An account of the origin of the work in the Vancouver area.
In 1911, J. J. Rouse and C. S. Summers preached the gospel in a tent on the Brown Farm at the south-west corner of 200th St. and Fraser Hwy. in Langley. A number of souls were saved. The church first met in the Brown farm residence in 1912. A hall, which had the distinction of being built in one day, was erected in 1930 by a work bee of brethren from the area, and was in use until 1970 when a new hall was built at its present location. On adjoining property, Hilltop Manor, a home for aged believers, was opened in 1994.
In North Vancouver, on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, brethren J. J. Rouse and D. R. Scott pitched a tent in 1910. A little later, gospel meetings were held in a rented store building at 3rd and Lonsdale, and the assembly was formed in 1916. In 1929, the present hall was built on 4th Street, where the assembly continues to this day. Robert McCracken, Sr. and Hector Alves saw over thirty come to Christ during seven weeks of meetings in 1937. North Vancouver was the scene of Easter conferences for many years.
Men who made a mark in this area by consistently preaching the gospel over many years in tents or rented buildings in various parts of the city and out into the valley were D. R. Scott, J. J. Rouse, and Hector Alves, joined by other servants of the Lord from time to time. Local brethren, too numerous to name, were also active in gospel outreach of various kinds. Street corner preaching at various locations began about 1911, and still continues today in a downtown area. The “Gospel Car,” which was really a truck fitted with seats, was used from 1923 to 1931 by local brethren whose hands were full in carrying the gospel to numerous communities.
Out in the Fraser Valley, an assembly was planted in Abbotsford in 1921, initially meeting above the post office before a small building was erected in 1922. A new hall was built, and in 1927 the assembly had its first series of gospel meetings with Herb Harris and Charles Summers. A number were saved. D. R. Scott spent a lot of time laboring in this area. The Lord continued to work, and Hector Alves and Arthur Rae had tent meetings in the Bradner area. In 1952, the third hall was built on Old Yale Rd., opened with special gospel meetings by Alex Wilson and George McKinley. The assembly today occupies its fifth building, a commodious hall in Clearbrook.
Also in 1921, the Fairview assembly was formed, made up of saints from the Seymour St. assembly. It was the birthplace of many souls in the 1920s and 30s when Joseph Pearson, Thomas Black, Herb Harris and A. W. Joyce conducted fruitful gospel meetings. In 1928, the brethren rented an unused church building at 14th and Woodland, which was later purchased by Mr. Cecil Copp. With the help of many others, he built up a large Sunday School. Sunday night gospel meetings and several special gospel series resulted in the formation of the Woodland Dr. assembly in 1955.
It was largely the exercise of the Fairview assembly that saw a childrens work commence in the Marine Dr. area in 1932. Hector Alves and Thomas Black had tent meetings there followed by James Rae and Herb Harris the following summer. Souls were saved. Later, a store building was rented, and then the present hall at 60th and Main was built to house the newly formed South Main St. assembly in about 1934. South Main became a large, thriving assembly and saw many fruitful series over the years; a notable one was in 1951 with Herb Harris and Albert Joyce when many souls were saved, including the late George Campbell, who went on to preach the gospel in Newfoundland.
In 1932, a Sunday School work was commenced in the Carletonarea in a rented store. A gospel series was held there in 1934, and later a gospel hall was built at 45th and Tyne. Several brethren from Cedar Cottage carried on this work for many years and in 1966 an assembly was planted as a hive-off from the Victoria Drive assembly. Of recent times, a Korean-speaking assembly has been formed, and meets in the same facilities.
Another outreach from the Cedar Cottage assembly was the Nanaimo Rd. work begun in 1933 in a former bank building near Charles St. James Rae and Hector Alves had a series of gospel meetings here, and Friday night childrens meetings, and a large Sunday School were carried on. Eddie Fairfield preached here in a tent in 1942. The work was moved to a rented store building, and then, in 1946, a building was purchased by Mr. Clarence Copp and placed on its present site at 1st and Nanaimo, where brethren Doug Howard and Frank Pearcey had a fruitful series. This work eventually became the responsibility of the Woodland Dr. assembly and continues to this day. Many souls have been saved over the years, but an assembly was never realized. This area is presently the object of a renewed exercise on the part of brethren from a number of nearby assemblies.
About 1944, the original Seymour St. assembly chose not to exercise a purchase option in an estate sale of their rented hall. This was due, at least in part, to the fact it was in a largely commercial area by this time, and resulted in this large central assembly forming two companies. One located on the west side of the city at 16th and Macdonald which continues to this day; the other, the smaller of the two companies, on the east side where a hall was built on Semlin Dr. Known as the East Hastings assembly, this company carried on for many years until about 1970 or 71, although a Sunday School was carried on for some time.
With the ever-expanding suburbs came the need to see testimonies planted further from the inner city. Due to the gospel-mindedness of the South Main St. assembly, two assemblies were established as a result of outreach work. An assembly on Lulu Island was formed on Gilbert Road in 1957, later relocating to a new hall in 1963 and known as West Richmond. In 1960, the Deep Cove assembly was established on the North Shore, and since 1973 has taken the responsibility for the Gospel Booth at the Pacific National Exhibition. Today, these three assemblies share the responsibility for the Easter Conference.
Within a decade, through the labors of brethren from a number of assemblies, the Fleetwood assembly was planted in Surrey in 1968, and then Squamish in 1973. Outreach works of the West Richmond assembly saw the most recent assemblies in the metropolitan area planted, one in Ladner in 1976, initiated by the labors in 1967 of Gerrit and Andrew Bergsma, and Lou Swaan; the other was Newton in 1984.
Each year, two or more series of gospel meetings take place in the city or environs, sponsored by various assemblies. Beginning in 1968, Harold Paisley had a few tent series in this area with blessing in salvation. Two city-wide tent efforts in the summers of 1991 and 1992 with Eugene Higgins and David Oliver saw a number of souls saved.
Commended workers from the Lower Mainland, other than two of the first already mentioned, are too numerous to list in this article. Some 30 brethren or sisters, most married but some single, have been sent forth over the years to labor in Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Holland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the U.S.A., Venezuela, and Zambia. Others commended from other places, took up residence at various times in this area to labor in the gospel. Many of these have now gone home to their reward.
No attempt has been made to include the history of other companies that seek to carry on for God in this area that came to be known as Gospel Chapels. That history, though little known to us, is worthy of interest and further research. Though practicing “open reception” from the beginning, they had a significant role in the evangelization in the interior of B.C. in earlier days, and in sending missionaries to foreign fields. Unfortunately, division which began in eastern parts over the issue of reception, made itself known in this area within a few years of the beginning of assembly testimony in Vancouver, and sadly continues to this day. Also, little is known about an Italian assembly that existed in the city for many years. It was visited by some of our Italian brethren, but no longer exists today.
One could only wish that the evangelistic spirit and enterprise of former days still characterized our day. New territory for God was steadily won, whereas now a measure of lethargy and complacency has settled in. The world has made encroachments, and testimonies have been weakened. In Ezras day, when the foundation for the new temple was laid, the old men wept in disappointment at the memory of the splendor of Solomons temple, but the noise of weeping was mingled with joyful shouting of others who rejoiced in the realization and enjoyment of present victories. May God, by His grace, preserve these lamp stands of testimony until the Lord comes! Christ said, “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor: other men labored and ye are entered into their labors.”