Our Heritage – Vancouver, B.C.

An interesting and challenging account of gospel work and assembly planting in the Vancouver area.

Over 100 years of assembly testimony in the Vancouver area have attested to the faithfulness of God. It is the story of, not one assembly, but several; and this article, gleaned from various sources, can only provide a brief sketch of the history of some of them as we know them today.

The story begins just before the turn of the last century. The Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska and the Yukon, the entry of British Columbia as a province into Canada in 1871, and the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the West Coast in 1884 were factors that turned Vancouver into a burgeoning city with a thriving economy. Immigrants arrived from the Prairies and Eastern Canada, the British Isles, and other parts of the world. Alexander Marshall, a Scottish evangelist, was instrumental in the formation of an assembly in 1889 of which little seems to be known. In the neighboring city of New Westminster, an assembly was formed about 1891 and continued until about 1966.

In 1897, James Rae, a man twenty-five years of age, arrived in Vancouver. He was the son of John Rae, Sr., an evangelist in Manitoba and North Dakota. He opened a shoe store which later grew into an established chain known as Rae Sons. In seeking the fellowship of like-minded believers, he placed an advertisement in the newspaper requesting that anyone who had been in an assembly of Christians gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in Canada, the U.S.A., Great Britain, or any other English-speaking country, contact him. Two brethren, Harry Douglas (grandfather of Douglas Reid of Costa Rica) and Alex Anderson, then unknown to each other, replied. These two men with their wives met with Mr. Rae to pray and read the Word of God. They were soon joined by a Mr. William Woods and eventually others.

In 1898 an assembly was formed. It initially occupied an upstairs room at Hastings and Main, then a room above a butcher shop on Cordova St., and later an undertakers parlor on Granville St. The first gospel effort was conducted in a tent on Hastings St. just below Main St. by two servants of the Lord, James Goodfellow and George Duncan, from Cleveland, Ohio. It was not unusual for several letters of commendation to be read on a Lords Day morning, and soon larger quarters were required. In 1908, a large hall was built at 1181 Seymour St. that the assembly rented until about 1944. Servants of the Lord who visited the Seymour St. assembly in the very early days to preach the gospel and minister the Word were John McFadyen, W. J. McClure, William Matthews, Fred Poidiven, John Smith, W. P. Douglas, Edward Stack, John Rae, J. J. Rouse, David Scott, C. H. Willoughby, and William Rae.

As the city continued to expand, so did the assembly. When the numbers increased to around 200, it was evident a “hive-off” was necessary. In a suburb called Cedar Cottage, where some twenty or more believers resided, brethren were conducting gospel meetings, and a Sunday School work was commenced. In 1908, J. J. Rouse pitched his tent in the area. A new assembly was formed in 1909 with the full fellowship of the Seymour St. Assembly, and the first hall was built on the northeast corner of Kingsway and Welwyn. A larger hall was built in 1912 further north on Welwyn St., and the same year they commended C. S. Summers to full-time service. In 1931, Mr. Hector Alves was commended to the Lords work. He was the fruit of the Cedar Cottage assembly, his family having been saved in the earliest days of the work. In 1957, the assembly relocated to what is now known as the Victoria Dr. Gospel Hall. The assembly, though not as large as in former days, continues to host the annual Thanksgiving Conference, and in 1999, initiated a summer gospel outreach at the Chinatown Night Market, helped by believers from other assemblies.

To be continued.