followed by a concert from Pandora’s Vox.
The Minister of Music, Gerry van Wyck, is planning a choir festival on October 20th, and there will be a special service on November 17th, 2019 to mark the official date of founding. For more announcements of special 100th Anniversary happenings go online to West Vancouver United Church.
(Prepared by Marny Peirson)