A local Mennonite congregation is building Kerrisdale’s first church in almost 50 years on south Granville to serve its growing Chinese community.
It will become the first church serving a primarily Chinese religious group in the pricey southwest neighbourhood, which over the last half century has gone from being a Caucasian enclave to a population that is 25 per cent Chinese.
Justin Tse, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia who specializes in religion, migration and ethnic studies, said there are no Chinese congregations in Kerrisdale despite there being more than 50 Chinese congregations in the Vancouver area.
‘’To not have one in Kerrisdale is quite surprising. So, there is quite a ‘market’ for that,’’ said Tse, adding that the growth of this community is part of a general trend in the Vancouver area of an increase in ethnic Christian congregations.
“There certainly has been scholarship on how migrants are revitalizing a sort of secularized religious landscape. It’s a Canada story, also a Western European story.’’
Services largely in Cantonese
Reverend Owen Leung from the Vancouver Christian Logos Church said he believes his new church is important for the Chinese community in South Vancouver because it will offer services largely in Cantonese and cater to recent immigrants of the Mennonite denomination.
The closest existing Menonnite church with Chinese services is located in southeast Vancouver, at Collingwood near the Joyce Skytrain station.
“A church like ours will be able to take care of the first- and second-generation Chinese immigrants, respecting their uniqueness,’’ he said.
A minister for the past 25 years, Leung said he has the ability to support recent immigrants from China because he understands the process having emigrated from Hong Kong in 1980.
“We find ourselves in a very unique situation where we can truly accommodate Asian immigrants because we have been through the immigration process ourselves,’’ he added.
A long wait
The community is planning to start building in 2014 as it just received a development permit from the city of Vancouver, said Kassra Tavakoli, an architect at Andrew Cheung Architects, which is in charge of the project.
The project is estimated to cost between $1.5 and $2 million, in addition to the land at the corner of 52nd and Granville, which was purchased for $1.73 million in 2010.
The community is financing the project through fundraising and support from the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. In 2012, the group raised more than $100,000.
- 1997: Formation of the Vancouver Christian Logos Church at the Dunbar Community Centre
- 2000: The community moves to the Oakridge Adventist Church
- 2001: The community moves to a ministry centre
- 2010: The community buys the land on which the church will be built
- 2010: Application for the development permit
- 2011: The community moves to Culloden Church
- 2012: Development approval from the city
- 2013: Application for the building permit
- 2014: Beginning of the construction
- 2015: Expected completion of the church
Church as an anchor
Andy Perrett, pastor from the Granville Chapel in Kerrisdale, agrees with the need for a new Christian church for the Chinese community.
“I think this community is underserved by churches in this neighbourhood, not overserved.”
VCLC pastor Jonathan Lyonhart said the community decided it was time to have its own church after years of being forced to move from one rental venue to another.
“We feel we’ve been growing and growing, and we cannot really grow more in these circumstances,” he said, adding the congregation has reached more than 100 members and expects to grow more because of increasing demand for ethnic churches in Vancouver.
“We cannot really invest in the community around us if we are constantly shifting from a place to another.’’
Cathy O’Young, VCLC treasurer and chair of the building committee, added that space and schedule issues are the main problems.
“We are meeting in the afternoon, which is a little bit unusual for a church. Not the traditional Sunday mornings.”