Nestled among Marpole’s wide diversity of churches and cultural groups, the Marpole Baptist Church houses three separate congregations under one roof.
It hadn’t always been this way, explained Pastor Charlie Nishi, who has been a member of the church on 64th Avenue and Osler Street since 1975. An engineer by profession, Nishi stepped in to help out with the service as the congregation shrunk and the financial resources weren’t available for a full-time minister.
“We could’ve decided to go elsewhere for services, but we didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Nishi said. “We had a responsibility to the older members to keep it going.”
The modest church, built in 1954 through volunteer labour, catered solely to an English-speaking congregation until 18 years ago.
“In our denomination there were one or two Filipino congregations years ago and some of the families wanted to move out into this area, so they came to me and said would you consider letting us use your facility?” Nishi said. “We said sure. We have a building and some resources, so why not share it.”
Nishi considers the addition of the Filipino Maranatha Baptist Church congregation to be a benefit. As the number of members attending the church steadily decreased due to people moving away or passing on, the money and resources needed to keep the church going dwindled.
The new congregation helps finance the church and provided younger members to help maintain the building. Ten years later, another group now known as the Marpole Baptist Chinese Church asked to share the space.
“They came in after one of the people helping us here, a retired missionary with our mission in India, came back to be a professor at the Bible college,” Nishi said. “One of his students, a Chinese lady had a desire to reach some Chinese folk. So we said, sure, by all means, come on in.”
Holding services in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as weekly English conversation classes, the Chinese congregation welcomes newcomers to the country and acclimatizes them to Canadian customs while allowing them to practice their religion and have a sense of identity, a goal both the English and Filipino congregations supported.
Their shared goals have allowed the three groups to successfully share the space ever since.
The Filipino congregation, being the largest, has shared resources, such as a full set of band equipment, with the other groups.
“They said what’s ours is yours, so feel free to use it,” said Nishi. He said the collective attitude has made the congregations close and feel be part of the same family.
Philip Oliveros, one of the founders of the Filipino congregation, said the group has about 100 members. He said the service, which has always been in English, has brought in members of other ethnicities. Outside of their regular service and Bible studies, Oliveros said they also do missionary work every two years.
“When the typhoon hit the Philippines, 14 people paid their own airfare and went there to help out,” Oliveros said. “We were able to provide some funding from our church resources and raised about $10,000 to send supplies to families that were devastated.”
He said they always welcome newcomers of any ethnicity. The congregation is considering removing the Filipino title from its name to make it more open to everyone.